This look at how race matters in American life today will feature writers and their works as it examines themes of race, culture, power and identity. The series will seek to explore how we envision our society in the next century; how we construct our communities and express our differences while acknowledging our similarities; and how we define American identity and American culture.
Ten years ago, Siler City, North Carolina, was a black and white town of segregated communities with a shared geography and an unsettled history. This quiet, rural southern town is a “laboratory” for the national transformation that is fundamentally altering America’s sense of itself. The program addresses the following questions: how does rapid change in racial demographics affect small-town America? What happens when white people and white culture no longer dominate? What visions of the future do residents have? Does the future more closely resemble the country’s racialized and segregated past? Is America going back to the future? Or is the nation seeing the declining significance of race? Utilizing the writing of Eric Liu (The Accidental Asian::Notes of a Native Speaker) and Ruben Martinez (Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail) and directed by John Valadez, this episode explores power and identity in small-town America.
Race Is/Race Ain’t
Episode two looks at race in America and the meaning of the black/white paradigm in multiracial America today. The hour, co-directed by Lulie Haddad and Orlando Bagwell, weaves the personal memoirs of writers John Edgar Wideman (“Fatheralong: A Meditation on Fathers and Sons, Race, and Society”) and Jane Lazarre (“Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: A Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons”) with the story of the King-Drew County Medical Center in South Central, Los Angeles. It examines the polarities of race and asks the provocative question, is race real? Where does truth end and collective fantasy begin? Where do private lives intersect with public concerns? And how deeply is race embedded in American history and in daily life? By chronicling the daily activities of the diverse hospital staff, the program explores how race can become a divisive factor that can incite feelings of suspicion and accusations of discrimination even in an environment where diversity is recognized as a necessary and desired reality.
We’re Still Here
The third program is a contemporary look at two communities often overlooked in the race dialogue: American Indians and Native Hawaiians. On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the program features the voices of three generations of Lakota families as they consider their past, their future and the process of merging multiple world views, ways of life, and ideas of America. Through the stories of these families the film considers the historical construction of Indian “otherness” and its influence on the ways a new generation of Lakota people will address issues of unemployment, alcohol, domestic abuse, and apathy ravaging their community. Meanwhile, across the Pacific Ocean, beginning in the late 1990s, lawsuit after lawsuit challenged the rights of Native Hawaiians to run schools and housing programs that provided only for their beleaguered community. Having been accused of reverse-racism, how do they see themselves in relation to the rest of the nation? And what are their connections to other Native communities? These are the questions explored in this film, which is directed by Sindi Gordon.
The final episode explores youth culture and the values of the next generation by putting the camera into the hands of three young producers. Through their short documentaries, these producers explore the way race is imagined and understood by the next generation, a generation influenced by cultural cross-pollination and the information superhighway.