Just another boogeyman, Part II
25th March 2013 · 0 Comments
By Edmund W. Lewis
If you watch the media closely, you will notice that the lion’s share of mainstream media coverage of Black men is doled out to two groups: Black criminals and Black athletes. Both groups are strong, physically gifted and fleet-footed, we are reminded on a regular basis. Both groups are represented by men who are more physically intimidating than the average white male, we are told. And, of course, these groups sometimes overlap. Look at Michael Irvin, Mike Tyson and O.J. Simpson. All three of these men captured the hearts and minds of Americans before their falls from grace.
When it was disclosed years ago that Michael Irvin had a substance abuse problem, it made front-page news for weeks. However, when news broke about a popular white quarterback’s addiction to painkillers, writers and broadcasters scrambled to defend him. After that story died down, the media jumped all over Dallas police reports that said Irvin and teammate Eric Williams forced a woman to have sex with them. There was no place Irvin and Williams could go where they weren’t hounded and stalked by ravenous reporters all too anxious to take a bite out of them. However, when police found that the woman, who just happened to be white, had more wholes in her story than a slice of Swiss cheese, the media just kind of put its tail between its legs and slinked away.
The media has also been more kind to white journalists like Marv Albert and Frank Gifford than they would have been if they had been Black. Each was reportedly involved in some pretty racy stuff.
You may notice that when local television stations carry footage of criminals being led away in handcuffs, they’re usually Black males. What happens to all the footage of white males who commit crimes and are locked up in Orleans and Jefferson Parish jails? You would think that Black males are the only people committing crimes in Orleans and Jefferson parishes. I know better.
I don’t make excuses for Black men who commit crimes. They deserve to face the consequences of their actions. But where’s the equal treatment?. And the criteria and penalties associated with various crimes need to be equitable.
Mainstream media organizations remind us every day that one out of three Black men is in jail or on probation. But two out of three aren’t. Mainstream journalists tell us that the chances of Black men making it in America are slim and none. What we don’t get to see very often are the millions of Black men who defy the odds every day and lead productive lives. Media organizations tell us all the time that Black men don’t live up to their responsibilities or take care of their children. But aren’t these the same media organizations that tried to deny the fact that one million Black men gathered in Washington, DC for the Million Man March more than a decade ago to recommit to being better husbands, fathers, grandfathers and brothers?
Every Black man in America knows what it feels like to be walking down the street and see someone cross the street rather than face a dangerous, mysterious Black male. Media images of Black men have been so effective that even some Black men throw up their danger antennas when they see another Black male approaching. Every Black man in America knows what it feels like to hold his breath when a police car approaches, knowing that the fact that he has not done anything has very little to do with whether or not he will be harassed, detained or arrested. Every Black man in America knows what it feels like to know that almost the entire nation expects them to fail and fall by the wayside.
As the late, great Curtis Mayfield reminded us often, the hunt is definitely on and brothers, you’re the prey.
So how do we protect young brothers from this societal web of barbarism, perniciousness, oppression and diabolism? We teach them what it means to be African men. We show them the Way. We make sure that they grow up and develop love and respect for themselves, their history and their culture. We show them how other Black men in the past found themselves in even worse situations and somehow found a way to survive. We spell out in no uncertain terms the many ways that the game is rigged and the odds are stacked against them making it before providing them with survival strategies and examples of many modern-day Black men who continue to defy the odds and maximize their potential. We introduce them to the Creator and make certain that they establish a meaningful relationship with their Maker, whatever they choose to call Him/Her. Finally, we teach them that they must choose their battles wisely and that some things are worth fighting and dying for.
At the very least, this will give them a fighting chance.
This article originally published in the March 25, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.