Reality TV Doesn’t Have To Be Ratchet: “Save My Son” Spotlights Positive Reinforcement Among Black Males…And I Love It

November 13, 2012  |  

For many Americans, we’ve pretty much counted reality TV out where wholesome, life-affirming television is concerned. It found its place in the “strictly for entertainment” pile. And it’s understandable considering the mindless stereotype-perpetuating drivel that most reality television churns out. We get a good laugh, a good face palm, a good shaking of the head from it. That’s all. So, it’s almost surprising when a gem like “Save My Son” comes along.

Having been introduced to Dr. Steve Perry’s passionate and tireless work with the children of Hartford, Connecticut’s Capital Prep on Soledad O’Brien’s “Education In America” specials, I was intrigued by this black man striving not only to make a difference in the these kids’ lives during the school day, but going out of his way to see to their well-being even after school hours. We see these unsung heroes in our own home towns and admire their work, but sometimes, deep inside we fear that their work will never reach far enough, root deep enough into the lives that most need them. So, I applauded Dr. Perry and eagerly tuned in to “Save My Son” to see Black young men unfold from a life cramped with worries, low self-esteem and unchecked anger and begin to exercise their freedom to be more, to be better, to be fully functioning members of society and their own families. Dr. Perry’s process is more than effective. It’s brilliant.

He first familiarizes himself with the home, school and social lives of each of the young men he has been summoned to help. He finds out the facts – good or bad. We don’t see him jumping into a situation, only taking a parent/guardian or teacher’s word for it. He looks at the young man’s track record and the course of events in his life and lets the facts speak to him. After which, he opens a dialogue about the reasoning and the temperament of the young man he wants to help. He isn’t judgmental or overbearing. Dr. Perry provides them with a safe space to speak their peace – a safe space that  perhaps they felt they did not have prior to “Save My Son” stepping into their lives.

What I also love about the show is that Dr. Perry holds these young men accountable for their behavior and their attitudes. He does not let them off the hook or encourage them to explain away their behavior. He presents them with their own actions – holding up a mirror so they can clearly see who they are – with no mother to protect them from consequences and no system or “The Man” to blame for their downfalls. Dr. Perry also begins the process of equipping them to deal with whatever issues they are brave enough to open up about. As is revealed through each episode, many of these young men just want to be loved and as one young man stated, he wanted to know that he was the reason someone smiled. They want to belong to something, to know that they matter. The street life gives them that illusion. “Save My Son” seems to be giving them the real thing, which might be the antidote for the poison that the streets, misplaced anger or feelings of abandonment have poisoned them with.

The show brings in as many men to help get the job done as are willing to be of service. Dr. Perry does not try to save all of these young men alone. He calls upon the life experiences and expertise of seasoned vets of sports, radio, television, education, music, etc. to reach out to these young men and deliver a wake-up call to them that they haven’t effectively received in their neighborhoods, homes or schools. Having had guest mentors such as CNN and TV One’s own Roland S. Martin, Pooch Hall of “The Game,” Steve Harvey, NBA legend Charles Barkley, music producers and athletes, “Save My Son” definitely allows these broken young men a chance to see the bigger picture, what their lives COULD be if only they stand up and begin the process. I’m sold on this show because it presents these young men with positive alternatives instead of just trying to scare them straight. There is a message of hope in each phase of each episode and it is an amazing (and sometimes tear-jerking) transformation to watch.

Have you seen “Save My Son”? What are your thoughts on its work and message?

ELa Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change. Her blog: and Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly. 

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