Is it Tarleton University Students in Stephenville, TX (60 miles from Ft. Worth) who had some white students host a Martin Luther King Jr. Day party that featured people dressed like gang members, (or Aunt Jemima), eating fried chicken, drinking malt liquor, and wearing t-shirts with references to racial stereotypes?
Is it Donald Ray Elder, Tarleton State University sophomore who heads the school’s NAACP chapter, who said “I feel like there is no excuse for this type of ignorance” about the incident. He also stated he sensed a racial divide at the forum.”
Is it the University’s President, Dennis P. McCabe, who said “I am personally insulted by these photographs and am disappointed that Tarleton students have demonstrated such insensitivity” about the incident.Is it presentation of African-American culture on shows like MTV (Music Television) or any other venue that Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, et al venerate an expensive lifestyle based on bragging, if not participating in drug dealing, substance abuse, violence, the use of guns, sexual activity as well as verbal ability on the “mic”?
Is it Bill Cosby who describes African-American as “dirty laundry that many prefer he not criticize despite of poor grammar, foul language, and rude manners.”?
Is it the manufacturers of the Bratz toy collection of dolls, targeting young girls, whose ‘urban fashion’ accessories have included thongs, bottles that look like champagne, and the ability to sing lyrics that were considered to sound dirty enough for CBS television to bleep out during a broadcast? Or Mattel for coming up with their own version of dolls called FLAVAs? (both lines of toys draw heavily from stereotypical presentation of culture)
I think the only way we are going to find answers is to deal with them. We can’t just set out flares around the examples of when they are used. Redirecting traffic around problems is only temporary and does nothing to fix the behavioral road. It is either a problem we want to deal with or not.
In the last year or so, we have had Mel Gibson go on a post-DUI verbal assault, the dude who plays Kramer on Seinfeld lashed out with racially-motivated slurs towards hecklers, and even the cast of Grey’s Anatomy has been in the spotlight because of a rant. Rants, it seems safe to say, are out.
Even just talking about the issue seems risky because I think things don’t get said out of fear….on many levels. It doesn’t help that racial tension has been going on, in one form or another, for centuries. Being loaded with strong emotion, it doesn’t take much for discussions to get out of hand. Adding to the stress is the growing level of distrust IN GENERAL since 9/11. We are asked to be vigilant, yet are cautioned to not profile any one particular group. Ultimately, I think there is still hope.
Celebrating stereotypes with toys or television shows, even bleeding slang into public use isn’t going to make the problem go away. Popular song lyrics, even by sheer force of repetitiveness, can drill the wrong messages home for some…..especially the young. We aren’t going to get anywhere if we just get upset at some of its use. The issue has to bother all of us. It doesn’t make any sense that the use of some terms or displaying some behaviors is offensive in some circumstances and acceptable in others, yet the media is filled with all sorts of conflicted examples. The responsibility seems to point towards those raising children.
Until we can raise a generation to be willing to critically think and objectively look at the issue, it looks like it’s going to be awhile longer before it goes away.