The Urban Politico recently had the privilege of viewing a 45-minute screener of CNN’s new Black in America documentary entitled “Almighty Debt.” In this latest installment of the Black in America series, Soledad O'Brien focuses on one of the primary adversaries that the black community has had to face post slavery….Debt!
Much like the previous Black in America documentaries that have aired, this new installment follows the lives of everyday black folks in the context of debt and how it has affected their lives. These stories aim to act as a microcosm of the bigger black community, proving that more blacks than not have been affected negatively in some way, by the American credit system. From post slavery sharecropping to now being systematically denied employment by some companies because of the credit score, debt has proven to be a worthy opponent.
Unlike the original Black in America series there was not this feeling that the black community was being documented and reported on the way in which one might document an event in history or some species of mammal that roamed the forest. This series had a clear focus, which unlike the previous two films did not put black people into a box, negating the fact that the black community is as diverse and multi-faceted as any other race in this country and possibly more so than most.
Focusing on middle to lower class black America, the film attempts to explain some of the ways in which this specific class of black people has had to struggle financially because of institutional racism. The documentary breaks the black middle class down into two categories: middle class by income only and middle class by wealth.
As a result of racism and the discrimination against black folks, which has existed in this country since it’s birth, most middle class black people are in fact middle class by income only. Over the last 50 years it is safe to say that black folks generally are not in the position to leave a home to their children after death, or start them off with some sort of huge financial boost, in the way in which many white families are able to provide for their children. Consequently there is an unfair advantage that whites have over blacks and is one of the components used to describe the middle class by income versus the middle class by wealth model.
Being middle class by wealth describes a history of financial stability that has been passed down through generations. It is the model which describes many white families in this country and unfortunately excludes many blacks. It is this gap that has helped to perpetuate white supremacy in America as well as the oppression of blacks. No matter how many blacks get hired as a result of affirmative action, or how many black Presidents America elects, true freedom and equality can not be obtained until the playing field is leveled. But that's just my opinion.
These are some of the questions that came to mind while viewing this screener:
Is debt within the black community really just a result of living above your means or is it centered more around the concept of social engineering?
Does the concept of middle class by income versus middle class by wealth and it's long lasting affects make a stronger case for reparations?
Given the economic downturn of the last two years, is debt a problem that is exclusive to the black community or are other races being EQUALLY affected?
CNN has provided us with the following clips of Almighty Debt, which we have listed below. We hope that you will view them and that they will inspire you to share your thoughts on the topic. We look forward to a healthy discussion surrounding this important issue.
Almighty Debt Trailer
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