Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Do black bloggers and media help contribute to stereotypes of African Americans?

01/20/11 Story update: Many black bloggers replied to this story. Check their responses out here Part II, Black bloggers respond
Earlier today I saw a story that I was going to post about a Kentucky lawmaker who wanted to test welfare recipients.

My first thought as a blogger was that it's a great story that will draw readers to the site.

And then for some reason I suddenly couldn't hit the publish button.

I had looked at the title of my blog. African American Reports. I began to wonder if I hit the publish button would I be helping perpetuate the belief that most people on welfare are black. I asked myself would I be making this a "black" story?

Most black people I know want no part of welfare and want to make it by working for it. I have yet to meet anyone dancing around and shouting, "Hey world I'm on welfare!"

That led me to another question. I know many of the stories or issues we write about would otherwise go uncovered and remain unknown to those outside Black America. But do we as bloggers unintentionally draw attention to the more negative aspects of Black America and help perpetuate stereotypes of blacks?

In this new Internet age do we as bloggers have some sort of responsibility in how "Black America" is portrayed?

Take the poll below and let me know what do you think. Below the poll are comments from other blog owners that will be updated as they come in.

George Cook Author of the Kindle book Let's Talk Honestly: One Black Man's Thoughts $1.50


Sweepy Jean said...

I understand why you did not hit the publish button because as a black blogger myself, I have felt the same way about bringing up certain topics. But at the end of the day, I think we as black people need to move away from the cycle of shame. Anyone who thinks that all black people are on welfare, the ignorance is their problem, not ours. We know better. We need to start talking about issues in our community and the world at large, and stop worrying about what other people think. Secrecy only makes things worst or at best keeps us in a rut.

I really enjoy your posts, George. Keep up the good work!

George Cook said...

Great response Sweepy Jean. I will still post those stories when someone has ben wronged but I will just probably think about what I actually post about the story a little more.

Anonymous said...

@ Sweepy Jean,
I agree with you in that we have to stop bothering ourselves about what other people including our own think of us.

@ Brother George,
I'm glad you didn't post the blog, not because it was a negative blog, but because it wasn't news worthy. People who are dependending on govt. assistance have to know there is a price to pay for money and aide they didn't work for.

Jen Fad from BIA

Anonymous said...

Also... To put things in context... there are so many countries in the world who have no welfare(social programs) to help their citizens so when I say that people here who depend on govt. assistance need to understand that there will be a price to pay even if that price costs them some dignity.

Sorry Brother Cook... your stories are ALWAYS newsworthy~~
in my eyes!

Jen Fad from BIA

Anonymous said...

Hi George, thanks for reaching out; I've been a longtime fan of your work from afar. Good question, my man! It's one that I've pondered a time or two. And to answer it, I would say that it depends on the presentation.

As I'm sure you know, there are tons of black owned or themed sites that do very little as far as introducing much needed discourse around certain issues. These are sites who often garner a large readership interested in only fun, games, and laughs at the expense of another individual. Well as a blogger of 6yrs, I've noticed there are more of these sites than ever. And to me, that's not good.

I do believe that as we compete for "attention" in the blogosphere the more outrageous the "hook" (post title, pics, language etc.) the more we attract readers. However, be that as it may, the only thing that reinforces so-called stereotypes are the words punched out via the keyboard. A consistent approach that lacks a message or forethought of a very clearly shaped argument does very little, in my opinion.

RiPPa The intersection of madness and reality blog

George Cook said...

Repost from Facebook

I totally agree! Blogs "aimed" at the "black-community" should inform as well as invite a thoughtful dialog. We want to read about current events true, but hearing about success stories in our community that are not covered by the "mainstream media" would be nice. Otherwise its just another place to "moan about inequality". IJS

LaShawn Wilburn

George Cook said...

