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Encore: Black in America: The Black Man
Aired July 26, 2008 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, CNN debunks what you've been guessing and confronts what you've been stressing, the truths and misconceptions, the myths and true confessions about black men. You'll learn who we are today and who we were back then. Hopefully by the end, you'll see us for who we are.
Because just like you we are perfectly imperfect; beautiful yet flawed. In the next two hours plan to take in the full scope and scape of the land in the hopes you'll understand what it means to be a man, to be a black man in America.
BUTCH WARREN, ASSISTANT SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: I get up every morning and go work. And I just love looking at the view. My name is Butch Warren.
When we first moved out here, my son said, "Dad, this place is scary." He said, "I don't hear anything out here but crickets." It's amazing how far we've come from where I grew up to where I am now.
AKONO EKUNDAYO: I would ride around and smoke my dope while riding in my car because I couldn't trust anybody. My name is Akono Ayapo Ekundayo. Being so high, you wouldn't even realize that it was day or night. Really talk about, you know, being in the pit of hell.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Akono Ekundayo and Butch Warren walk in two very different worlds. Yet they came from the same place, the same roots. Back in 1968, they walked these halls together; the halls of historic Little Rock Central High School.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR: I have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
O'BRIEN: How long have you lived in this neighborhood?
WARREN: Ten years now.
O'BRIEN: 45 years after Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech, Butch Warren is living his dream. He's an assistant school superintendent.
WARREN: Totally unacceptable.
O'BRIEN: His wife, Joyce, a circuit court judge; the first black woman to sit on the bench in the state of Arkansas. The Warrens have three sons and live here in this mostly white suburb of Little Rock.
WARREN: There is a lot of pressure on keeping up your lawns out here. You get your Bermuda grasses; you get all these different things that you got to have.
O'BRIEN: Until recently, Akono Ekundayo has been living a nightmare.
EKUNDAYO: Every day was the next hit or the next crime I was going to commit. I didn't see any hope.
O'BRIEN: Akono is a recovering crack addict who has served time in prison.
EKUNDAYO: Hi, how are you doing?
O'BRIEN: I'm well.
Today he's a preacher, counseling black men spiritually and socially at this Atlanta mission.
EKUNDAYO: We're still in penitentiaries. We're still hooked on drugs and alcohol. We're still in the graveyard.
Guess it would be right about here. Hey, pop; been a long time.
O'BRIEN: Akono grew up in a single parent home. His father was never around and died when Akono was just 9 years old.
EKUNDAYO: They couldn't even put a marker on your grave. When he died, it just shattered -- took my whole life away from me. I realized that I would never have a person to teach me how to be man. It was just like a whirlwind.
O'BRIEN: He was born Kenneth Roy Allen in Little Rock in 1950.
Just a year after his father's death, he was hanging out at the Red's pool hall on 9th street, dabbling with drugs.
EKUNDAYO: So now who was going to teach me, Slam, Pookey, all this gangsters and pimps and stuff on the street that I'm already around.
O'BRIEN: Do you trace a lot of your problems that you had to lack of a father?
EKUNDAYO: All of my problems started there.
O'BRIEN: But when he turned 13, Kenneth was given an opportunity to change. He was offered a chance to attend Central High School, a landmark in the fight for racial equality.
EKUNDAYO: For my mom, it was like, my son is going to Little Rock Central, he's going to go on and become something.
O'BRIEN: On September 25, 1957, the eyes of the world were focused on Little Rock as nine black students integrated Central High School under armed guard. It's a day Butch Warren will never forget. His cousin, Carlotta Walls, was one of those Little Rock Nine.
WARREN: I was 7 years old. I got a chance to see the jeeps escorting the cars.
O'BRIEN: He grew up if a close knit family where church came first. His mother was a social worker, active in the NAACP. His father a postman who made sure that Butch would learn and love to read. Everyone had high hopes for Butch.
WARREN: We talked about education around the house a lot. The homeroom was either here or here.
O'BRIEN: For the Warren family, Little Rock Central High was an icon. It represented equality and place for their son to shine with the brightest.
WARREN: They had the best gym, the best biology lab. They said they had the best teachers; this was the cream of the crop.
O'BRIEN: But Butch walked into an atmosphere of hatred and bigotry.
WARREN: You knew you weren't welcome the first day you got here. They made it really clear. Those lockers that I was thrown into, bumped into, knocked into; it had lots of dents and bruises in it.
O'BRIEN: What was the message?
WARREN: We don't want you here. You got your own high school, why don't you go there?
O'BRIEN: And it was tough for Kenneth, even though he was a star on the football team.
EKUNDAYO: It was hell. We fought from the time we got in school until the time we left school. All they had to say was the "N" word and you ought to stand and the fight was on.
O'BRIEN: Kenneth and Butch had teachers who ignored black students; who discouraged them from higher education.
You sat down with your guidance counselor.
EKUNDAYO: He asked me and he said, "well, what do you want to do?" And I said, "Well, I'm going to go to college." And he said, "Well, have you ever thought about being a sanitation worker or carpenter?" And I kind of looked at him like you got be out of your mind.
EKUNDAYO: I thought I was better than that. I had aspirations to be a psychologist.
O'BRIEN: then, that dark day when everything seemed to change; April 4, 1968.
WARREN: We still remember it vividly. We remember how the kids taunted us and teased us in the hallways and said, "Goody, goody, your Jesus is dead." Every black kid in class stopped what they were doing.
EKUNDAYO: The teacher looked at me, I looked at her, then I said not a word to him. I think a broke up a desk getting up out of class I was out and walked out of school.
WARREN: We met in front of the school. There were white kids hanging all out of the windows up here, they were pointing and laughing. And they were just having themselves a good time.
EKUNDAYO: It was like something stuck a knife in my back through my heart. When I got to the streets, I could feel that the front of my shirt is wet because I had been crying. I didn't realize I was crying.
WARREN: We all came down these steps and lined up there on the sidewalk. We marched from here, approximately a mile to the Cayman (ph) Baptist church.
EKUNDAYO: It was just an open place where we could go to hear others say to us that the situation was going be all right and for us not to do anything crazy.
WARREN: We were very angry in our hearts about his assassination and his death. We wanted to make sure that we did everything the way Dr. King would want us to do it. We wanted to bring honor to his name.
EKUNDAYO: I didn't go back to school for probably about a week. Some of the kids were talking about when they got back to school, folks said, "What are you all going to do now? What are you going to do now? Martin Luther King is dead."
WARREN: Here's the black leader that's trying to make things better for everybody, and here he is assassinated, he's dead, he's got a wife, he's got kids and family and they're laughing.
O'BRIEN: Still upsetting to you.
O'BRIEN: In the 40 years since the assassination of Dr. King, these two men have lived in two different black Americas: one of opportunity, the other, an economically-deprived landscape where dreams are denied.
When we come back, Kenneth Allen's story.
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KENNETH ALLEN: We were standing in front of her with black guys drawn, with a shotgun and a .38. And then said, drop and give us all your money.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say if you can't play basketball or sing then it's one of two things. Either work in the restaurant kitchen on the corner or work the corner. One is going to get you pay minimum wage and the other see you sentenced the maximum days. See this dilemma. As "Black in America" continues.
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O'BRIEN: The sleepy little town of Cheryl, Arkansas; population little more than 100. It was here that Kenneth Allen and a couple of friends robbed the only bank in town. He hasn't returned until now.
KENNETH ALLEN: I ended up in long prison terms, ended up in a lot of separation from family.
O'BRIEN: That was never what he planned. Back in 1968, Kenneth was thinking college. His guidance counselor said he'd do better as a garbage man. He did neither and joined the Air Force.
Why not go to college?
ALLEN: Because I'm mad. I'm PO'd at this counselor from school.
O'BRIEN: How much of your anger for your life has been because you're black?
