This place matters

This place matters

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thug Life?

Melvin Santiago was a kid, only 23, when a monster, Lawrence Campbell, ended the new cop's life, apparently just for fun.
Santiago was, according to Jersey City mayor Steven Fulop, "By all accounts... enthusiastic, motivated, wanted to be in the West District because he was a true police officer and wanted to be a part of that culture in every single way... Aggressive about learning. … He just really loved being a police officer, with the brightest future possible."
It's sickening. It's devastating. Even more sickening is a memorial that sprang up for the murderer very shortly after. 

There's something else bothersome about this story, though. It's that the news coverage of this travesty is a depressing example of how the media silently, maybe even unconsciously, stigmatizes innocent African Americans alongside guilty ones. See, most of the photos of the memorial don't just show the memorial.

There are so many of these - of African Americans dressed like cartoon stereotypes of black thugs.
What? No 40 ounces?

 The stories doesn't tell us who these people are. We don't know if they're paying their respects or just walking by. But by showing us image
after image
after image

of African Americans standing in front this travesty, the media's reinforcing old lies: That black people are bad. That black people are violent. That black people will stand by their own. Before long, in the hidden pockets of our mind, we begin to embrace the delusion that Lawrence Campbell didn't commit this crime, black people did.
Do a Google search on the word "thug," and the vast majority of the photos returned are of African Americans.
And this

According to dozens of studies over the past several decades, most kids, when presented with a black doll and a white doll and asked which doll is "bad," will pick the black doll. Black kids and white kids.
I know that blurry mess in the foreground violates every rule of photography, but we've got to get the do-rag in the shot.

And I think it's all because of pictures like the ones above. It's because racism has burrowed underground and insinuated itself into our brains, and we're not going to dig it out until we face it. 
Close your eyes and clear your mind. Then picture a thug. What color is his skin?

No comments: