I, along with the rest of the city of Boston, awoke this morning to a Boston Globe front-page with two above-the-fold side-by-side images of black men — one, a large image of a black teen in a hoodie, the other a small image of an adult black man — and big black headline “Guard chief put on leave amid rape allegations.” Each highlights widespread racist stereotypes.
A key issue in the Trayvon Martin tragedy, and in the front-page Globe piece, is the racist assumptions too many Americans make when they see adolescent black males in hoodies. I appreciate the Globe’s effort to put that issue front-and-center. All the same, that racist association is fueled by decades of media stereotypes that greatly exaggerate the criminality of young black males. Short video clips of groups of black men in hoodies breaking store windows and overturning cars are a staple of evening news broadcasts targeted at the white families living in the suburbs.
The stereotype of the black male as someone who will “rape our women” is among the oldest and most pernicious of the many aspects of America’s racism. Like most stereotypes, it springs from a kernel of truth (men DO rape women, and some of those men are black) greatly exaggerated by the fear (and guilt) of white society and by a media engine that profits from pandering to that fear.
It therefore strikes me as incredibly insensitive editing (at best) to put a story of a 28 year old alleged rape, complete with photo and big headline, right beside the dominant head-shot of a young black man wearing a hoodie above the fold on this morning’s paper. This exemplifies the kind of media attention that reinforces the racism that killed Trayvon Martin.
I’ve pasted an image of the front-page. What are YOUR thoughts — racism, incompetent editing, or nothing at all?