ALLEN: A lot of it. I always would wonder why do you hate me because I'm black.
O'BRIEN: Like so many young black men at the time, he was shipped off to Vietnam where he did more damage to himself, he says than to the enemies.
ALLEN: The more drugs I used, the more clouded the picture got.
O'BRIEN: What kind of drugs?
ALLEN: Heroine, cocaine, marijuana, uppers, downers, all around; it was anything that would give me high.
O'BRIEN: In the 70's to get drug money, Kenneth turned to crime.
You're a young man obviously intelligent. Why was a life of crime a better choice, than going to get a good job, go to get any job?
ALLEN: Crime paid. A job didn't pay.
O'BRIEN: So he and his friends came up with a plan.
ALLEN: June 8, 9:00 I was at the bank. I've already had the masks down, run ahead the door, and pushed the door, go in. And we were standing in front of her with both guns drawn, it was shotgun and a .38 and then and said drop and give us all your money.
O'BRIEN: On the run for three months, Kenneth was captured on September 9, 1973. At 22 years old, he was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Today, the number of black men behind bars is staggering; nearly a million, more than any other time in history. Black men are six times more likely to go to prison than white men. And the majority of black men in federal prison are there for drug- related crimes, especially crack.
ROLAND FRYAR, HARVARD ECONOMIST: Crack was a technologically innovation. It allowed people to get the high of cocaine very, very quickly because it's inhaled.
O'BRIEN: It was quick and it was cheap and crack addiction soon became an epidemic in the black community. Harvard economist Roland Fryar has been studying its enormous toll.
How devastating has crack been to the black community?
FRYAR: Huge. Huge. I mean you couldn't be near it in the city in the early 90's late 80's without feeling the devastations of crack.
O'BRIEN: Black politicians in the 90's called for drastic measures to stamp out the scourge; supporting tough new laws that punished crack offenders far more severely than cocaine offenders.
But here's the catch, coke users tended to be white suburbanites. Crack was used by blacks. So the very laws meant to protect the black community helped gut it by sending the legions of young African- American men to prison.
JAMI FLOYD, PUBLIC DEFENDER: These laws are racist.
O'BRIEN: Jami Floyd was a public defender in San Francisco. Today, she's the anchor of "Best Defense" on TRU-TV, owned by Time Warner, parent company of CNN.
FLOYD: There is this fear that lawmakers have on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures of black male criminals; high on crack, trying to get money.
The vast majority of folks in prison aren't there on violent offenses. They're there on petty drug offenses, sometimes possession or use. So we're talking how generations of black men lost to crime and violence in the prisons.
JOSEPH C. PHILLIPS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: These are not innocent people who have been rounded up by the police and sent off to jail.
O'BRIEN: Joseph C. Phillips is a political commentator and writes a syndicated column on the black community. He's perhaps best known for the role of Lt. Martin Kendal on the hit series "The Cosby Show."
PHILLIPS: If you're really concerned about crack, cocaine and the sentencing of crack/cocaine. And the message ought to be, don't sell crack. They are people who have committed crimes. And the victims of those crimes are overwhelmingly other black people.
FRYAR: Crack was huge. We could see it with our eyes; fetal death, infant mortality, the number of kids going into foster care. All of these things that are kind of social ills, started to really get worse between 1985 and 1989.
O'BRIEN: The pull of easy crack money was so strong, it appealed to people you'd never expect; whole family sometimes like Roland Fryar's.
While growing up in Daytona Beach, Florida, an aunt and uncle and several cousins were running one of the biggest crack rings in town from this house.
FRYAR: I had a whole side of my family, who is in the crack business and went to prison; they had these long sentences. And I felt like, this was a way of giving back to me. To try to understand this phenomenon, if not to help correct it, but just understand it and figure out the impact it had on black folks' lives like myself.
O'BRIEN: And like Kenneth Allen. In 1981 he stepped out of prison and right into a world teaming with crack cocaine.
ALLEN: The first time I hit this stuff, it was the most incredible feeling I had ever felt in my life. It was better than sex.
O'BRIEN: His addiction would take a toll. Kenneth failed in marriage and as a father. To this day, he has no relationship with his daughter.
ALLEN: She has two beautiful kids of her own. I --
O'BRIEN: It's painful?
ALLEN: Yes, yes, I was not there.
O'BRIEN: Kenneth lost his family, his job, his home. He was falling deeper and deeper into addiction.
Coming up, Kenneth's journey in and out of hell.
ALLEN: I hit rock bottom. That night, it was it. Either I'm going to die or I'm going to quit.
ANDERSON COOPER, "AC360" ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper.
"Black in America" continues in a moment. But I want to take a second and tell you about an investigation we're working that's coming this fall. "Planet in Peril -- Battle Lines;" the second installment of our award winning documentary series.
Lisa Ling, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I are traveling the globe from the forests of Central Africa to the Oceans of South East Asia. We're reporting from the front lines of conflicts over our natural resources; fights over oil, wild life, food, disease. A CNN Special Investigation, "Planet in Peril - Battle Lines;" coming this fall.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much. Does the color of your skin factor in on a job interview? Some employers seem to value what color you are more than anything you can do. As "Black in America" continues.
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O'BRIEN: Kenneth Allen has come a long way from his days of crime and crack addiction.
ALLEN: I didn't know that I was going to stand in front of folks and speak one day. But I knew it was something better than sitting there in a crack house.
O'BRIEN: Twenty years ago, crack robbed him of everything.
ALLEN: I have been to hell, living hell. Day and night, something vile was going on. It is either the smell of urine; burnt out houses. You walk with your head down because you didn't want to see your reflection because you knew that you looked like death.
O'BRIEN: After several stints in and out of rehab, Kenneth found faith and got clean and sober.
ALLEN: I just tried to hear that voice saying it don't work in more. I kept trying to get high, it kept saying to me, it don't work anymore.
O'BRIEN: Today, Kenneth is a preacher. He's got a small congregation and a new name. He's now Akono Ekundayo, which means sorrow becomes joy in an African dialect.
EKUNDAYO: I didn't find God, God found me. The rest is really history.
This is a stressful job.
O'BRIEN: He also counsels black men who are struggling to get back on their feet.
What's the future for these guys?
EKUNDAYO: The future is bleak. I'm at facility now where at least 60% of the guys in my program have convictions.
Again, I'll just say, I'm proud of y'all for what y'all do.
O'BRIEN: He also helps them find jobs; not an easy task as he discovered after getting out of prison. In prison, he got his college degree, still he couldn't find work.
EKUNDAYO: I mean it was just one rejection after another.
O'BRIEN: Impossible to get a job as an ex-con.
EKUNDAYO: Impossible to get a job.
O'BRIEN: With nearly a million black men in prison, eventually there will be even more men on the street who can't get jobs.
DIVA PAGER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I wanted to find out how much of a barrier does a criminal record represent in trying to find low- edge job.
O'BRIEN: Diva Pager's (ph) research at Princeton reveals that a black man with a conviction has almost zero chance of getting a call back from a prospective employer. But those are ex-cons. Surely a black man with a clean record would do much better. Right? Wrong.
DIVA PAGER: A black applicant with no history of a criminal background fared no better than a white applicant who's just out of prison. The findings suggest that being black in America today is basically equivalent to having a felony conviction.
O'BRIEN: Unemployment for black men is at 10%, more than twice that of white men, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. So Professor Pager pressed employers. Why won't they hire back men? Here's what they said.
PAGER: Black men being lazy or having a poor work ethic; about black men presenting themselves badly, especially with respect to their attire. And concerns about black being threatening or criminal.
O'BRIEN: Queens, New York, Monday morning, April 14th. 32-year- old Cory Mackey is getting ready for a job interview. He's a high school graduate with some college credit and no criminal record. Last November, he landed a job at a glass production company. Three months later, the company was sold and relocated. Cory's been looking for a job every since.
