Once again a case of police brutality has reared its ugly head in this country. This time Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American, was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri a suburb near St. Louis. Once again, this young man was unarmed and, according to eyewitness accounts, had his hands raised at the time of the scuffle between the police. While I could say that this is shocking, the unfortunate reality is that Michael Brown will become just another victim of a police culture that may never change. But this shooting has also brought another issue to light; the portrayal of African Americans in the mainstream media.
After the murder of Trayvon Martin, the teenager was depicted as weed-smoking, gold chain wearing, grill-in-mouth, bad apple in the photos used by the media. There were no photos of Trayvon with his family members or being just your average happy teen. Similarly, the photos of Brown that have been picked up by the media included him throwing up a peace sign, which conservative media has translated into a "gang sign". The portrayal of Brown in the media has also sparked the hashtags #ifiweregunneddown and #whichphotowouldtheyuse on social media sites including Twitter and Instagram.
Whether its Black males being shown as gangstas and thugs, as displayed in Black Jesus, or Black women being shown as a mad Black woman, as displayed on the Real Housewives of Atlanta, there are few portrayals of our race in a positive light. When Hattie McDaniel played Mammy in Gone with the Wind in 1938, there were few opportunities in Hollywood for Blacks beyond roles that portrayed us as a subservient race. Today, we have the choice of how we are to be viewed in the media. Why should we allow others to tell us what we should look like, wear, eat, and even live? Our freedom to choose our portrayals in the media is important now more than ever.
While the days of A Different World and the Cosby Show maybe over, it is not too late for us to revive positive images of African Americans in today’s media. It is a shame that we can have African-Americans leading multi-million dollar companies, inventing new technologies, and even leading the nation, yet our young brothers and sisters are stereotyped as if DW Griffith was trying to cast a new version of Birth of a Nation. #ijs