theGrio's "Ten Stories of the Decade That Have Changed Black America" (with six of my own additions…)
I think that’s my longest post title so far.
Anyway, it seems to be the cool thing nowadays to put together “Top 10″ lists for the decade. Pretty much every news outlet is doing it.
Looking back on it, there was a lot of stuff that went down from 2000 to 2009, especially as it relates to Black America. So, of course, there had to be a list of the ten most important things to happen to Black America over the last decade. And sure enough, the good people over at theGrio put together a list that’s entitled, “Ten Stories of the Decade That Have Changed Black America.”
I’m not gonna lie… it’s a great list. But I still have to give out a few honorable (and dishonorable) mentions, because there was just way too much stuff that happened.
I’ll start with the theGrio’s list, and I’ll give you my own additions to the list after that.
- 9/11 AND THE IRAQ WAR: “As the United States entered the War of Terror, adding military action to Afghanistan, few countries joined or continued the fight. Questioning Bush’s true motives, anti-American sentiment grew and, most importantly, thousands of lives have been lost in both Iraq and Afghanistan, with African Americans significantly represented. To date, the total cost of war since 2003 tops $900 billion, stressing an already lackluster economy, disproportionately affecting African Americans.”
- ESCALATING HIV/AIDS RATE: “By 2002, it was increasingly clear that HIV/AIDS was a dominant health threat to African Americans, especially to growing numbers of black women. Throughout the 2000s, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued statistics revealing HIV infection rates trending highest among African Americans. According to the Minority Nurse Newsletter (Fall 2003), African Americans accounted for half of all new reported HIV infections in 2001. Black women specifically accounted for almost 64 percent of all new infections among women in 2001. In 2004, according to the CDC, HIV infection was the leading cause of death for black women, ages 25-34. High contraction rates through heterosexual interaction among African American women pointed to bisexuality among African American men, helping fuel the down-low hysteria of seemingly “straight” African American men sleeping with both men and women.”
- HURRICANE KATRINA: “Thousands and thousands of black people were displaced at numbers comparable to Reconstruction, with more than a thousand people perishing. FEMA failed. Bush failed. The Army Corps of Engineers failed. And, sadly, racism was at the core of some media coverage, with black people “looting” and white people “surviving” as both groups struggled to cope. Today, New Orleans’ black population, which included many who’ve lived in the city for five generations or more, has dropped significantly as the white population has risen, dramatically changing the city’s demographics. Ultimately, Hurricane Katrina revealed that, even in 21st century, there’s a greater divide between the haves and have-nots.”
- “AGE OF ME” ENTERTAINMENT AND TECHNOLOGY: “Being Bobby Brown,” a reality show featuring the life of former R&B chart-topper Bobby Brown and his then mega-star wife Whitney Houston, delivered record ratings for Bravo in 2005, opening a floodgate for more BBBs, Blacks Behaving Badly. The following year, well known Public Enemy member Flavor Flav solidified the trend with his popular VH1 “Flavor of Love” reality series, where women vied to become his significant other, a hilarious proposition for many since Flavor Flav is widely regarded as very unattractive. Yet, it became a pop culture phenomenon drawing historic ratings. Jumping on the bandwagon, BET found success with “The Way It Is” with singer Keyshia Cole, unleashing an avalanche of other urban- and music-themed reality shows that many critics claim have reinforced age-old stereotypes and encouraged coonery. … Urban-oriented blogs like MediaTakeOut.com, Bossip.com, TheYBF.com and SandraRose.com, aided by advancing technology and social media innovation such as camera phones and Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and the fading MySpace, have cashed in on this “age of me” obsession.”
- BLACK COACH WINS THE SUPER BOWL: “During the 2006 NFL season, a then record high six black coaches, out of thirty-two, headed NFL teams and two, Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts and Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears, defying odds Vegas would not have even backed, faced off on February 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, a city run by black female mayor Shirley Gibson, ensuring that an African American coach would win a Super Bowl. … It was the breakthrough win of Tony Dungy that has forever opened up the NFL head coaching slot, and perhaps the college ranks as well, to African Americans.”
- JENA SIX (OR JENA 6): “A tree at Jena High School was designated the white tree and when a black student asked about the tree and was told in a school assembly that anyone could sit under the tree, two nooses hung from the tree the next day. Three white students received school-administered punishment only. Months passed, a fire broke out at the school raising tempers and, shortly thereafter, six black youth…allegedly beat white student Justin Barker (17) badly, sending him to the hospital. Despite being discharged hours later and attending a school event that same night, the six were charged with attempted murder, with Bell, who had a criminal record, eventually facing up to 22 years in prison. … Erected as an example of how justice is meted unfairly to African Americans, the call was issued to gather in Jena for the Mychal Bell sentencing to be held September 20, 2007 and thousands on top of thousands poured into the town. … Charges were eventually reduced for all the defendants but Jena Six did show the potential for mass demonstration among African Americans in the 21st century to protest racial injustice, especially regarding how justice is unfairly administered in courtrooms all over the nation.”