The East River Development Alliance This is a nonprofit job training program in the projects where Cory lived here. Shana Castillo is Cory's job counselor.
SHANA CASTILLO, JOB COUNSELOR: His story stands out as someone who should easily be able to find work. He's educated, he has computer skills.
O'BRIEN: Cory applied for a position as a merchandise manager at a store and received this reply instructing him to meet the store manager in person. We wanted to see how the meeting would go so we placed a hidden camera on Cory to record his job interview.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok, somebody called you to come in?
COREY MACKEY, JOB APPLICANT: No. When I applied online through the Internet they told me the next step was to visit the store in person and ask to speak to the store manager.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok, the way the process goes the human resources manager is the one who does the interviews. He's the one who actually do all the hiring. He's not here today.
O'BRIEN: Cory is given this job application and a promise that someone will get back to him. To this day, Cory hasn't heard back from anyone at the store.
We interviewed a researcher from Princeton. And she said when she talked to employers about why they didn't want to hire black men, they said they thought black men were lazy, black men wouldn't dress well.
What do you think about that? Does that describe you?
MACKEY: No, that doesn't describe me at all.
O'BRIEN: You're not lazy.
MACKEY: No, definitely not lazy. You can ask any of my former employers. I'm far from lazy. They said we don't dress well? When you go in for a job interview, you put on a suit, shirt and tie. I don't get that part.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Cory lives with his girlfriend Gina and their one-year-old daughter in the Queen's Bridge Projects, one of the poorest and toughest communities in America.
(on camera): Did you go to college?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, Essex County College. Then I had my first daughter so I stopped to start working.
O'BRIEN: So that's little baby Jenice?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that's Kiara. She'll be 10 in August.
O'BRIEN: So two kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, two kids.
O'BRIEN: Do you look at them ever and say, if I hadn't had the kids, I could be a college grad?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never look at them and think that at all. I love them to death. I do what I do for them.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): The fact is, with kids and no college degree, it's a lot harder for a young black man like Cory. That same afternoon, he begins his job search again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting frustrated here.
O'BRIEN: Adding to his woes, his cell phone might be cut off. That's his only way of following up with potential employers. Two days later, Wednesday, April 16th, Cory dresses up again in the hopes of impressing recruiters at a job fair. He arrives hours early to ensure a competitive spot in line. It turns out to be another disappointing day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How badly do a need a job? If it was on a scale or one to 10, it would be a 13, 14 right now.
O'BRIEN: One month later, Cory prepares for another job interview as an overnight stock clerk.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What skills do you have that you think would make you successful in the position that you're applying floor?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My tidiness. I'm very organized. I like things to be done the way they're supposed to be done.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I'm going offer you the position for the overnight slot. It is a part time position.
O'BRIEN: After months of searching, Cory Mackey finally lands a job. But it's only part time, and just above minimum wage.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't what I was looking for. Just anxious to get that first check. Start working, get back out there, help support my family. It's starting at that bottom. I'm at the basement. So I'll work my way up.
O'BRIEN: When we return --
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next thing I know, cops pull up.
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O'BRIEN: -- the face of prejudice.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said, what are you doing in this neighborhood?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call you a sellout because you want to get the hell out of the projects. Meet a modern day George and Weezy, and see how moving on up is not so easy as "Black in America" continues.
JAMES BUTCH WARREN, SCHOOL DISTRICT EXECUTIVE: One over here. Hello. How you doing today? You, too. You take care of yourself.
O'BRIEN: James butch warren is making his daily rounds. .
WARREN: What happened here? We got a brand new school here.
O'BRIEN: As an executive for the Pallasky (ph) County School District, he oversees 40 schools in Little Rock.
WARREN: These are nice.
O'BRIEN: At 58 years old, Butch is financially secure and not shy about his success.
WARREN: I am very proud of that. Sometimes people go an entire lifetime and never see their name on a plaque.
O'BRIEN: Since Little Rock Central High School was integrated 50 years ago, countless black men like Butch Warren have broken through barriers to take the work force by storm. They've watched their power and their incomes grow.
(on camera): This is such a pretty campus, isn't it?
WARREN: It really is.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): After graduating high school, Butch earned a sociology degree at the University of Arkansas. He started his own business in 1976, the Warren Construction Company. Twenty five years later, he decided to make a career move.
WARREN: Get those leg muscles built up. OK?
O'BRIEN: Today, Butch earns six figures as an assistant school superintendent. The Warren family is part of a growing black middle class. Since 1990, the percentage of black households earning 100,000 dollars or more has increased by about 50 percent.
WARREN: A lot of people can't wait to get out of their jobs, or they can't wait to go on vacation. I can't wait to go to work.
O'BRIEN: And success has carried over into his home life.
WARREN: As corny as it sounds, but I used to watch "My Three Sons," "Andy Griffith," you would see great father figures with these kids. I used to tell my friends all the time I was going have three sons.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Do you think you relied on white role models to be successful, in a way?
WARREN: White and black. Both, everybody. I tried to take the best from everything that I saw and put it together.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Butch has his three sons, 21-year-old Justin, a college student and aspiring musician, 32-year-old Jamie, a barber and father of four, and 35-year-old Jonathan, a deputy prosecutor in Arkansas. This all American family would be tested. Like his father before him, Butch pushed his kids academically. He coached little league and signed all the boys up for the Eagle Scouts.
WARREN: I got criticized by people who told me, said they didn't like the way I was raising my sons. I was raising them too white. I was asking, only white kids do scouting. Why you got them in the woods?
O'BRIEN: Butch also says he's been chastised by black friends who don't approve of his son's relationships. His oldest son Jonathan is married to a white woman. His youngest boy Justin is dating one.
(on camera): Is it strange to you that your daughter in law is white?
WARREN: It's not strange.
O'BRIEN: Your younger son is dating a white girl. A lot of people would be angry about that.
WARREN: We made sure that everything we did they were around white kids and black kids so they could make their own choices.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): The Warren's success was their ticket out of the get ghetto. In 1998, they left this street, a poor, mostly black neighborhood near Central High.
WARREN: My house had just gotten shot up by some gang members who came by. We had bullet holes on the house. Joy said, it's time to move.
O'BRIEN: And so they did. The Warrens built this 6,000 square foot home in one of Little Rock's most exclusive and mostly white neighborhoods. But the move had some uncomfortable moments.
WARREN: It's been quite an experience.
O'BRIEN: Like the time Butch was driving around his new neighborhood and neighbors called police.
WARREN: Next thing I know, cops pull up. They jump out of the car and they say, what are you doing in this neighborhood. I said well, it's because I'm building this house and that sign there happens to be me. I said, that's why I'm here. He said, oh, I'm sorry. We got a phone call that there were some people, some strange people in the neighborhood.
O'BRIEN: Butch says other than the occasional stare, most neighbors have been friendly. But three years ago, the unthinkable.
WARREN: This is one of those things that's hard to talk about. O'BRIEN: Butch's son Jamie was arrested after shooting and wounding a man at a drug dealer's house.
WARREN: Eight U.S. Marshals showed up at my house on a Saturday morning. All the neighbors out in the neighborhood. Everything came to a complete stop. It was embarrassing. It really was. It was quite embarrassing.
O'BRIEN: Jamie was convicted of first degree battery. He was sentenced to five years probation. His family says he was in the wrong place in the wrong time and acted in self-defense. Jamie won't talk about that night. His father hates to talk about too.
WARREN: I think everybody pretty much still things we have the Cosby-type family. Thank god it didn't turn out differently.
O'BRIEN: Jamie Warren, convicted of a crime. His brother's a D.A. Coming up, a look at his dilemma.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the black community, cops are more feared than revered. See, the inner turmoil of a D.A., who, more often than not is forced to lock way the man in the mirror, as black in America continues.
