Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Stifling, suffocating and stereotyping Black men and Black boys, but not White men and White boys

No matter what an African American male or boy does it never meets with the approval of White folks. There is always the proverbial: “He must have committed a crime, or the police wouldn’t have shot him. He was arrested because . . . ” This inbred attitude has been the beast living in the belly of Black communities for multiple decades. I feel comfortable in saying that Black people are not seeking acceptance or approval from White folks. Black Americans just want fairness and equality as promised them in 14th Amendment.  They want equal access to the American  Dream

AtlantaBlackStar attempted to explain why White folks are fearful of Black men. “Since the days of slavery, the propagation of the myth of the predatory Black man has been used to instill fear in Whites and to justify their brutality and violence against Black individuals, communities and continents. The narrative has been passed down from one generation to the next and is still used to underwrite injustice against Black people”. 

 Black males walking down the street--unlike White males-- are expected to walk a certain way if a White cop is patrolling the area. The Black man or  male teenager should walk slowly with his hands at his side. He should never run or look behind him while  walking fast or jogging. Heaven forbid if he is jogging, a common exercise! But Whites, especially cops, do not believe that Blacks jog. No matter the consequences or environment the African American male is under constant suspicion. That suspicion eventually gives birth to anger and resentment and death of innocent Black males of all ages. 

White folks are the first to ask: “Why are Black men so angry?”  They never look  past the anger and reasons for it. They never ask why Whites are so angry.

 Paul Butler, professor of law at Georgetown University said, “When you're in an elevator or walking behind somebody, and you feel like you have to perform to make them feel safe, it's like apologizing for your existence. So I am in an elevator with a White woman and I have to look down to make her feel comfortable. It's like 'excuse poor Black me.' And you get angry and you get tired”.   

 That very real anger may be due to the White woman’s own projection of anger and fear of African American males. It is likely she would ride an elevator with a five White criminals, feeling completely safe, as opposed riding with one Black man, feeling that her life is in danger. The woman, without knowing if the professor was dangerous or angry was reacting to years of indoctrination and vividly painted profiles of Black men and boys as told to her by angry White men in her life.

“The psychological defense mechanism called projection [occurs] when one accuses someone of having traits they refuse to acknowledge in themselves may also explain why White people fear violence from Black people. Instead of acknowledging the past and present forms of violence Black people have suffered at the hands of Whites, it is projected onto the victim themselves”. (AtlantaBlackStar)

In Psychology Today, Mark Goulston, M.D. states: “Believing that Black males must be angry causes Whites to feel fearful of them. To make matters worse in the case of White policemen who are very much about control, they have a psychological refusal to be afraid, and so instead turn it into resentment, distrust and a very short fuse that can blow and cause the tragic shootings that are occurring all too often”.

Brandon McKean
A couple of years (2014) ago in Pontiac, Michigan, a young African American man named Brandon McKean, 25, was walking down the street with his hands in his pocket because it was cold. It was around 4:30 p.m., still daylight. McKean was walking from a friend’s house, on his way to his own home. His hands in his pocket. The young man’s instinct to keep his hands warm on a snowy, wintry day made a store owner nervous. He was stopped a deputy
Deputy sheriff who stopped McKean

"You were walking by … well you were making people nervous," the deputy says in the video McKean recorded. "They said you had your hands in your pockets."

In disbelief McKean responded: “Wow, walking by having your hands in your pockets makes people nervous [enough] to call the police when it’s snowing outside”?

“The sheriff said that before McKean was questioned, a business owner called 911, audibly frightened, about a man who had walked by the shop six or seven times looking in the windows with his hands in his pockets. The caller believed the man was casing the business and that a robbery could be imminent. The business and its employees had reportedly already been robbed seven times.

“Bouchard would not name the deputies who were dispatched nor the business, but said they had determined the person the 911 caller described was McKean, "without question." After the furor over the video, the sheriff's office posted their own video, which the deputy had also recorded with a phone.” (Huffington Post)

McKean was not the man the store owner said he saw. But that did not matter. McKean was a Black man with his hands in his pockets. He was suspicious enough to cause fear. McKean videoed the incident and posted it on YouTube.

Stifling, suffocating and stereotyping Black males in movies

When I tire of the glitz, glamour and violence in today’s movies I look in my library of old and new movies and pop an old movie in the VCR or DVD. Watching old movies I noticed something. Characters played by Black male actors were dehumanized and caricatured. Black actors in early movies were full mouth, wide mouth grinning buffoons. The only emotions they could freely express was love and adulation for the White family they worked for.

