Cynthia's Interests

The world as it unfolds - told from an African American woman's perspective...

Sunday, March 13, 2005

From: Anthony Browder (20/20 segment)

A friend of mines is a good friend of Tony Browder. Tony sent this letter to 20/20 and copied it to various individuals voicing his disappointment with how 20/20 handled the colorism segment that was aired on March 4th. If you’ve ever heard or read any of Tony Browder’s books, when you watched the segment, you automatically knew that the piece was mishandled. It is good to see that Tony voiced his disappointment about the segment.

Subject: Re: Analysis of 20/20 Colorism Program
Date: Thu, 10 Mar 2005 19:14:14 -0500
A Brief Analysis of 20/20's Colorism Show

To say that I was disappointed with 20/20's mishandling of their recent program on "Colorism" would be an understatement, but I was not surprised.

Here is the backstory:
In October, 2003 I received a call from Frank Mastropolo, producer of 20/20, who was referred to by Marita Golden, Author of the then forthcoming book Don't Play in the Sun. Marita is a long time friend, and the President of the Hurston-Wright Foundation, of which I am an advisory board member. Frank was planning a segment on colorism that was inspired by an intraracial-harrassment law suit filed by a dark-skinned African American employee against his lighter-skinned manager (see attached articles).

Frank and I had several lengthy phone conversations on the topic of colorism. I made it a point to stressed that this was learned behavior that African Americans had mastered after being subjected to generations of racism, segregation and discrimination by their former enslavers and current employers. I didn't condone the behavior and stressed the importance of viewing the problem in an historical context.

Frank expressed interest in taping me at a speaking engagement where I would discuss issues of racism and colorism so I arranged a program at University of Maryland with a small audience of African American students who he could also interview for the segment. I was very conscious of how my comments, and those of the students, could be manipulated in the editing room by ABC, so I asked my contact at U of MD to select a group of articulate and socially conscious students who would do their university and their community proud.

Frank and I worked out the details and he brought a crew to the University on December 8, 2003. He taped a 1/2 hour interview with me, a one hour presentation with me and the students, 40 minutes with the students and the program host, and another 40 minutes with me, the host and the students.

Over the next month - Frank called with numerous questions in an effort to do a thorough job on the topic. He told me they planned to air the show in February '04. Meanwhile, Marita and I compared notes of our individual interviews and hoped for the best. Then we began to hear from several African American employees at 20/20 that the producers were interviewing folk on the street and several black comedians, and we began to worry. February came and went and we never heard from Frank.

Finally, 13 months later, I receive an e-mail from Frank on March 3 informing me that the show will air on the next evening. I notified all of you about the show and suggested you share your opinion about the segment with ABC. My dear friend Rabiah saw the show and sent an e-mail to Frank that mirrored my feelings about the segment. Rabiah wrote...

March 12, 2005

Mr. Frank Mastropolo,

I watched your piece on color expecting to see and hear a much more in depth story. This is not news in the African American community however it is in the wider viewing audience. I was hopeful upon hearing that Mr.. Browder was being interviewed as he has researched in depth this very subject and has presented it in lectures to packed rooms of students, educators, and parents. Having done so he has shed light on how this affects young peoples self esteem and how to resolve this issue.

I am extremely disappointed in your piece as it did not give any real substance to this issue but rather exploited it as a tantalizing bit of gossip about an "unknown inside behavior" about the Black community. I am puzzled as to what this 5 minute or was it a 4 minute spotlight did to educate or to offer any meaningful resolution to this behavior.

Having the means within your reach to do a serious and enlightening segment that did justice to the topic and not using it but rather choosing to trivialize it as you did makes me question yours and your producers motives.

To sit and watch a most lengthy piece on how young stars waste their money, which I realize might interest some, and then have a serious topic presented as if it were the piece that did not warrant more than a mere glance confirms for me my better choice of watching CSI on CBS.

Rabiah AL Nur

Rabiah Al Nur
Spring of Light

If there is a lesson to be learned from this experience it would be..."If you don't understand the nature (and pervasiveness) of racism and white supremacy, then everything you see, and think you understand, will only deceive or confuse you."


Tony Browder

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