JONATHAN WARREN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: There was something dealing with aggravated assault. What's the name of the person who got killed?
O'BRIEN: Jonathan Warren is a district attorney in Sherwood, Arkansas. He lives in a middle class community in North Little Rock. He's worked hard to get where he is today.
J. WARREN: I live in a nice house. I am blessed. I have a great wife. I have a great family. I have a great job.
O'BRIEN: He shares many of the same values as his white neighbors. Still, Jonathan says he knows where he comes from.
J. WARREN: I can identify with people who live like I do and see life like I do. I think it's more of a class issue than it is a racial issue. I know what I look in the mirror. I'm black. I'm an American.
O'BRIEN: In fact, Jonathan is one of only two black district attorneys in his county.
J. WARREN: I treat every case the same, whether the person is black, white, red or other. When there's a defendant standing in front of you, you can't help but notice what color they are. O'BRIEN: Jonathan sees himself as a prosecutor in the war on drugs. At least a dozen black men are convicted in this courtroom each week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on testimony, I find you guilt.
O'BRIEN: That means having to defend a criminal justice system that he says can be unfair to black men.
J. WARREN: I can see how people would look at me and think I'm part of the problem and not the solution. I try to do the best that I can.
O'BRIEN: Do you ever feel that you're pulled both directions.
J. WARREN: There was a black man who was in my court. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance. He claimed that the police officers set him up and put the marijuana in his waste band. He was found guilty of possession of controlled substance. He was sentenced. He turned to me and looked at me and very adamantly said, man, I was set up. I didn't do this.
O'BRIEN: How do you feel about that?
J. WARREN: It may have had some validity to it. Like I said, I don't believe it in this particular situation. Does it happen? Of course it happens.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): This is south central L.A. In the 1980s, these streets were a symbol of racial hatred and gang warfare. The infamous Rodney King beatings led to the deadliest riots in more than a century. It's where actor and comedian D.L. Hughley grew up. He was a gang member in the notorious bloods.
D.L. HUGHLEY, COMEDIAN: I never felt more part of something, more connected, more powerful than I did when I was with this group from my neighborhood that was all about us looking out for us.
O'BRIEN: But Hughley got out when murder took the life of his cousin.
D.L. HUGHLEY: He lived in a Crip neighborhood. Then some cats killed him who happened to be bloods. At that point, I realized I didn't want to die and I didn't want to kill anybody. This wasn't real for me. This wasn't a real option for me.
O'BRIEN: Today, D.L. Hughley has achieved great success. But he believes as a black man, he's always a target of the police.
D.L. HUGHLEY: When you're black, your skin color is always in the equation.
O'BRIEN: An equation, Hughley says, where it doesn't matter how rich you are or how famous you are. It's something he tells his son Kyle daily. D.L. HUGHLEY: He already knows and he has learned from the time he was 12 years old how to speak to the police, what to say, what not to say, to view the police differently than everybody else.
KYLE HUGHLEY, SON OF D.L. HUGHLEY: If they ask me a question that I'm uncomfortable answering, I say officer, I respect your job, but I would appreciate you if you would just call my parents and I'm not saying anything else.
D.L. HUGHLEY: It's sad that I've had to have those conversations with him.
O'BRIEN: Hughley tells the story of sending his son on an errand to a local jewelry store.
D.L. HUGHLEY: The security guard pulls a gun on my son. The jeweler calls me and said, I'm sorry, we didn't know who he was. We had just got robbed. There were people that came in and they looked the exact same way.
My son was doing exactly what I told him to do. He didn't do anything wrong. He's not a bad kid. That's how it happens, just like that.
O'BRIEN: An overwhelming majority of blacks, 75 percent, believe they are treated more harshly by the criminal justice system. But district attorney Jonathan Warren says if laws are broken, he will prosecute.
J. WARREN: Does the justice system need tweaking? Yes. Is it inherently sometimes unfair towards blacks? Yes.
O'BRIEN: Jonathan understands that doing his job sometimes means sending young black men into a cycle of incarceration, young black men like Braillen Smith (ph).
(on camera): You're angry?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was angry.
O'BRIEN: Braillen is the grandson of Donald Gray, a Little Rock Central High graduate, class of 1968.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was a drug dealer. I was a pimp. I mean, you name it, I damn near done it.
O'BRIEN: Today, Donald Gray is a contractor. But his grandson is growing up in the shadow of his troubled past.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometime I sympathize with them. Sometimes I understand him. Sometimes you want to beat the hell out of him.
O'BRIEN: Braillen is at a crossroads, trying to avoid becoming part of a staggering statistic, one in three black men who will have a prison record in his lifetime. Last November, Braillen was charged with assaulting a police officer who was frisking one of his friends. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police officer told me stop. And I stopped. I turned around and he came and grabbed me and I hit his hand the first time. Then he grabbed me again and I just hit him in the face.
O'BRIEN: The day Braillen's mother Tina walked him into court, she feared she would lose her son.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kind of things I was afraid of was I would never see my child again.
O'BRIEN: Braillen could have gotten a felony conviction and served time behind bars. Instead, he was sent to rehab. Now he's back home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are a young man. You're an African- American man. You already have a strike against you. But, no matter what people say or what people do with you, you can do anything that you set your mind to doing.
O'BRIEN: Braillen's back in school and says he's scared enough of prison to change his ways.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I ain't trying to live my life behind no bars.
O'BRIEN: That scared you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. I want to be free.
O'BRIEN: When we come back, San Quentin U, a school in one of the world's most notorious prisons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the next hour you'll see how black men deal with how they're perceived and the many names they're called; the implications of their race both at home and at the workplace and how through it all, they manage to stand tall, as "Black in America" continues.
O'BRIEN: Justin Warren's lyrics reflect his life. His smooth vocals sound a little bit like R&B performer Seal. They deal with heavy topics like faith and self-doubt.
Justin's a 21-year-old college student. But on weekends, he comes home to make music. A corner of his bedroom serves as a studio where he writes, records and mixes his songs.
(on camera): How many different voice tracks do you have?
J. WARREN: A lot. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Justin attended a private Episcopal high school in Little Rock, where he took the lead in many stage productions and fine tuned his piano skills. Since his father, Butch Warren, graduated from high school in 1968, educational opportunities for black men have improved dramatically. In fact, the percentage of black men who have graduated has quadrupled over the last 50 years.
And Butch Warren's climb up the economic ladder has provided great opportunities for his three sons, Justin, Jamie, and Jonathan. After school music lessons, art classes, scouting. Their grades were good. But there was a price to pay. The boys had a hard time fitting in.
J. WARREN: I opened up my mouth and people would do that half double take where they're like, whoa, like you're speaking really well. In ninth grade, there was a time in my life where I tried my best to be as black as possible, like get my hair braided and listen to rap music and stuff like that, things that are stereotypically black.
O'BRIEN: The Warren brothers were accused of what's called acting white, black students dismissing and disrespecting other black students for behavior they consider too white.
J. WARREN: If you're black and you get an education and you study, you are a sell out or you are a white boy. I was the sell out kid. I was the white boy, you know, with the black skin.
O'BRIEN: Harvard professor Roland Fryer analyzed a survey of more than 90,000 junior high and high school students across the country. His findings? Among whites, higher grades mean more popularity. But, among black students, especially among black males:
ROLAND FRYER, HARVARD ECONOMIST: When they have high grades, they don't have many friends. And, if you talk to a seventh-grader enough, you realize that's what they care about, that they care about their social popularity in school.
O'BRIEN: Today, there's another troubling problem confronting black students. After elementary school, they fall way behind.
In the inner city, a typical black 12th grader is reading at the level of a white ninth-grader. And, even more troubling, in America's inner cities, more than half of all black males won't finish high school.
