Just in time to fill the hole in our life left by the death of Walter White, AMC premieres season 4 of The Walking Dead. If you’ve never seen it, the Walking Dead, based on the graphic novel of the same name, is an action drama set in the zombie-infested near future. Like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead has us riding shotgun next to an antihero navigating a world made of bad choices and worse situations.
Tonight we mark the finale of one of televisions great characters: Walter White, chemistry teacher, cancer patient, meth kingpin. For five seasons fans have watched the slow demonic slide into the heart of evil that is Breaking Bad. One of AMC’s breakout hits, Breaking Bad is driven by its central character. He is neither a hero, nor a protagonist. His fantastic character arc points sharply down. Fans come back week after week not to watch him triumph over evil, but to watch him descend into it.
Different from many crime dramas, the show doesn’t exploit the drug trade, wrap it up in cool and try to convince us of its wonderful music video like world, but it also doesn’t serve as a simple cautionary tale. There are moments, especially early on in the show’s seasons that you root for Walt and Jesse to win, no matter how dirty a game they are playing. What is genius about Breaking Bad is the way it takes the drug trade trope and allows us to look with fresh eyes at the complex moral choices involved.
His story provides an important outlet in the culture to talk more deeply about the darkness that lurks in the hearts of men. In the rapids of TV news, crimes and the people that commit them are often defined by their race or their neighborhood. Gang involved shooters, mass murders, even convenience store robbers lack back story. Shows like Breaking Bad, Homeland and the Sopranos give us the opportunity to develop a deeper and more nuanced understanding of immorality. They provide us a chance to meet the monstrous in therapy, at home, in the classroom or over dinner, to consider their charming and warm sides.
Hopefully you are less evil than meth maven Walter White, but like him, we all struggle with our lesser angels. In our 140 character world, we need more time and space to think about who we are, and who we do and don’t want to be.
Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. The 50 years since that famous speech stand today as a measuring stick to place blackness in America against. To paraphrase MLK himself, it’s 50 years later and the negro is still not free. Now I can hear you shouting “Black President !” from here, and I’ve seen Obama hanging around, so I know lots has changed. Even with all the change, the needle for black people–and poor people– that the civil rights activists fought so hard to move seems to point to the same old numbers.
By every metric of social well being , blacks lag behind their white counterparts. While civil rights gave legal rights to blacks that were long overdue, the last 50 years has witnessed the slow erosion of these gains. Stop and Frisk, Stand Your Ground, and the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights act all remind us that racism lives on in the heart of the American justice system, while discriminatory financial and educational policies bring the fight to our homes and schools.
Everywhere you turn this summer is talk about black crime. More than mere talk, pushing propaganda to support laws like Stop and Frisk and Stand Your Ground mean that real rights are at stake for millions of Americans. With so much chatter about black crime and urban crime, you might be surprised to find out that the vast majority of crimes in the US are committed by whites--nearly 70 %— which makes sense when you think that the majority of the US population is White. We all want to be safe, so who’s to blame: is crime a white problem, a black problem or something else entirely?
This week a federal court struck down NYC’s Stop and Frisk policy, citing racially discriminatory enforcement. The policy’s defenders are crying foul, and are warning an explosion of crime will happen when the people’s fourth amendment rights are respected. It’s true crime in New York is at historic lows. Before you stop and rest on your laurels, crime is down to historic lows not just New York City, but around the country, including many cities that do not have a stop and frisk policy in place, so attributing the drop to Stop and Frisk is misplacing whatever “credit” there is. For decades scientists, sociologists, psychologists and politicians have tried to nail down that combination of factors that result in peaceful communities with no crime. But the causes of crime are many, a complicated mash up of environment and systems, politics and people. There is one thing the scientists do agree on: what does not cause crime is a secret gene carried only by black and brown people.
Between Stop and Frisk and the Zimmerman travesty trial earlier this summer, there’s lots of focus in the news on the connection between blacks and crime. While no mention of race was allowed into the Zimmerman trial, defense attorneys argued that Trayvon Martin was perceived as a threat by their client. The unspoken reason he was viewed as a threat was that he was young, black and hooded. Because he fought his stalker and did not live to tell the tale he is painted as a brute who got what he deserved. Back in New York, 88% of those people stopped and frisked were found to be unarmed, and innocent of any crime. Between the two cases we literally have hundreds of thousands of African Americans who have been deprived of their constitutional rights, including their right to life in the case of Trayvon Martin. That their rights have been trampled not by feet but by laws is the very definition of racism.
The September issue of O magazine tackles hair as its topic. Gracing the cover is the perennial powerhouse herself, killing them in a bright orange wrap dress with an Afro that would make foxy jump back. Oprah smiles out like a radiant sun complete with waving black rays of hair. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am a resident of that fabulous country Afromania, just so my bias is clear from the outset. Bias aside, Oprah can be commended for putting natural hair in front of her legion of readers, showcasing the growing trend of women of color rocking (gasp) their own natural hair.
Earlier this summer, Cheerios released a commercial touting the heart healthy benefits of its cereal. The ad featured a little girl, a mom and a dad. No problem. The family was an interracial family, which you’d know if you just watched it.
I get it. You are the master of the Information Age. If you’re like the rest of us, I know you’re spending 8 maybe 10 hours a day glued to some screen or another–the smart phone wrapped around you like a leash or the giant screen tv that awaits you in your man cave, the computer you’re locked in a staring contest with at your desk all day or the laptop that’s an extension of your very soul.
Like potato chips, you probably don’t even realize just how much you’re consuming, but trust me, we’re eating the whole bag here.