Well today is Tuesday…my day to submit a blog post. The past two weeks have been exhausting, yet reflective. It is easy to get intoxicated from the recent presidential election. I believe IAC’s post last week is where most educated African Americans are.
What I want to talk about are the direct and indirect messages that are forced on us from media (TV and social media). I have a friend named John call me venting about a recent experience. To provide context, he is a college educated black male, who works full-time in the business industry. The type of person that wears a suit and tie to work every day. Anyways, while at a Halloween party at a co-workers house, the co-workers’ son (Jimmy) came out and wanted to play with everyone. Jimmy was dressed as a police officer and wanted to “arrest” everyone for whatever crime a 5-year-old toddler can name. When he got to John, Jimmy arrested him for, “robbing a bank”. Playing it off, John replied, “Oh no….I would never do that. That’s an automatic sentence”. Jimmy laughed, as toddler’s do when an adult plays with them, and then said, “Well now you’re arrested for murder”.
Now I do realize “Kids say the darndest things”. However, after hearing this story it really got me thinking about the images of criminality we are flooded with on a daily basis; and how are views, biases, and prejudices are shaped by what we watch. Seems like when I turn on the morning news or access a social media account, the first story tends to be reporting of a criminal offense/act, some sort of excessive fighting, or something just real petty. The individuals involved tend to be people of color. Or tune into ESPN, and there’s a story about a ball player of color (NFL, NBA, etc.), who is suspended or reprimanded for misconduct.
Now developmentally speaking, toddlers tend to mimic and say only what they are exposed to. Meaning Jimmy had to either hear someone make this connection (people of color and criminality) or watch it on TV (because TV is the new babysitter for most families).
There is no simple answer to this dilemma. However, there is hope. I believe the best response black men can do is this. We must continuously present counter-narratives to the stereotypes. We are more than just criminals, substance abusers, “deadbeat” fathers, slaves, etc. We must challenge these stereotypes daily and change these negative images in American society.
I want to challenge all the black men to continue to be leaders in their families, communities, at work, and in their spiritually.