This is Chris Shern (ph). He's a high school dropout, but he's a year away from earning a liberal arts degree in the most unlikely place, the notorious San Quentin Prison in California, where he's serving four years for crack and firearms possession.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I would like to do, but I never did, was go to school.
O'BRIEN: Twenty-five-year-old Chris is the face of a disturbing statistic. Sixty percent of black male high school dropouts will end up behind bars.
(on camera): So, why wasn't there anybody around you saying, young man, you should be thinking about college?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody around me was either dope dealers, prostitutes, or some was athletes, and -- or you was a janitor. If I knew that there was another way out or another way to gain the successes I wanted without committing crime, then I think I would have took that route.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): But political commentator and author Joseph Phillips believes young men like Chris have other choices.
JOSEPH PHILLIPS, ACTOR AND COLUMNIST: I don't understand why you would look askance at the value of hard, legal work, and then you would choose to do something illegal, immoral, and dangerous that is going to kill you, put you in jail.
O'BRIEN: A number of studies show young black men in inner cities usually have no role models, no father figures. They often attend overcrowded schools with, experts say, teachers who cannot or don't know how to motivate them.
"Newsweek"'s Ellis Cose grew up in the notorious Henry Horner housing project in Chicago. He describes his own public school education in the '70s as criminal, and believes, today, the situation is even worse.
ELLIS COSE, "NEWSWEEK": Young black men are much more likely to get a million messages directed at them that tell them you can't succeed in school; you're not supposed to be in school; that's not what young black people do.
O'BRIEN: And, according to Cose, many young black men accept the stereotypes about themselves, and sabotage their own futures.
COSE: It comes from all of this concentrated poverty, all of these people who don't have models of people who are doing well, who are getting a college education.
And you also just have, in a thousand ways, from rap music, to television, to just what people see in the streets, these messages that get sent that education is not really a black thing.
O'BRIEN: Chris Shern didn't think education was a black thing, so he dropped out of high school. A few years later, he was in prison. Ironically, he's now studying hard at San Quentin Penitentiary in the Prison University Project.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took me to come to prison, to see somebody actually going to school, to actually catch on to, like, that's what I want to do. They are getting everything that I would want in life, and getting an education is a tool or a way to get that. I don't want nobody to end up like me.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Are you worried that you're not going to be able to get a job because of your record?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it crosses my mind a lot.
O'BRIEN: How do you think an associate's degree will change that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will be on the playing field with a little armor on, you know? It's still -- it's terrifying, though.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Terrifying, especially since his chances of finding a job with a criminal record are bleak. And more than half of all ex-cons end up back behind bars.
When we come back: Where have all the fathers gone?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Too many black men are raised without dads. They grow up mad about the love they never had and what their fathers did, then do the same to their own kids. Where does this cycle begin and end? And what does it mean to black children, women, and men? -- as "Black in America" continues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing): Happy birthday to you.
O'BRIEN: Relatives and friends are celebrating Salia's (ph) first birthday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES (singing): Happy birthday to you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'BRIEN: But her father, Brandon (ph), is nowhere to be found. His mother is upset.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is his daughter's first birthday.
O'BRIEN: His stepfather has lost patience.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm mad. It's his child, and he's supposed to be there for her.
O'BRIEN: Salia, like so many black children in America today, is being raised without a father. And she's not Brandon's only child.
He had another baby last year, a son, Jaden (ph), with a different girlfriend. He's not raising him either. As the party winds down, Brandon finally shows up.
(on camera): Everybody was angry at Brandon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the reason because, because I was told different times. I was told, well...
O'BRIEN: People were calling you on the phone. People were wondering, where's Brandon?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, which -- you know, which I don't...
O'BRIEN: It wasn't your fault?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't my fault.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Brandon's not the first in his family to walk away from his responsibilities. His father walked out on him. And Brandon's mother, Tina (ph), also knows what it's like to be raised by one parent. Her own father, Donald Gray (ph), fathered 10 kids, but raised none of them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I believe has happened is generational, because it's been passed down. This is what my parents grew up with. This is how I raised my children. And it's just being passed down from one generation to the next.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Do you worry about your kids continuing the cycle?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
O'BRIEN: Not at all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, because I'm going to change it up. Traditions are always willing to be broken.
O'BRIEN: You could break it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. And that's what I'm going to do.
O'BRIEN: What do you have to do, do you think, to break it?
O'BRIEN: Because it's what? I think it's four generations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just going to -- I'm going to break it.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): But he hasn't yet. It's been four months since Salia's birthday party, and Brandon has rarely seen her.
RONALD B. MINCY, PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL POLICY AND SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Nonmarital child-bearing has become a norm in the African-American community.
O'BRIEN: Columbia professor Ron Mincy believes the problem is commitment. These men don't marry their baby's mothers. And those mothers have found a way to live without them.
MINCY: We have figured out a myriad of ways to enable young women to raise children in the absence of fathers. And I think that's a huge problem.
O'BRIEN: Nearly 60 percent of all black children are growing up without a father in their home. But why?
(on camera): Is it history? Is it poverty?
MINCY: History has a lot to do with it. Slavery did do major damage to gender relationships in the African-American community, and, in addition to that, shock. We have had renewed shocks over time.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): With so many black men dropping out of school, with the high unemployment rate and soaring rates of incarceration, Mincy believes even fewer black men have been able to take care of their children.
(on camera): To what degree is money really the motivating reason why many men don't spend time with their children?
MINCY: It is very difficult in this society for a man to marry, to sustain a family, to sustain a relationship with a woman, children, et cetera, if he can't fulfill the provider roles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.
O'BRIEN: I'm Soledad. How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. How are you?
O'BRIEN: Look who I brought with me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, Brandon.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): At our request, Brandon paid a visit to Sherita (ph) and baby Salia.
(on camera): I believe you know each other.
(voice-over): Sherita is pregnant again, this time with twins from another boyfriend. The animosity and anger between them was obvious.
(on camera): Could you contribute more?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
O'BRIEN: Would you let him do more?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I mean, I don't stop him from doing it now. I mean, I look at it as a -- I mean, I know there's times when I have an attitude problem, but I have a reason to, because of what all I have done by myself with Salia.
O'BRIEN: Can he be a good father, if he tried? Can he be a good father? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he could. But the thing is, will he?
O'BRIEN: Will you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. You know, it's -- yes.
Let's get on the swing. Let's get on the swing.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Kenneth Talley (ph), another graduate of the class of '68, is the exact opposite of Brandon. He is doing everything possible to be a good father for his children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You, too.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have a great day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
Yes, we're off to school.
I have been fortunate enough to have been raised in a middle- class home with a father who was a positive role model. A lot of these men didn't have that privilege.
You know, they came from homes where the father was absent. Some of the fathers are drug addicts. Some are in jail. And, so, they didn't have a good example. They didn't know what it was to be a father, because they didn't have a father.
O'BRIEN: After high school, Talley joined the Marines and went to college for a few years. Then, he hit hard times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After I completed my education, I got a job with the Department of Commerce, worked there for about five years. And then I got RIFed.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Laid off?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. So, that was -- that started my descent into the ranks of the working poor.
Let me just say this. It was the lowest point of my life.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Like so many in the black community, Kenneth Talley turned to his church.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Praise God.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Praise the lord.
O'BRIEN: The church helped Talley find work as a freelance photographer. He soon married his girlfriend, Pamela (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready to go to the playground?
O'BRIEN: They sad Sakia (ph) and Xander (ph). Kenneth found a better job with insurance benefits as an editor in the Bureau of National Affairs in Washington, D.C. But, when staff cuts were threatened, Talley accepted a less demanding job that preserved those benefits for his son, Xander, who's autistic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I see what has happened with children in the underclass, and the pain and suffering that they're going through, and my children having that same fate, it inspires me to make every sacrifice.
