African Americans United Can Fight The Media Stereotyping And Demonization of Blacks
Malcolm X once said media can turn the humanitarian into a devil and a devil in a humanitarian
[Beneath The Spin]
One of the biggest problems that we have in the Black community is how we allow ourselves to be portrayed in the media.
There tends to be a blanket profiling of Black people by the media as little more than dysfunctional hood rats with a few functional Black people sprinkled in for the sake of appearance, but as aberrations.
But the fact is, the truth is just the reverse. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the vast majority of Black people in this country are middle class or above. African Americans are the second largest consumer group in America with a combined buying power that now exceeds $1 trillion.
In 2002 African-American owned businesses accounted for 1.2 million of the US's 23 million businesses and 47% of African- Americans owned their own homes. This was of course before the disastrous recession and housing collapse.
So the kind of dysfunctional Black people commonly being portrayed in the media are a minority of the Black community; but they are a highly vocal, flamboyant, and inordinately publicized minority.
If White people were portrayed in the media in the same way as Black people, we'd think that the majority of White people were barefooted Hillbillies. So if you’re a Black person and reading this article, simply look at your own situation and that of your family and friends. The chances are overwhelming that you and your close associates are living at a level comparable to the average White middle-class individual.
The same is true of myself, my family, and virtually all of my friends.
So the Black community is doing itself a huge disservice by just sitting back and allowing ourselves to be portrayed in a grossly distorted and negative fashion. It sends the wrong message to our children.
When they sit around for hours on end watching the antics of Lil’ Wayne and others flaunting the very worst of who we are, it sends the message to our young people that they have a moral obligation to be stupid in order to demonstrate their Black pride. They’re, literally, being instructed in what it means to be Black by sources other than ourselves.
They’re being taught that being Black means wearing pants saggin’ off their asses, engaging in reckless and irresponsible behavior, scarring their bodies with ugly tattoos that can prevent them from obtaining employment, and giving priority to chasing "bling," momentary pleasure, and superficial trinkets over pursuing education, knowledge, and investing in themselves as individuals.
If we’re tolerating these things in our homes, we have no right to complain when the rest of society refuse to hire us, and profile us as superficial and irresponsible idiots. But the fact is, we’re not only tolerating it; we’re making people filthy rich by supporting an industry that thrive on producing videos that are nothing short of ten minute commercials being circulated around the world saying that the very womb of our culture are sluts and whoes who are only good for abuse. And that Black men want everything out of life but a job - and will do anything to get it.
That’s not who we are as a people, but that’s the way we’re being portrayed. That’s who our young people are looking up to and that’s the way the rest of the world sees us. So if we allow this to continue, whose fault is it when the rest of the world believes their lying eyes? No wonder unemployment is so high among Black people. I wouldn’t hire anyone like that either - would you?
So the Black community needs to come down on the media like a sledgehammer and stop them from slandering our community. We also have to start letting our children know, in no uncertain terms, that stupidity’s not cute.
We must start to disseminate that message early in a child’s life, and since kids tend to gravitate toward those things that they’re rewarded for as "cool," it’s not enough to simply address this issue as individual parents - we might as well be spittin’ in the wind. We have to address this issue as a community.
We’ve got to let BET know that if they want the community’s continued support, they’re going to have to change their call letters to stand for Black Excellence Television and their programming is going to have to reflect that. We have to make it clear to BET, MTV, and the rest of the media that if they want the support of the Black community that they’re going to have to air programming that’s consistent with our agenda as a community -- programming that reflects manhood as having the character to face and defeat adversity, and strength as being tender enough to sooth the wounded feelings of a baby girl.
But in order to do that, we need an organized community, and a big obstacle to that is the self-serving poverty pimps among us who benefit from our suffering. We’ve got to eliminate these people. These are the ones who are primarily responsible for the plight that we currently find ourselves. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were alive, the only thing they wanted from the White man was for him to leave us alone and allow us to live our lives in peace.
My grandfather had a little verse that reflected their attitude. He used to say, "The only thing I want from this whole damn nation, is a pretty little wife, and a good foundation." I didn’t realize it at the time, but in that one little verse he was teaching me the meaning of life - and he had that, and more.
But after the death of Dr. King and Malcolm, the poverty pimps swooped in to try to take their place, but both their philosophy, and their agenda, were much different. They convinced the Black community that we couldn’t make it on our own. They convinced us that we were incapable of such a monumental feat.
They told us that we needed the White man’s help to move forward so it was incumbent upon us to hire them as our official emissaries to the White man. That was in the late sixties and early seventies. But since that time, the "emissaries" have all profited greatly, while we’ve been sitting on our hands suffering, whining, and begging for the past 40 years, and still waiting for the White man’s response.
So it’s time to bring the poverty pimp hustle to an end. We don’t need one voice speaking for millions; what we need is millions speaking with one voice. And we need to re-embrace our self-esteem, and begin to recognize who we are, what we represent, and the dignity of what we’ve managed to overcome.
In spite of the fact that many of us have been dragged through the pits of Hell, we've managed to come out the other side as well adjusted and relatively well educated individuals. And while we've been forced to engage in a 100 yard dash where our White counterparts were spotted 25 yards, we've still managed to remain competitive. So the fact is, adversity has made us more, not less resilient.
Don't buy into the great American myth. Yes, there are Black people who are struggling and at the bottom of the heap, but there are also many White people in that very same condition, and in spite of having every advantage in life. So if you're Black and middle class, you've remained competitive with your White peers in spite of the fact that you were forced to wear lead boots during the competition. So you have much to be proud of - and not just the superficial pride of having Black skin as James Brown suggested, but a genuine pride in what you’ve accomplished in spite of your Black skin.
Some of the greatest minds I've ever known held court while sitting on empty milk crates in the parking lots of ghetto liquor stores. So I know who you are and what you're capable of, because I know who I am and what I'm capable of.
Thanks to you.
For more commentary by columnist Wattree please see wattree.blogspot.com