- FINANCIAL MELTDOWN: SUB-PRIME MORTGAGE LOAN CRISIS, FORECLOSURES AND TARP: “In 2002, President George W. Bush seemed on the right track with the Minority Homeownership Initiative meant to increase homeownership among African Americans and Latinos by offering downpayment assistance and other services. Predatory lenders, however, swooped in with sub-prime mortgages aimed for borrowers with poor credit scores. By the time the bubble completely burst in 2008, African Americans were on the losing end yet again. … Estimates for loss of African American wealth…range from $71 to $122 billion as a direct result of the crisis. Republicans in Michigan even attempted to use foreclosure as a means for blocking voters, potentially affecting African Americans at disproportionate numbers. … Worsening matters, free market economics was thrown out the window in 2008 when the government approved the controversial Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), dispensing $700 billion to “bailout” presumably “for profit” companies…essentially nationalizing them and creating a form of corporate welfare. … The National Urban League, in a December 2009 letter to President Obama, urged TARP repayment in favor of the creation of jobs for African Americans, whose unemployment rates stood at double digits, and other Americans.”
- FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT: “When Barack Obama, the Ivy League-educated, bi-racial state senator originally from Hawaii who claimed the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois his home, announced his candidacy for President of the United States of America February 10, 2007, he was greeted with much skepticism, especially among older black people who had borne the brunt of some of the worse racism this country could administer. … On November 4, 2008, when election results poured in, the impossible became reality; and, on Tuesday, January 20, the day after the nation celebrated the King holiday, Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States of America with his wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha by his side, ready to serve as the nation’s first African American family, shattering the ultimate glass ceiling in American politics.”
- DETROIT: “Kwame Kilpatrick, dubbed the “hip-hop mayor” when he was elected Detroit’s youngest mayor at age 31, led two mayoral administrations full of controversy. At the top of 2008, Kilpatrick’s text messages suggesting an illicit extramarital affair with his chief of staff Christine Beatty prompted national attention, quickly resulting in an indictment, trial, conviction and removal as mayor, not to mention jail time. Impropriety after impropriety tainted Kilpatrick’s rule, literally costing the already beleaguered city suffering from high unemployment and home foreclosures millions and millions of dollars it could ill afford to lose. The failing auto industry only compounded Detroit’s mountain of troubles when national scandal erupted after the CEOs of Chrysler, Ford and GM flew to Washington in private jets to request a $25 billion loan from the government in November 2008. … Today, the once booming “Motor City” is a shell of its former self, with the prospect of bankruptcy looming larger as it faces a $325 million shortfall.”
- THE DEATH OF MICHAEL JACKSON: “Michael Jackson’s shocking death on June 25, 2009 as he prepared for a global, comeback tour reverberated around the world, prompting nonstop media coverage that touched upon everything from prescription drug misuse to allegations of sexual molestation and debates surrounding ethnic identity. A breakthrough entertainer, Jackson pioneered the musical artist of the new age, cultivating a global appeal through emerging technology. Credited with desegregating MTV, which rarely played videos by black artists in the 1980s, premieres for Jackson’s “Thriller,” “Billie Jean” and “Beat It” became pop cultural milestones. … Recognized all over the globe, Jackson was later as noted for his idiosyncrasies (i.e. touting a pet monkey named Bubbles, highly publicized allegations of child molestations, speculation about bleaching his skin) as he was for his enormous talent.”
(I tried to shorten that as much as possible, so if you want to read the rest of the commentary that I left out, read the original article at theGrio.)
In my opinion, however, there are still some stories from this decade that need to get at least an honorable (or dishonorable) mention. And here they are:
- EMINEM: Technically, Em began gaining steam in 1999 with the release of his first major studio album, The Slim Shady LP. In May 2000, however, he released his second studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP. In its first week, the album sold 1.7 million copies, becoming the fastest-selling rap album in music history. To date, the album has sold more than 10 million copies. The funny thing about Eminem, though, is that he’s white. Of course there were white rappers before Eminem, like the Beastie Boys and Vanilla Ice. But Eminem was the first white rapper to actually rap really well, with so much creativity. And he really changed the game. For one, look at his fashion. In a genre where “bling” is one of the most recognizable words, Eminem made it cool to keep it simple. He doesn’t wear the most stylish clothes, or wear the most expensive jewelry, but his words serve as his appeal to his listeners. Secondly, his ability to tell his story through his raps is untouchable. Couple that with unmatched wordplay, and you have the formula for one of the best rappers of all time.