O'BRIEN: He works hard to give his family a comfortable middle- class life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello, baby girl. How you doing?
O'BRIEN: For Kenneth Talley, this is what fatherhood is all about.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got an A-plus on my spelling test.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got an A-plus? Wow.
O'BRIEN: Up next: being black in a white corporate world.
MALCOLM GILLIAN, VICE PRESIDENT, MOMENTUM WORLDWIDE: I still find it shocking sometimes where there are so few African-American men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of black men enter corporate America and carry the weight of their race day and night, then come home to their own, only to face insinuations and accusations that they're trying to be white -- as "Black in America" continues.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Malcolm Gillian is a vice president at Momentum Worldwide, a large multinational marketing firm. And, believe it or not, he's on the job...
MALCOLM GILLIAN, VICE PRESIDENT, MOMENTUM WORLDWIDE: I can be uptown one night. I can be downtown another night.
O'BRIEN: ... scouring the New York nightclub scene for new talent...
GILLIAN: New perspective, someone that's different, brings something new.
O'BRIEN: ... a sound that his company will use to help market its upscale clients, music that might be used as a ring tone for cell phones or at a private concert.
(on camera): Are you nervous?
GILLIAN: I'm nervous in trying to get it together. It's -- it's important for the agency. It's important for my group that, you know, we deliver something on May 20. So, we're still looking for an artist. We're still trying to find the right venue. We're still trying to nail down all those details. So, that, you know, that's...
O'BRIEN: I'm nervous for you.
GILLIAN: So, I'm -- yes, I'm nervous.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): But Malcolm says that pressure to succeed is compounded because he's black. Black men hold about 3 percent of all management positions in America.
GILLIAN: Nicole Atkins, she's got some traction. Colombia is, you know, excited beyond belief about her.
O'BRIEN: As one of just a handful of black managers among Momentum's 2,000 employees, Malcolm has broken through a glass ceiling.
(on camera): There are not a lot of black guys in advertising.
GILLIAN: Not at all. No.
O'BRIEN: Is it weird? Do you feel like you stick out?
GILLIAN: In some senses, I think I bring a different perspective to everything.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Malcolm likes the sound of the Cool Kids, two black teenagers rapping on BMX bikes.
O'BRIEN: He's sure they would appeal to a diverse young audience. He's just not so sure he can sell them to his company's executives or his company's clients.
(on camera): Is it hard to sell a new black act that is so cutting-edge, no one has heard about them but you?
GILLIAN: Of course. And you don't want to be seen as the guy that only knows hip-hop, or only knows R&B, or only knows black music.
O'BRIEN: Why not?
GILLIAN: Because it's just so stereotypical.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Malcolm feels he walks a fine line. While he's been rewarded for his hard work, he worries that, if he doesn't score big every time, he will be judged in part by race.
Malcolm grew up in an integrated middle-class Washington, D.C., suburb. It wasn't until he got to college that he says he experienced a type of segregation.
GILLIAN: That was a complete shock and surprise for me, and something I had never experienced, because I just had friends from all races.
O'BRIEN: An even bigger surprise was pressure from other black students, who wondered why he had a white roommate or why he played on the mostly white soccer team.
GILLIAN: Trying to integrate into the rest of the black culture in school was a challenge for me, because I just wasn't used to having to hang out with all black people. Quite frankly, I struggled with it throughout my first year.
O'BRIEN: Malcolm earned an MBA and a law degree. He chose a career in marketing, and has worked his way up the ladder. But he still feels conspicuous in this largely white business world.
GILLIAN: I still find it shocking sometimes, when, whether it's you know, here or another place where there are so few African- American, particularly men, working there.
O'BRIEN: By night, he faces the flip side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
O'BRIEN: Black friends tease him for being too white.
GILLIAN: I can certainly sense, in some environments, you know, I may not be black enough for people.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Black people?
GILLIAN: Yes, black people.
I'm very proud of my race. And, you know, I really identify with being black. And I like to -- I think I represent our culture well.
O'BRIEN: Malcolm says he worries about carrying the banner for his race, the need to prove a black man is as good or better than anyone else.
GILLIAN: I have proven myself over and over, you know, through school, each place I have worked, that I'm a high performer, I'm smart, and I can just, you know, exceed not only the people within my race, but in other races.
We are more than honored to have Nicole Atkins from Columbia Records here with us today.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'BRIEN: After months of combing the clubs, Malcolm unveils his latest discovery, Nicole Atkins.
O'BRIEN: His bosses love her. She's a hit.
Malcolm is clearly very good at what he does. But is it good enough?
(on camera): It doesn't bother you when, at the end of the day, people who don't see your MBA stuck to your head or any of your degrees or any of your past jobs, think, token black guy?
GILLIAN: Yes, but what are you going to do about it? I can't go around, like you said, wearing my resume on my chest. All I can do is, you know, show up to work every day and prove myself.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
O'BRIEN: Coming up: Spike Lee doing the right thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Believe me, black guys wears suits and ties to work every day. But, on the whole, we're portrayed as the guys with the braids, pants down to our knees, in a white T., with a gun. This does not reflect me or most black men. But, if you turn on the TV, you would think that's all we have become -- as "Black in America" continues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hands behind your back!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't do nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The suspect is said to be a -- a black male. O'BRIEN (voice-over): The images are everywhere. On local news, where often the rule is, if it bleeds, it leads. Black men in handcuffs, in mug shots, behind bars.
On the big screen, black men as violent criminals, as pimps, as drug dealers.
And in music videos, rappers glorifying the thug life, portraying women as sex objects.
There are positive images of black men on network television hits like "Gray's Anatomy."
WILL SMITH, ACTOR: Don't ever let somebody tell you you can't do something.
O'BRIEN: And recent movies like Will Smith's "The Pursuit of Happyness." But in much of mainstream media, the image of black men is decidedly negative, especially in local news, where crime dominates newscasts.
PAULA POINDEXTER, JOURNALISM PROFESSOR: It attracts viewers. It increases ratings. So there is more of it because it's going to attract an audience.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whether it's an editor making a decision...
O'BRIEN: Paula Poindexter, a journalism professor at the University of Texas, analyzed local news reports from 12 major cities over a 10-year period. Her findings: more than 2/3 of the stories on blacks were about crime, compared to less than a 1/3 for whites.
POINDEXTER: That doesn't mean that African-Americans are not committing crimes like everybody else. It's just that at the only time that we report on them in the news and you're showing them as criminals, then there is this visual perception that, you know, blacks are so much more menacing.
O'BRIEN: Perhaps nobody knows this better than Spike Lee, the award-winning director and producer of more than 35 films.
SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: I get tired of watching the news, local news, and seeing these negative images of young African-American men.
O'BRIEN (on camera): There are people who say, "But look at the number of African-American men in prison. Look at the black on black crime."
LEE: But let's show some balance. And there are people out here that are doing the right thing, who aren't having babies out of wedlock, who are taking care of their children.
O'BRIEN: Why is there reluctance to put them on TV?
LEE: Why? That's not what they want to see. O'BRIEN (voice-over): Spike developed his sense of what Americans want to see the hard way, by making many movies that never became blockbuster hits. Artistic successes like "Malcolm X"...
DENZEL WASHINGTON, ACTOR: You've been hoodwinked, bamboozled.
O'BRIEN: ... and "Do the Right Thing" pushed way beyond stereotypes.
LEE: You have success stories and you have tragic stories. And I think that you have to tell them all.
O'BRIEN: He's one of the best known directors around, but Spike still struggles to get financial backing from Hollywood studios for the kind of movies he wants to make.
LEE: I'm not saying it's impossible to get a black film made. I'm talking about a specific type of black film. When I want to do a comedy of black folks shucking and jiving, with clearly (ph) buffoonery, I get $100 million for that in a second.
