This last week was pretty historic. On the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, our country’s first black president was sworn into office. Regardless of political affiliation, one could not help but be impressed by President Obama’s speech. They were words of hope and inspiration. I have been mulling over a couple of things since the inauguration that I would like to get off my chest.
First, January 15th of this year marked the late Dr. King’s 80th birthday. That means, had it not been for his senseless assassination, he likely would have been alive to see the day where the American people elected an African-American to the Oval Office. I wonder how he would’ve reacted. Where would the nation be today if he were still alive? How different would the black community be if he were still one its leaders instead of blowhards like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? Who knows? Maybe Dr. King himself would have run for President already. Or maybe his untimely death solidified the human rights movement and cemented his legacy in this nation’s history.
Secondly, I wonder how this will affect the way the media portray black people. Errin raised a good point in class that got me thinking about this. Will the media continue to showcase African-Americans as gang-banging, gun-toting, uneducated and poverty-ridden? Or will we start to see black people in the media as more than athletes and gangstas?
The media go a long ways in introducing and enhancing stereotypes. I spent some time in South Korea, as a missionary and later as student, and you won’t find many black people there. Why? Because Koreans are terrified of them. During my time there, I asked several people why they were so frightened of black people. Almost every response had to do with the ways media portray them as ruthless gangstas who rape and kill like it’s a bodily function. They didn’t know the likes of Theo Huxtable and Steve Urkel. They just knew about Tupac and Dr. Dre.
For years, the media have downplayed shows or news stories focusing on the positives in the black community while exploiting the negatives because it sells. The result is negative stereotypes that are passed down from generation to generation. Inner-city black kids have been taught that they can make it as an athlete, or they can resort to dealing drugs or gang-banging.
Hopefully this historic presidency will not only squash that absurd thinking, but also the damaging stereotyping the media have taken part in. Black kids need to know that they can be whatever they want to be. In my line of work, I come across many successful black people who aren’t athletes or gangstas. Kids of any race can grow up to be television producers, CEOs and now, President of the United States. Let’s hope the media chronicles some of the more positives out of the black community.