Posted on April 22, 2011

The TV Set vs. Black Families: African Americans Must Quit Their Terrible 7-Hour-A-Day Diet

Thomas Chatterton Williams, NY Daily News, April 21, 2011

In the 1960 essay, “Fifth Avenue, Uptown,” James Baldwin noted a form of greeting he would often hear in Harlem: “‘How’re you making it?’ one may ask,” he wrote. “‘Oh, I’m TV-ing it,'” would be the reply.


Fast-forward 50 years and a whole lot of socioeconomic progress in black America. Nielsen, the ratings agency, has released its latest State of the Media report showing national television-watching trends in the year 2010. The numbers are alarming. Blacks ages 18 to 49, the data show, have been TV-ing it at a record-setting pace–on average clocking in a whopping 7 hours and 12 minutes a day.

That’s more than two hours per day above the national rate of 5 hours and 11 minutes, and just shy of four hours per day more than the amount of TV watched by Asian-Americans, who clock in a relatively meager 3 hours and 14 minutes a day.

Do the math, and African-American television consumption adds up to more than 50 hours of television every single week and more than 200 hours each month. To put that kind of TV-watching investment in perspective, in order to make bonus, corporate attorneys are expected to bill a measly 170 hours in a month. That means that the typical African-American is on partner track . . . in television time!


The national African-American high school graduation rate hovers somewhere around 50%. What if for two of those seven hours of daily television consumption, more black parents chose to read stories to their children at night? What if for two of those seven hours per day, more African-American students chose to study vocabulary or work through extra arithmetic problems?


Let’s keep it all the way real–we can’t afford to be TV-ing it in 2011.