WASHINGTON: I'm trying to get you what you want.
O'BRIEN: He finally had a box office hit in 2006 with "Inside Man," a bank heist thriller which made nearly twice the U.S. take of "Malcolm X."
(on camera) Three hundred million dollars worldwide.
LEE: Including DVD sales.
O'BRIEN: That's the kind of money -- the kind of success, clearly, that you're still going hat in hand.
LEE: It was an eye opener. Because I've always been told, "Well, Spike, you never had a film that made over $100 million, but you know, what we really care about is box office."
O'BRIEN: Is it because you're black?
LEE: I think that has a lot to do with it.
JOSEPH PHILLIPS, ACTOR: There's another truth that Spike doesn't talk about it.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Columnist Joseph Phillips has been an actor in Hollywood for more than 20 years, since starring in "The Cosby Show."
PHILLIPS: He's forgetting that this is a business, and unless he can justify why he should get that much money, he's not going to get it. And that has nothing to do with race.
O'BRIEN: Phillips does agree, though, that blacks still have a long way to go in Hollywood. PHILLIPS: The way that race plays out in the greater society plays itself out in Hollywood and in show business, as well. And when you see the dearth of black executives in the studio system, that's evident.
O'BRIEN: But Phillips also points out the successes of two of the biggest powerhouses in the entertainment industry.
PHILLIPS: The perspective that Oprah Winfrey brings, that Will Smith and the projects that they have are terrific. It's an indication of the progress that we've made.
O'BRIEN: Another indication, the smash hit "Ray," about the extraordinary life and career of Ray Charles. But guess what? "Ray" was financed almost entirely by white, conservative billionaire Phillip Anschutz.
For his movies, Spike Lee says he's used to going around the studio system for funding.
LEE: So I made this list up...
O'BRIEN (on camera): Of rich friends.
LEE: ... of people I could call up on the phone.
Come on, brother. Give me a hug.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): He tapped that list when he ran out of money while producing the film "Malcolm X."
LEE: Bill Cosby was the first call. I called Bill up and asked how he was doing, asked how Camille was doing. And he said, "Spike, how much do you need?"
O'BRIEN: Most recently, Spike had to go to Europe to help fund his new film, "Miracle at St. Anna." It's the little-known story of black soldiers, heroes fighting for their country during World War II.
LEE: We fought in World War II and other wars, too. But with the exception of Jim Brown in "Dirty Dozen," stuff like that, you know, we're, like -- we're not there.
O'BRIEN: Spike says when black men are seen in the mainstream media, the image is usually negative.
LEE: To be a black man in this country is walking around with a target on your back. A lot is not expected.
O'BRIEN (on camera): A lot is not expected?
LEE: Because of the whole -- the stereotypes of who, you know, black men are. We're rappers, ballers.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Rappers and ballers. Spike Lee blames the media for helping promote those images to white America and to young black men.
LEE: They feel they have no hope, they have no future. Their value of life has been belittled through video games, films, certain segments of rap.
O'BRIEN: Rap, thugs, sex, violence.
LUPE FIASCO, RAP ARTIST: Violence sells. Sex sells. Debauchery sells.
O'BRIEN: Rap music, a closer look when we come back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rap used to be the hood's CNN. Then the corporations caught wind of the billions in spending, and it went from educating and partying to strictly guns, champagne and women. As "Black in America" continues.
O'BRIEN: Today's rap is under fire. Critics say hip-hop culture promotes a gangster image of black men; sex, violence, and misogynistic images of black women.
But rap isn't rooted in sex and violence. It gained ground in the '80s as a voice of black consciousness.
ANGELA BURT-MURRAY, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "ESSENCE": Hip-hop was, in its beginning, you know, this incredibly original art form that was a voice for the disenfranchised and, you know, a real empowering message.
O'BRIEN: Angela Burt-Murray is editor-in-chief of "Essence," one of the most popular magazines for black women in America. But she's critical of the current state of rap.
BURT-MURRAY: I think that that's the dangerous side to this point where hip-hop is right now. The idea that there's only one type of black man that you can be.
O'BRIEN: It's become a global phenomena, a $10 billion industry with young whites, surprisingly, the largest buyers. Its appeal crosses generational and racial lines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Boy J.B., with the bone fide news (ph).
O'BRIEN: In Little Rock, Arkansas, class is in session. A rap class.
It's called the hip-hop after-school program, available to all Central High students once a week at this church. It's keeping these kids off the streets. It's mixing knowledge... ADRIAN TILLMAN, RAP ARTIST: We're going to talk more about the business side of it. Let me tell you all.
O'BRIEN: ... with discussion...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I rap, I rap what I feel. I've been through a lot of tragedies and trials.
O'BRIEN: And self-expression.
TILLMAN: I've got to maintain and go to school, get my grades so I can go to college and do the do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We say, OK, so you're a rapper. You got writing skills? You got improvisational skills? You got public speaking skills? And we try to show them how that relates to school.
Hip-hop school, it's the place to go so they ain't acting the fool when it's dark out on the road.
O'BRIEN: Adrian Tillman is better known as 607. He's a popular rapper, performing at concerts, even touring in Russia. He's also a teacher at the hip-hop school.
Like many of the kids in the program, 607 grew up shuttling between the various housing projects in Little Rock. He got caught up in the gang-banging and violence that gripped the city in the '90s. But then his friend was gunned down.
TILLMAN: When that happened, I was blown away, man. It was like, that was when I was like, I got to change the way I'm doing things.
O'BRIEN: So he spends one night a week with these kids, using rap as a positive force.
TILLMAN: This is why we think it's important that you all pay attention today, so you all can be on top of your game by the time you get my age.
O'BRIEN: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is an author, preacher, and professor at Georgetown University. But his writings on rap have earned him another title. The hip-hop intellectual.
DR. MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I embraced hip-hop at its best. I want to say that. Because I think it's an ingenious art form.
O'BRIEN: Dyson believes that positive messages, like 607's, are in danger of being drowned out in the hip-hop of today.
M. DYSON: What's played on the radio? Another bling-bling, got my car, got my rims, got my women. So there's a huge battle within hip-hop about the future of hip-hop that most people outside don't even take notice of.
O'BRIEN: Who's to blame? Dyson will tell you corporate executives.
M. DYSON: Here's the question. Do white record executives want to actually portray -- or perpetuate music by black people that challenges them, white supremacy, social injustice, economic inequality, or do they want to hear another bouncing bosom and belligerent behind rap? You tell me.
O'BRIEN: Lupe Fiasco is a Grammy-award-winning rapper.
(on camera) White executives who own the company pick, and white executives...
FIASCO: And black executives.
O'BRIEN: So everybody is responsible?
FIASCO: Everybody's responsible.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Lupe says it's as simple as big corporations pushing rappers to promote negative images to sell CDs. The song, "Dumb it Down."
(on camera) Here's what you have the white executives saying, "You're getting self-esteem, Lu."
FIASCO: Dumb it down.
O'BRIEN: These girls are trying to be queens, Lu.
FIASCO: Dumb it down.
O'BRIEN: You're trying to graduate from school, Lu.
FIASCO: Dumb it down.
O'BRIEN: You're starting to think that smart is cool, Lu.
FIASCO: Dumb it down.
O'BRIEN: I'll tell you what you should do.
FIASCO: Dumb it down.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): But powerful black executives have been running rap labels for decades. Russell Simmons is the co-founder of one of the most successful labels, Def Jam Records. He argues commercial rap isn't dumbing it down; it's the voice of black frustration.
RUSSELL SIMMONS, RAP MOGUL: I would ask you to play the top ten rap records from last year. The ones that you think on the surface are so scary are likely to be telling you of the struggle being locked in the ghetto and how frustrating it is. For better or for worse, they still are the vocals for people who otherwise wouldn't have a voice.
