By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
Even though mainstream media has reduced coverage of African Americans to sports, crime and buffoonery, getting Blacks to rely on Black media seems almost a hopeless cause. This is not the first time I have addressed this subject, but how I wish it would be the last time there was need for anyone to discuss.
It is pathetic. No matter how news from and about African Americans is ignored, marginalized, mistreated or mischaracterized, like the faithful slave, many in our community prefer to be battered by the slave masters than left to the devices of their own.
That is stratospheric self-hatred. Masochism on steroids.
It would make more sense if we could attribute these self-inflicted wounds of distrust and self-hatred to ignorance, but some of those most cynical and dismissive about relying on their own people as a constant source of information are among the best educated, most traveled and affluent African Americans in the country.
You will see Blacks looting during a natural disaster far more than the innumerable men and women of color who saved lives in the storm. It’s the American way. And it is no accident. My journalism career started in high school. I have never stopped studying my profession.
Believe me when I say, white media tells you what they want you to know…to think. And conversely, they refuse to share with you vital realities and information that doesn’t jibe with their agenda. It’s elementary. Every news organization confronts a multiplicity of options with each publication or broadcast. They must select stories to print or air.
Guess who does the selection. Exactly, the same woman who clinched her purse tighter the moment you stepped on the elevator. The same man who refused to hire your daughter because she was “over qualified.” The same man or woman relative, neighbor or fri-end of the cop who shot your unarmed son because he “felt threatened.”
Objectivity is a myth. Every decision made on news coverage of the Black community depends on the experiences and perceptions of people who look and think nothing like the subject matter covered. Fairness is achievable, but that takes effort – more than today’s media decision makers care to expend.
And no, the solution is not Black folks breaking the color barriers at white print and broadcast organizations. Most of them are tortured and frustrated if they have a sense of conscience, if they offer no relief from the problem or if they distance themselves from Black identity. Black media is the only solution.
There is nothing wrong with reading the New York Times or Chicago Tribune, but there is a desperate need to balance your information with the Chicago-Gary Crusader, Indianapolis Recorder, Tom Joyner Morning Show News and Roland Martin on TV One – something that you can trust to put your interests first. Old habits die hard.
Speaking during the National Association of Black Journalists in New Orleans last month, Martin talked about how people were shocked that he would settle for TV One when he has had the experience of being a news analyst on the revered CNN.
Martin said, “The Black Press has always made it perfectly clear that they are unapologetically Black and are willing to take a stand and are willing to speak to our issues.
“Somebody has to make it perfectly clear that we are front and center, that we are not a side-story. We are not a niche-story, we are the prominent story and we are the priority. We know that Black women matter, Black men matter, Black kids matter, and so we will always be guided by that standard regardless of what the issue is and regardless of whether or not people criticize us.”
No one is naïve. It will always be a struggle getting Black people to trust one another as long as they continue to believe the white man’s ice is colder, that his sugar is sweeter. They’d just rather feel safe than represented.
Back in 1968, a white reporter heard Bobby Kennedy say that 40 years hence, America just might elect a Black president. This liberal writer praised the presidential candidate’s vision and courage to share such bold thoughts.
An African American journalist covering the exact same events and remarks went back to his publication outraged and wrote what audacity it was for Kennedy to suggest the inferiority of Blacks in declaring it would take four de-cades for the nation to acknowledge what any white man could do right then.
Get my point. Perspectives matter. Blacks should support Black media but although an optimist by nature, such change would be shocking. Nineteenth century surgeon John Billings wrote, “There are two kinds of fools; those who can’t change their opinions and those who won’t.” I pray that we are neither.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].