White actors were 100 percent humanized. They were free to be who they were without restrictions. In the early movies White male actors were portrayed as good looking superior characters. The reason roles for Black males in old movies were emotionally suffocating is because movie producers had to satisfy the racial whims of White moviegoers. They did not want Black male actors straying from the “they are too violent and brutish to be human” urban legend. The more they looked like the infamous Hong Kong the better.

Lebron James, famed basketball player, was heavily criticized for this Vogue cover. Someone produced a counter cover comparing James to a big black gorilla that fell in love with, and captured the "beautiful" White woman in the movie King Kong.
If Black actors got roles in which they had physical or verbal confrontations with a White character he could expect to die at the hands of the White character. This scenario was more acceptable than a Black character killing a White character. However, when Sidney Poitier starred in “In the Heat of the Night” in 1967, he broke the color coded mold. He refused to be a buffoon to a White actor. The cast was all White except for Poitier. The setting was in the South, where the atmosphere was racially charged. Poitier was the star in the movie with a White co-star. In one scene, Mr. Tibbs, Poitier’s character, was slapped by a wealthy White businessman. Poitier’s character instinctively slapped him back. That was unheard of in a real life let alone in a movie! The physical patty-cake was deemed “the slap heard around the world.”

Reportedly, Poitier agreed to accept the role on the condition that he slap back when slapped by his White co-star. Such was the case with Poitier in all the movies he appeared in. He did not take roles that made him appear less intelligent than White actors. He refused to be a song and dance clown. Sidney Poitier refused to be stifled, suffocated and stereotyped.

More stereotyping and suffocating

I was watching a late night talk show on cable TV not long ago, and I learned that even in pornography Black men are discriminated against. They were/are depicted in adverse images. I decided to do some research on Black men in the porn business. To my surprise I learned that some White women refuse to perform sexual acts on video with Black men. It was explained that such a decision can end her “career”. White connoisseurs of pornography do not want to see a Black man having sex of any kind with a White woman.

A White woman willing to participate in a porn video with an African American performer can and do demand double pay compared to Black women. Stereotypes strikes again, even in porn. Black males are sometimes portrayed as a burglar in porn flicks. In the scenes the  White female is alone, and subjected to getting raped by the great Black brute who violated her space. Black porn performers are also portrayed as thugs, brutes, pimps, who are insensitive and abusive to Black women that performs with them.

To audition for  porn roles African American males must look and talk a certain way. On the other hand, White male performers banging Black women is acceptable and popular among porn lovers. White performer are expected to treat Black females roughly, disrespectfully, pulling their hair, calling them unflattering names.

Charles H. Smith stated in 1893 that “a bad Negro is the most horrible creature upon the earth, the most brutal and merciless". Clifton R. Breckinridge, a contemporary of Smith’s said of Black people, “When it produces a brute, he is the worst and most insatiate brute that exists in human form".

George T. Winston wrote in 1901, “When a knock is heard at the door [a White woman] shudders with nameless horror. The Black brute is lurking in the dark, a monstrous beast,
crazed with lust. His ferocity is almost demoniacal. A mad bull or tiger could scarcely be more brutal. A whole community is frenzied with horror, with the blind and furious rage for vengeance.” (Jim Crow Museum, “The Brute Caricature”)

The description above very much applies to Black boys and males in America. They are not allowed to experience normal childhoods like their White counterparts. African American males of any age are criticized for the way they express themselves through music, mode of dress, their manner of speech. Of course, they automatically look dangerous and threatening; therefore, when a White cop sees a lone Black male or a group of Black males he instantly fears for his life, and must shoot to kill to save his own life.

African American males and boys are automatically labeled thugs, criminals, and gang bangers by the media. The media—newspapers, blogs and TV—push these images every day. Reality shows like “Cops” and “The First 48” are notorious in describing African American teens and men as gangbangers, killers, robbers. Seldom are Whites seen on these shows in the same negative light.

“The First 48 shares its voyeurism and bloodlust with other reality shows, but differs from them in that it has destroyed, and even ended, the lives of people who never agreed to be involved. Another distinct feature of the show is that almost all of the suspects in it are Black. Portrayals of non-Black criminals are so rare that it's become something of a social media joke". (The Guardian)

Darren Wilson, the White cop who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, describes how he felt when he came in contact with Brown, who was unarmed.

 “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a 5-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan. That’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm”. 

Darren Wilson is 6’6 tall, 210 pounds. Brown was so monstrous, threatening and dangerous that he made the cop with the law on his side, a loaded gun and Taser feel like a helpless child. His testimony worked like a charm during the grand jury hearings. It handed down a no indictment. The prosecutor did not try to convince them that Darren was embellishing his version of the fatal incident. The White pubic accepted the story as told by Darren. They even blamed Brown for causing his own death.

