This is the fourth of a five-part interview about the racist media portrayals of African Americans. Dr. Mark Sullivan, an adjunct professor at Towson University, teaches a class called Mass Media and Society.
The previous segment ended with Sullivan saying, “In successful shows that the producers, the networks, so far and so forth are never going to change [media depictions of African Americans] as long as they remain successful. And they’re going to continue to be perpetuated.”
I asked Sullivan what it would take to change that, and he tells two stories two small victories that assisted African Americans in media.
The best quotes:
An older White lady stands in an elevator, two large Black men step in with her. She steps backward and noticeably tightens the grip on her purse.
The two Black men see this, look at each other and start laughing hysterically.
The next day, the woman receives a note that says:
Thanks for the best laugh we’ve had in years.
Michael Jordon and Charles Barkley
This story’s authenticity is highly debatable. But Professor John Bullock told it to my Urban Government and Politics class a few weeks ago. Then I saw this hilarious video on YouTube.com by Reckless Tortuga.
“What was it like, really like, to be a black in the Deep South? Novelist John Howard Griffin darkened his skin and set out to discover by personal experience the night side of American life. This is his startling report.” -Book cover quote
Black Like Me illustrates racism in 1959 in the deep south from a white/white privilege perspective. It shows all white people what it’s like to be black in America. It shows us what things white people take for granted. It shows us just how cruel white people are.
Imagine having to walk miles to get to the nearest restroom that you are permitted to use based on your skin color. Just using the restroom to relieve yourself, a privilege.
About the higher rates of suicidal tendencies of black people, Griffin says, “This did not mean that they killed themselves, but rather that they had reached a stage where they simply no longer cared if they lived or died.”
This is the third part of a five-part series. Dr. Mark Sullivan, an adjunct professor at Towson University who teaches a class called Mass Media and Society, delves into the issue of the negative black stereotypes that are reinforced, and the impact of their media portrayals.
This segment comments on whether President Obama’s election has allowed more racism in America, how much “Black blood” a person has to have to be “Black enough,” how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go in the fight against racism, and that the current depictions of Black people in media are reinforced by their success.
The best quotes:
I spent seven hours in a part of Baltimore City and saw dozens and dozens of people. One person was Asian. Two people were Middle Eastern. Everyone else was Black.
By the time I drove into the Inner Harbor for work, it was weird to see white people.
People argue that segregation is over. Sure, de jure segregation is over. No law states that Black people must live or remain in certain areas. But de facto segregation thrives.
Look at this map of Baltimore City that is colored to show where concentrations of Black or African American residents live.
See map and more
I’m starting to understand why Black people have given up hope on white people in the racism debate.
(Photo courtesy of ToonPool.com)
It’s because when white people hear that voter literacy tests were used to keep Black people from voting, they’re upset because it’s obviously prejudiced (though they say “racist”) to ignore that, to an extent, white immigrants were also excluded from voting because of it.
It’s because when white people hear about those little Black struggles in (oh-so-ancient) history like slavery, mass lynchings, and Jim Crow laws, white people ask what the current Black generation’s excuse is.