"Our America" Series Focuses on Living While Black

By Cindy George

The ABC network has responded to the current moment focusing on Black lives with a new five-part docuseries called Our America: Living While Black, which elevates voices from communities covered by the network’s eight owned and operated stations.

Our America focuses on the American experience as told by Black families in major U.S. cities including Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

The series addresses systemic racism and structural barriers in areas such as health care, law enforcement, education, housing and wealth. Our America asks why African Americans, as a group, are paid less, why Black children are more likely to attend underfunded schools, why Black neighborhoods are deemed to have less value and why Black people experience disproportionately poorer health outcomes.

For example, the series highlights a “maternity desert” on the South Side of Chicago where there are no maternity wards – an access gap that overlaps with pharmacy deserts and food deserts. Black women have to leave their community to deliver their babies.

Our America notes that more than 2.2 million women in the United States ages 15 to 44 live in areas with no access to maternal care. This makes the U.S. the most dangerous place for women – and especially those who are Black – to give birth in the developed world.

The series also cites 2018 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that note that the nation’s Black mothers die 2.4 times as often as white mothers.

Another segment addresses the U.S. educational system. According to the series, Black students are suspended 3.4 times more often than white students, white students are placed in gifted programs 3.2 times more than Black students and Black students get retained in second grade more than two times as often as white students.

And then there’s the wealth gap in America. The median household income for a Black family in America is just over $41,000 and for a non-Hispanic white family it’s nearly $68,000 — a $26,000 difference.

Economic disparities for Black families, the docuseries notes, are a result of the enduring consequences of enslavement in addition to inequities in 20th-century government policies and programs including the New Deal, Social Security and the GI Bill. For example, redlining and discriminatory practices in lending impacted Black home ownership, one form of wealth building. As of March 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 44 percent of Black families owned their homes compared to 73.7 percent of white families.

In the segment about systemic racism in policing, the series features community-based solutions in Houston and Stockton, Calif., where Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs has addressed over-policing by improving the economic conditions of his residents.

For example, Tubbs, 30, the youngest and the first Black mayor of Stockton, instituted an innovative program that provided guaranteed income to a small group of residents in need that proved successful.

Tamala Edwards, an anchor at WPVI in Philadelphia, said the Our America series provides a platform for Black people to explain the “complexity” of their lives while weaving in how history has led us to this moment.

“We live around each other, but not really with each other,” noted Edwards, adding that the series offers a springboard for people to start conversations and gain further understanding. “We see each other, but we don’t know each other.”

Our America: Living While Black is available on demand on Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV and Roku.