O'BRIEN: Lupe Fiasco used to be a gangster rapper, because that's what sells.
FIASCO: Violence sells, sex sells. Debauchery sells. All the bad stuff sells. Over time, as I grew up and came on the tour and I started to really see that what I did affected people, I decided to change up.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Why didn't you want to be that guy?
FIASCO: I would rather be the one kid who bought the one album, the album that only sold one copy to the one kid, who chose not, you know, to be the gangster and the hustler and the dope dealer and chose to be the professor and the philosopher and the lawyer.
TILLMAN: He died so I could be here.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): In Little Rock, rapper 607 is far less famous. But he knows the impact of rap on young black kids. He wants to be a role model.
TILLMAN: I definitely am aware of that title being placed on me. And I embrace it. You know, if not me, who?
O'BRIEN: But 607's refusal to dumb it down comes at a price.
TILLMAN: On the 29th I got served with papers from the circuit judge. I'm fixing to get kicked out of my apartment. Tonight, by midnight I've got to be out.
There's a lot of risk involved in being an independent artist, because it's always your money on the line. Sometimes I'm like, what are you doing, Adrian, when you really, really don't know where you're going to stay?
O'BRIEN: Coming up, two brothers, two black Americas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet two sons raised in the same house with different fates. See how the different paths they take leads one to become an icon and the other one astray. As "Black in America" continues.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): A Sunday service in Detroit.
M. DYSON: Evil is real.
O'BRIEN: The doctor of religion begins to preach.
M. DYSON: It's not a metaphysical projection. It shows up when folk won't let you have the job you know you should have. It shows up when people won't give you acknowledgement for who you are. It shows up when you work twice as hard to get twice as far behind and still keep going. Evil is real.
O'BRIEN: When Reverend Dr. Michael Eric Dyson is speaking...
M. DYSON: It takes courage...
O'BRIEN: ... he gives voice to an epic American struggle. He's become a preacher and a teacher and a controversial social critic.
M. DYSON: The people that we have neglected now have spoken back to us, and we don't like what we hear.
O'BRIEN: Leaving his neighborhood in impoverished Detroit to earn a Ph.D. from Princeton.
M. DYSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) don't bleed red blood. They bleed thoughts of depression, self-hatred.
O'BRIEN: He's come with a lot to say.
(on camera) When you lived in this house, what did you think you would become?
M. DYSON: Well, this is the house where I began to speak in public at the age of 11, and a lot of opportunity was offered me. And I had dreams and aspirations of being a writer.
You know, my nickname as a youth was The Professor. That's what kids used to call me, Professor. So I guess they talked me into my profession. Since I am a professor right now.
O'BRIEN: I was going to say, that's right, Professor.
M. DYSON: Very prophetic. Not all epitaphs hurled at young black kids turn out to be bad.
What's up my brother, how are you feeling?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks for your courage.
DYSON (voice-over): Sixteen books later, he's gained celebrity and renown.
M. DYSON: God bless you, sir. I appreciate that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're actually my inspiration to go on writing.
M. DYSON: Do that, man. God bless you, brother.
When you look at the reality of being poor and black, it is psychically depleting; it is spiritually exhausting; it is emotionally enervating; and it just does something to your morale. It's a wonder that more poor people don't misbehave. O'BRIEN: In black America, one man makes it, too many don't. Often in the very same family.
M. DYSON: Good to see you.
O'BRIEN: This is Michael Eric Dyson's younger brother, Everett. He is serving a life sentence for murder.
(on camera) Two brothers. Your average person would say, OK, for the most part, they were given similar opportunities. They were raised in the same house. They had a mother who loved them. They had a father who was tough.
M. DYSON: Right.
O'BRIEN: A little abusive, but he also loved you both. How did you end up one here and one here?
EVERETT DYSON, SERVING A LIFE SENTENCE: Choices. We make them every single day. I've not always made the best of choices. And therefore, I must suffer the results thereof. I've learned that.
M. DYSON: I did make some better choices, but I was allowed to make those better choices. I was encouraged those better choices, because I was given a vocabulary to express those choices in a way.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Whatever led these brothers down different paths, Everett Dyson will likely spend the rest of his life in this maximum security penitentiary.
(on camera) What do you think when you look over at your brother? You're in a jump suit, and he's in a jacket. And he's a college professor, and you've served 19 years of a sentence for murder.
E. DYSON: Whenever I see Michael, it becomes a testament to the fact that I could have done this, that, or the other. It becomes a testament to the fact that I can still do this, that, or the other.
O'BRIEN: Even with a sentence of life in prison?
E. DYSON: Especially with a sentence of life in prison.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): As kids growing up on Firwood Street, Michael Dyson attracted a lot of attention. Everett was just a regular kid.
M. DYSON: At 12 years old, I'm on the front page of the "Detroit News" saying, "Boy's Plea Against Racism Wins Award." I remember a teacher very specifically saying, "Oh, boy, you just took all the talent out of the family."
E. DYSON: I'm riding mini-bikes and playing in the dirt, bicycles and things. I'm not articulating anything great. I'm not talking about saving brotherhood.
O'BRIEN (on camera): You're a regular 12-year-old kid? E. DYSON: That's all I am.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Life was equally unkind to both brothers. By the time he was 18, Michael was raising a son in poverty, relying on welfare for support.
M. DYSON: Have you been looking for work?
O'BRIEN (on camera): Is that what people say to you?
M. DYSON: Oh, my God. And it was so loud. And "are you working? Are you trying to work?"
"Yes, I really am."
I shoveled snow, I did sodding with my father. I painted houses. I worked as a manager trainee at Burger King, and I did everything I could to make ends meet.
And then finally, I decided I've got to go to school. My son has to have a better way of life.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Everett figured the Marines might be his way out of poverty. But he was discharged after going AWOL and found himself back on these same streets, selling dope.
(on camera) You were helping destroy the neighborhood. You were the drug dealer in the neighborhood.
E. DYSON: Yes.
O'BRIEN: Before you got incarcerated for murder.
E. DYSON: Now isn't that sad? That I had to come to prison to learn this?
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Michael Dyson went to college. He gathered degrees. He tasted sweet success.
But Everett went a different way. In 1989, Everett says a wounded man stumbled from a drug den. Before the man died, he uttered Everett's name. Everett says that dying declaration led to his conviction for murder.
Twenty years later, both brothers still insist Everett is innocent.
(on camera) Does it break your heart? Did you ever even imagine in your wildest dream that this would be where he is and this would be where you are?
M. DYSON: Yes, it's heartbreaking, sure.
O'BRIEN: He's your little brother.
M. DYSON: Right. And, you know, it is -- it is absolutely -- absolutely dispiriting to have to endure that.
O'BRIEN: Is it hard for you to watch your big brother torn apart by the fact that you're here?
E. DYSON: Of course it is.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): So why is one a prisoner and one a Princeton grad? The answer might be staring us in the face.
M. DYSON: I saw how the differential treatment was accorded me, little curly-top, yellow Negro child. I'm not dissing any yellow Negro children. That's who I am. I'm saying that being a dark- skinned black man has a kind of incriminating effect to many people.
And I'm not even getting to white brothers and sisters yet. I'm talking about within black America. And I'm saying to you, many darker-skinned black children don't get the opportunity. I'm not suggesting every dark-skinned black person...
O'BRIEN (on camera): Plenty of dark-skinned black children are very successful.
M. DYSON: I understand that.
E. DYSON: It takes a keen eye to look beneath (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the rough exterior of a person and see the beauty that's within.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): That day, Michael heads off to a book signing in Canada. His brother Everett heads back to his cell.
M. DYSON: That's the genius of black transformation, that we take stuff that is meant to harm us and use it to help us.