Tamar Rice, 12-years-old was shot and killed by a cop in Cleveland in 2014. He was playing with a pellet gun in a park across from his house. Someone in the park called police. The dispatcher told responding cops that the pellet gun was probably toy, and that Rice was an adolescent. Two cops rushed on the scene gangbuster style, one of them shooting Rice. Neither cop helped young boy lying in the snow dying, a gunshot wound to his stomach. The shooting cop said Rice “looked older.” Both cops feared for their lives. The 12-year-old African American boy looked like a dangerous monster with a toy gun. All Black boys look older to White cops.

Washington — “Black boys as young as 10 may not be viewed in the same light of childhood innocence as their white peers, but are instead more likely to be mistaken as older, be perceived as guilty and face police violence if accused of a crime, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

“Children in most societies are considered to be in a distinct group with characteristics such as innocence and the need for protection. Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent,” said author Phillip Atiba Goff, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles. (American Psychological Association, 2014)
White men and boys are never stifled, suffocated or stereotyped; these mass shooters have ‘mental problems’  

Every time White males and boys execute mass shootings, killing and wounding multiple people in one spree, within hours of the carnage the shooters are declared “loners with mental issues” by the media and those who knew them. The media does not await for a psychological examination before parting with their amateur diagnosis. The majority of White juries find it difficult to sentence young White males to prison for life. Not so with an African American males, who  tend to get the book thrown at them. Black boys and men do not get or deserve second chances. They are too angry and dangerous. Involuntary manslaughter will get them sentenced to prison for life.

A prime example of what I have stated so far is akin to the American born terrorists in Arizona that commandeered the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney Countyin Oregon. These hoodlums operated on the notion that the government owed them land that should have been handed over cattlemen to graze their cattle without paying the required fees.

This gang of homegrown terrorists led by Cliven Bundy, his sons and their armed "patriotic" buddies intended to use their wives and children as human shields just in case the Oregon sheriffs decided to fire on them. These American terrorists have been arrested and charged with a number of crimes.
The media called these armed White males with criminal records “militiamen”. They were not referred as thugs, threatening, monstrous or dangerous despite them saying at a press conferences that they would shoot and kill local police and government marshals if they tried to arrest them, or run them off the Refuge. Some White folks said had these thuggish renegades been African Americans males with guns they would have been shot and killed the first day they seized the refuge. It took the FBI almost a month to finally arrest the “patriots” and charge them with crimes. One of the thugs was shot and killed by federal agents. He is being hailed as a hero by his fellow thugs. The media have not referred them as thugs, criminals, monsters, dangerous or burglars.

“Underlying much of that subconscious racial bias is the most enduring, corrosive racial stereotype in America: the black-as-criminal mindset. Historian David Levering summarizes it: ‘Whites commit crimes but blacks are criminals.’ While Whites can and do commit a great deal of minor and major crimes, the race as a whole is never tainted by those acts.

"When Blacks violate the law, all members of the race are considered suspect. I used to be an anchor on Court TV. When we heard about a new arrest for some horrific crime, my African American co-host would whisper, ‘Please don’t let him be Black.’ It would never enter my mind to wish that a bad guy not be white, because no matter how sick the crime, other members of the White race are not impugned". (Alternet, from the book “White People Commit the Most Heinous Crimes, So Why Is America Terrified of Black Men?”)

Black males are routinely profiled by cops; but not White males. They are free to be citizens without a hassle. Black males and boys are stopped on suspicion of committing crimes that have not been committed. White cops love exercising their control over Black males and boys, knowing they are helpless to react without there being dire or fatal consequences. Cops have permission to do whatever they want in African American communities. After all, “these people” live in poverty, are perpetually unemployed, deal drugs, partake in drugs, are full of rage, uneducated and extremely violent. Black males and boys have to be contained, retained and controlled, unlike violent White males and boys.

Prison system and jails are filled with African Americans who have committed nonviolent crimes. Many young White males are given lesser sentences for committing serious crimes. Some all White juries have been noted to say they did not want to ruin the lives of young White males. They deserve a second chance. Black males and boys do not get the same consideration. White males are capable of self-correcting themselves. Black males are allowed the time to self-correct.

It goes without saying that detrimental images of Black males and boys have been successfully delivered to the public by the media. Foreigners get their impression of Black males and boys from TV, movies and the print media. I would be remiss if I did not say that rappers in their videos also create the same detrimental images.

A Wall Street Journal story titled “Racial Gap in Men’s Sentencing”, states that, “Prison sentences of Black men were nearly 20 percent longer than those of White men for similar crimes in recent years, an analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found”.

