Three cases of stereotyping (us) at its worst

Opinion: Arlene Jones

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By Arlene Jones

Columnist

This past week, via three separate and varied sources, was a reminder of how black America can be seen by white America. First we had Cliven Bundy, the Arizona rancher who made headlines with his 15 minutes of fame musings, pondering whether black people were better off in slavery after he drove past one Las Vegas housing project and saw some folks standing around with their doors open. 

Bundy saw one scene in one instance and figured an entire people should be enslaved because of the actions of a few. In making that analysis, he had no context as to why the people were milling about. It could have been any reason — from a fire drill test to someone smelling gas — and the entire building had to be evacuated. Whatever the reason, one scene of black people being portrayed in the negative was magnified to apply to all of us. 

Two weeks ago in the April 16 edition of this paper, my column was about how the CNN series Chicagoland was a farce. After watching four back-to-back episodes, each one scripted worse than the last, I had seen right off that the entire series is a joke. My conclusion was thus: The series is worse than propaganda to re-elect the mayor. It is stereotyping at its best.

So it came as no surprise to me when one of the stories in the Tribune last week exposed that the producers of the series had worked hand-in-hand with the mayor's office to script the program. The information the Tribune obtained was found out through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The exposé, as well as the FOIA, not only validated my labeling the program a farce, it also inadvertently authenticated my opinion, and now fact, that the program stereotypes. Once they admitted the program was scripted, then all the images portrayed became scripted as well. In that scripted version they found the worst elements in the black community and portrayed them as the norm. 

Yet there hasn't been any outrage or calls for the mayor to resign. It shows and proves that the majority of those in black leadership are so ingrained in the system and the trinkets they've gotten that any insult to us as a people is overlooked. There are real people and real lives being affected by the imagery of this program, yet our pain and suffering are simply a backdrop so the superzero can be portrayed as a superhero.

Lastly, we had the owner of the Clippers basketball team get offended when his girlfriend posted a picture on Instagram posing with Magic Johnson. Donald Sterling not only denigrated her for being friends with black people but told her she had better not bring them to his games. One image is all it took for the anger to be directed at an entire group as opposed to just being targeted toward one person. 

The first and third situations have taken care of themselves. It is the second one that causes the most worry. Mine is but a small voice, but I loudly proclaim that we must make sure the bad actor on the fifth floor of city hall is not only a one-termer, but that his entire political future be ended as well. He and his Hollywood cronies have bought into an imagery of us that is both insulting and stereotypical. The least we can do in response is rid him of his job and future in public life.

Reader Comments

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Rudy from Chicago  

Posted: April 30th, 2014 2:46 PM

Arlene, asking the mayor to resign is akin to asking the snow to stop falling on December 26.

Raymond Louis Ivy from Charleston, Missouri  

Posted: April 30th, 2014 1:21 PM

It truly a blessing to see there are still people out here who are not afraid to stand up and speak the truth, and not being sale outs. MRS. ARLENE JONES, MY TWO DAUGHTERS AND I HOLD HIGH HONORS AND RESPECT FOR YOU AND ALL THOSE WHO ARE STANDING YOUR GROUNDS BY SPEAKING THE WHOLE TRUTH... PEACE! LOVE! UNITY!

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