Repost from Facebook

Well... I overstand your article... I too find myself questioning if I want to post the most negative aspects of our people... some of them I post to bring awareness to whatever that issue is that our people is facing...some of them are jus...t too horrible for me to post for the world to see....
I think the presentation matters... when I post something that is negative or can be viewed as stereotypical I post it in a manner that says we need to bring about a change....if the info is not bringing about a call to action then yes we have to be careful with how and what WE put out about OUR people...

but this is just my.....peace

And Still we Rise! I Love Being Black! pt.2

Greg L said...

This a Greg L from the African-American Clarion Call. I got your e-mail and thought I'd respond.

I feel that black bloggers sometimes do contribute to stereotypes, but not necessarily by a focus on the negative, but by the nature of our conversations or how we limit them. We tend to limit ourselves to "traditionally" black topics alone without weighing in on topics outside of that sphere. Within the "sphere", there's a lot of focus on racism and what other folks are doing to us rather than what we can do to shape matters for ourselves. To me, this promotes a stereotype of a group that seeks someone else to change before we're free to do our thing; a notion that I reject.

I think there are stories, like this welfare one, that need to be blogged about with a view towards raising a question as to what can be done about these sorts of situations. There are a number of blogs where folks like this would be dogged out, but none where someone actually explores the question as to what WE might be able to do. It's certainly worth a discussion, but unfortunately, that sort of discussion draws scant attention in both within and outside the blogosphere. What I'm saying is this--with all the issues, problems and challenges that we face, I feel that all of us need to make room to at least talk about some solutions.

Finally, I was unaware of your blog previously and I'll add you to my blogroll. If you can reciprocate, that'd be great.

Greg L

Anson C. Asaka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anson C. Asaka said...

I read many African American blogs. Most of them discuss and debate important issues. They do not promote stereotypes.

Discussing the lawmaker's welfare proposal will not promote stereotypes. As a matter of fact, a disproportionate percentage of African Americans live in poverty. We must be willing to discuss issues affecting poor communities as well.

@Greg L...I agree our blogs should be more solution oriented.

Sommer J said...

I don't think black bloggers helps perpetuate stereotypes. The black folks on twitter and facebook certainly does. It's sad.

Gloria Dulan-Wilson said...

Whose stereotype are you referring to? If you are referring to mainstream whites, who are racist, prejudiced in the main, no matter what we do, then the question is moot. It becomes a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. In that regard, I'd much rather deal with issues that are of importance and impact to us, communicating with us, for us, than to concern myself with what some miscreant caucasian might think. If what I write helps one or more of us do, feel, see, be better, I could care less about their stereotypical typecasting of who they think we are. As a BLACK woman, I am well aware of the fact that many of us have been educationally, culturally, politically and economically deprived - even more so now in the 21st century. What many may see as some sort of stereotypical behavior on our part is really us using the coping and survival skills to "try to make it real compared to what." We are born and try to live in the midst of a big LIE. What we do to continue existing without losing our African American minds, individually and collectively, would be commended if it were anyone else but us. So I welcome the stereotype if it says, "everytime they come up with some new crap, we figure out away to survive, because of and in spite of it." At this point we have to do for self, and each other as if they - the mainstream - did not exist. We sometimes are too hung up on what they think to do what we need to do to develop the autonomy we need to help ourselves and our families. We are the victims of automatic brainwashing - because none of use - including yours truly - even bothered to ask what kinds of stereotypes you are referring to. I think we would all benefit from unearthing copies of those wonderful books written by Franz Fanon: Wretched of the Earth; Black Skins, White Masks. Or Dr. Carter G. Woodson's "MisEducation of the Negro" - still valid after all these years.
Stay blessed & ECLECTICALLY BLACK (c) My Brother - Gloria Dulan-Wilson -

renwl said...

I'll say this much: I've been blogging for the black gay community for two years. And I'll tell you this: white gay bloggers never ever ever post anything negative about their white gay community.

This behavior of theirs has helped me a lot in terms of ALWAYS pressing the publish button on a less than flattering story about black culture when I'm at a crossroads about publishing it. Because it's about living in the truth of the light. Not covering up.

I never want my people to be in the dark about anything pertaining to themselves-----the good and the bad. Those are white folks games.