Eleni Delimpalttadaki Janis, public opinion and research coordinator, The Opportunity Agenda in New York, said of the media: “You see few images of Black men and boys being good students or being good fathers. They’re really fewer images of men those roles compared to reality. It’s not just the news coverage. It’s also every type of media, including video games. They all do a good job at using negative images of Black boys and men for entertainment”.

A year ago I was watching a show in which two men in prison were up parole hearings. One was Black man, the other White. The Black man had robbed a White woman, beating her up pretty badly. The White guy had a criminal record, in addition to a bad attitude and anger issues. The Black male was a model prisoner. He had earned his GED, and a college degree. He helped other prisoners get their educations, plus he had strong family support. I forget how many years he had been in prison, but it was a long time. When he appeared before the board he was neatly dressed, well spoken, well mannered.

The White prisoner was belligerent, sloppily dressed, poor posture, full of anger, had not worked towards his GED, exhibited absolute distain for the board. The woman that the Black man robbed and assaulted was at the hearing. She said on camera that she had forgiven him, and wanted him to get paroled. She did not express this at the hearing. 

After listening to the prisoners make their cases for parole, the board made its decision. The majority ruled that the Black man was not ready to be paroled. His accomplishments meant nothing. Despite apologizing for the crime that he committed when he was a young man on drugs, and accepting responsibility for his crime, the board said he was not ready to be paroled. The implication is that he was still a danger to society. Both he and his family were disappointed. They were sure he would get paroled this time around. They had walked down this road for many years.

The angry White prisoner was granted parole. He had to promise that he would enroll in anger management classes to control his temper. A board member, a White male, looked at the White woman sitting across the room. They smiled at each other. She got what she wanted. She did not want to see Black inmate paroled. She was there to see that he never gets out of prison for what he did to her.

Stifling, suffocating images of Black men and boys in the media  

During the O. J. Simpson trial the media made ex-football player the poster boy for men who kill and abuse their wives and girlfriends. This is the case whether the Black male is in sports, entertainment, just a regular guy. He is thrown in the spotlight as an abusive brute.
 O. J. Simpson's original and altered photo
When White males physically assault or kill their wives or girlfriends reporters tend to remove the rough edges in their reporting. They try to find something good to say about the perpetrator; a reason for his actions. Magazines and newspaper do not darken the White male’s face to make him look sinister the way Time magazine darkened O. J. Simpson’s face.

In 2011 a daylong conference was held at a Pittsburg University. The discussion covered African American males in the media. The conference theme was Evolving the Images of the African American Male in the Media. Larry Davis, dean of the School of Social Work, spoke about the “damaging psychological effects that negative media images have on African American males.

“Overwhelmingly, White Americans learn about African Americans not through personal relationships, but through images shown by media. Unfortunately, Blacks, too, consume these same images. Black males are facing increasing difficulties obtaining positive life outcomes and avoiding negative ones,” Davis said in estimating the importance of the conference. “We must change the way Black males are perceived and perceive themselves”.

A Newsweek article titled “The Media Narrative of Black Men in America is All Wrong”, written by Larry Downing, revealed what is often printed and promoted by the media about African American males not getting college educations. He writes that more than ever Black men are enrolling in college. And, yes, Black fathers do tackle the duties of caring for their children. Another much touted myth by the media is that Black fathers are not involved in the lives of their children. This also applies to White fathers, but that is less believable, given that the media readily implies that all White men are fathers to their children from beginning to end.

“Black fathers living with their children are more likely to take on everyday child care duties than fathers in other demographic groups. Of fathers who live with their children, black men are more likely to be intimately involved in their lives. For example, Black men living with their children are more likely to bathe, dress, diaper or assist their child in the bathroom than fathers in all other demographic groups. Additionally, a survey shows that black fathers living with their children are more likely to help them with homework on a daily basis”.

Downing concluded that it is time for the media to get past the stereotypes of African American males. “Despite these impressive improvements in various indicators of success, the media continues to highlight a negative narrative that associates Black men with violence, crime and poverty. It’s time for the media to report the true story—not the outdated stereotype”.

At the conference Dr. Larry Davis explained that media coverage describing African American males as “lazy, dumb and violent can have an effect on their life trajectory”. Citing comparisons from TV news Davis said mugshots of Black males likened to White males are four times as likely to appear on local TV news. Their names are twice as likely to be shown on screen. In addition, a Black male or boy arrested for a crime is twice as likely to be shown in handcuffs. “The Black community has recognized [that] these negative images in the media have been going on for decades. More than four in five Blacks say that representation of Blacks in television and movies has a negative impact on society’s views of African Americans”.

The projection of unfavorable images, which are seen by both Whites and Blacks, creates a cycle of negativity. “This affects the way Whites see Blacks, the way Blacks believe Whites see them and the way Blacks see themselves", he said.

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