Every blog has a genesis story. This one is no exception. The catalyst for this blog was the media sensation created by Jeremy Lin. Specifically, it was the racism and racial confusion reflected in the many rants and critiques on racial double standards and insensitivity that got me typing. Case in point, this tip in an Asian American Journalists Association guide on avoiding racism in reporting on Jeremy Lin: DRIVING: This is part of the sport of basketball, but resist the temptation to refer to an “Asian who knows how to drive.” Honestly? Is this what we have to contribute to this discussion?
How the hell did we get to this place? It’s as though when it comes to race we’re trapped in a hall of fun house mirrors, only the images being reflected back at us aren’t so funny.
In the mainstream, critical commentary on this occasion reduced racism to insensitivity. Equally problematic, complaints of a double standard that presumably allows one to get away with racist stereotyping when the victims are Asian, but not if they’re African American, reflect a racial confusion, even racism, that is divisive and misleading.
When did we stop noticing the pretty much endless stream of limiting and denigrating stereotypes and racist profiling of African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos in the media? Is this what is meant by living in a colorblind society? Are we so completely surrounded by racist ideas and imagery that racism has become invisible to us?
As a starting point in my examination of just how confused we are, I recorded and studied 24 hours of programming on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN over the course of four days of “Linsanity.” The results of the MSNBC bloc of programming were pretty typical.
In 11 hours of MSNBC programming, the Lin story was everywhere. Lin-related news to one side, only two stories of specific relevance to Asians appeared: the Hoekstra anti-China ad fiasco, and news of an Asian American Super PAC forming. So okay, Asians are pretty absent in media.
However, the only Latinos or Latino-specific stories were about Fernando Valenzuela and Ricky Rubio, both pro athletes. Native Americans were never mentioned. African Americans were referenced either as individuals or in terms of issues several times, including mentions of Carmello Anthony, Martell Webster, and Ty Johnson (all athletes); Rhianna, Chris Brown, Jay Z, Beyonce, and Maya Angelou (all basically entertainers). There was mention of a black Super PAC forming and a story about a white Texas teacher’s suspension after using the “N” word (in order to try to teach the evils of racism). The Reverend Jeremiah Wright was mentioned and, in conjunction, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. And there was one incidental reference to a black elected official named Darren Williams. That’s it. And keep in mind, this was all supposed to be hard “news.”
Obviously, we are confused if a sports writer is fired for using the word “chink,” and a teacher is suspended for using the “N” word, but no heads are rolling over the absence of features of the 15.8% national unemployment rate for blacks, or the 11% unemployment rate for Latinos; nor that the 2011 per capita income of the Hmong Asian ethnic group was $10,949; that in 2011 blacks were six times more likely to go to prison and three times more likely to have sub-prime mortgages than whites; nor that in 2010, the median wealth of black women in the U.S. was $5. Apparently, your job is safe if you choose to describe the African American community as if it is composed mainly of athletes and entertainers and fail in 24 hours of news programming to make even one mention of Native Americans.
The census projects that by 2030, people of color will make up the majority of those under the age of 18, and non-whites in general will out-number whites by 2042. People of color are the fastest growing sector of the population and will soon be the dominant media market. So, what gives with the lack of coverage? And to the extent we are being covered, W.T.F.?
Double standard? I say there are multiple standards of civility in the U.S. where race is concerned, but we are not talking about civility, people! Only one relevant double standard has remained stable in the realm of U.S. race politics since the very invention of the idea of race – that whites constitute the template for “American” and the rest of us are either a resource for whites to exploit, or a threat to them, or we just don’t matter.
So this is my opening salvo. I say it is ridiculous to say that we live in a post-racial society, or even that we are getting there. Things are definitely not getting better.
Welcome to Race Files.