- “CHAPPELLE’S SHOW” & “THE BOONDOCKS”: I’ve never seen two shows in my lifetime that drew such strong opinions from their viewers. Some people think that these shows set the black community back 50 years. Some people think that these shows are brilliant and have done so much to highlight the absurdity of racism. Personally, I agree with the latter opinion. In case you’ve been living under a rock, “Chappelle’s Show” was a comedy sketch show, created by Dave Chappelle, that ran on Comedy Central from 2003-06. According to Wikipedia, “The show is notorious for its handling of the topic of sexuality and Chappelle’s casual usage of racial epithets, categorizing the show as a racial comedy. The show also handles such topics as prostitution, the entertainment industry, gun violence, numerous drug references (particularly marijuana, PCP, and crack cocaine) and music, all performed in a comedic fashion with a touch of antagonism.” They’re right. “The Boondocks,” created by Aaron McGruder, is a cartoon series that stems from the comic strip of the same name. McGruder’s series, which began in 2005 on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim,” basically carries Chappelle’s torch, dealing with topics of racism and culture wars. One of “The Boondocks’” most controversial episodes was “Return of the King,” in which Martin Luther King, Jr. did not die after being shot in 1968, but instead fell into a coma, from which he awakens at the start of the episode. The episode, which presents a story of what may have happened if King was alive in today’s society, drew harsh criticism from many, especially over King’s usage of the word “n***a.” The episode, however, also won a Peabody Award for being “an especially daring episode.” And that’s what both of these shows are. Daring. And I like it.
- BILL COSBY’S “POUND CAKE” SPEECH: Not often does one of the foremost figures in Black America come out and criticize blacks for their own problems. When you have people like Al Sharpton running around blaming white people for every single thing that’s happened to blacks, it’s odd to hear a black person blaming the black community for their problems. But that’s just what Bill Cosby did on May 17, 2004, in his “Pound Cake” speech delivered at D.C.’s Constitution Hall. The speech, given during a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board ruling, was extremely critical of the black community. And I actually agree with Cosby. He wasn’t saying that blacks were at fault for all of their problems, but he did say that there were many ways in which we weren’t making it any better. Like parenting. His main point was that, if parents did their job the way they were supposed to, the black community would be a lot better off. And again, I agree.
- THE PACERS/PISTONS BRAWL: November 19, 2004. A day that will live in infamy. Known also as “The Malice at the Palace,” the brawl at The Palace at Auburn Hills (the Pistons’ home court) symbolized, in the minds of many, a new age in the NBA. In short, there was a small altercation on the court between some Pacers and Pistons players. Then a fan threw a cup of soda at then-Indiana Pacer Ron Artest, and Artest ran into the stands to confront the fan. And everybody went crazy. At the end of everything, nine players were suspended for a total of 146 games, and five players and five fans were charged with assault. All of the players suspended and/or charged, however, were black. Most of the fans involved in the fight were white. Five years later, with an NBA featuring a brand new professional dress code for its players, the effects of this event are more than obvious.
- MICHAEL RICHARDS: Everybody knew Michael Richards from his role as Cosmo Kramer in “Seinfeld.” But then he got back in the public eye for something not funny at all. On November 17, 2006, at The Laugh Factory in West Hollywood, Richards called out two black hecklers in the audience. He didn’t just call them out, though… he called them “n***ers.” Repeatedly. (If you haven’t seen the video of his rant already, click here.) Of course, he tried to make up for it after the fact, but the damage was done. The widespread media coverage of the event forced both blacks and whites to re-examine the usage and implications of the N-word. The next year, on July 9, 2007, the NAACP held a funeral for the N-word. Even comedians like Paul Mooney, who once joked that he said the N-word 100 times every morning to keep his teeth white, stated that he would refrain from using the word from then on. I couldn’t imagine anyone even coming close to upsetting the black community the way that Richards did with his outburst. But then…
- DON IMUS’ “NAPPY-HEADED HOS” COMMENT: Lord. I still don’t believe he said this. Anyway, in April 2007, Don Imus made a comment on his radio show, referring to the players on the Rutgers women’s basketball team (mostly African American) as “some nappy-headed hos.” Imus played it off, saying that it was just “some idiot comment meant to be amusing.” It really wasn’t amusing to most people, though. Imus’ radio show was canceled soon after, and he was off of the radio until December 2007, when he returned to the airwaves on ABC Radio. His comment, however, was indelibly imprinted into American society, and gave blacks yet another reason to feel hatred towards the white man. It came to a climax, though, with the labeling of President Obama’s own two children as “nappy-headed hos,” in an art exhibit entitled “The Assassination of Barack Obama.” (More of that exhibit can be seen here… but let me warn you, it is a little disturbing, to say the least.)
That’s about all I have. I really can’t wait to see what the next decade brings…
And if there’s anything you want to add to the list, leave a comment below. Whether it’s about O.J. finally getting arrested, or Tiger Woods’ pitiful fall from grace, I want to know what you think I should have put up here. So yeah… comment!
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