>Media obsession with black thugs

>This Newsweek commentary by Raina Kelley is on to something. 

From the beginning, the media began speculating Sean Taylor’s death was connected to something mysterious and was probably apart of his supposed “thug” lifestyle.

Kelley points to speculation to Taylor’s past as a predicament to his downfall:

He skipped a day of the NFL-mandated rookie symposium three years ago and was fined seven times for late hits and uniform infractions. He spat in the face of an opponent during a playoff game, missed a mini-camp and sometimes freelanced outside the defensive scheme—all considered bad form in the image-conscious NFL. Off the field, he was pulled over for a DUI in 2004, but the charges were thrown out. In 2005, Taylor was arrested for aggravated assault and faced 46 years in jail for waving a gun and beating up the alleged thieves of his ATVs. He pleaded no contest to reduced charges, and was sentenced to 18 months probation. His SUV was later shot 15 times in a drive-by. These events indicate that Taylor was far from an angel. But do they mean he was a menace to society destined to die bloody?

So, why did the media rush to judgement? Kelley said:

Perhaps because that’s how the average American sees young black men—unapologetic thugs hustling and acting out. But for oft-mentioned exceptions such as Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and Will Smith, our media are awash with thugs—whether it be “I Love NY” on VH1, “Socially Offensive Behavior” on BET or the recently released movie “American Gangster,” starring Denzel Washington. Demeaning images of African-Americans are encouraged not only by mainstream media sources that use them to attract the eyeballs and dollars of black youth, but also by black entertainers who profit from it. 

The black community has been silent for too long about the continued negative media stereotypes of our people. We have sat idly by as shows like “I Love New York,” “Flavor of Love” and other shows rake in big bucks and ratings by disgracing our honor.

I’m so grateful to see many other young, black professionals take up this cause on the blogosphere (read: the revolution will NOT be televised).

As a reporter, I feel let down by those in my field who claim to be open minded, anti-racism/sexism/homophobia and against stereotpyes continuously let their subconscious misconceptions about a group of people alter their judgement of the quality of news reporting.

I’m hoping this same institution that prides itself on providing fair, unbiased reporting can see their flaws in their reporting and prevent the mistakes they have made for the future.

But, as a known characteristic of journalism, we never like to admit our faults, even if they continue to perpetuate stereotypes.