Painting Americans with broad brush is dangerous

  • Jay Gilmore is an Assistant Professor of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Memphis.

Some say the blacks, blacks, or African Americans.

Some say white or caucasian.

Some say the police.

And some say the media.

We need to understand the meaning of the word and add it to our storytelling.

On COVID-19, some of us felt like the past two months had been a couple of years. Well, this racist tension and unrest over the past few weeks has felt like a lifetime.

Why do you ask?

Because it was a lifetime that some of the blacks in our country felt less than human.

Some blacks believe that some police forces practice systemic racism and that bad apples are extremely problematic. Some whites have argued on social media that some violent protesters are ruining the entire message the movement claims to represent.

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So voices are really not heard. I agree with that. But how about that switch, imagine how a few bad apples in police forces across the country make the black community feel. And if there are only one or two bad cases in a district, are there really a few?

Regardless of the number, it doesn’t stop there

All whites are not racist. All blacks are not thugs. All protests are not bad. All police departments are not corrupt. All media are not out to portray negative images and stereotypes. We ourselves can be part of the problem when we paint groups of people with a broad brush.

Jay Gilmore

When it comes to stereotypes, there are racists who believe that all blacks are equal. I think we all have these private stereotypical thought processes about certain things. I think all blacks are dog people and all whites are cat people.

I know how incredibly wrong this is, and I have numerous black friends who have pet cats. My white neighbors have dogs. I think the black person will always be the first to die in a movie. I’m mostly right, but not all of the time. These stereotypes are just assumptions. And we know what they say about adoption.

I have received two great careers in journalism and education

I’ve met some wonderful white people and built some lifelong relationships. That doesn’t excuse the fact that some whites are afraid of me. I’m a big guy. I’m 6’5 and at least 250. Imagine the preconceived notions a white woman would have when walking me into the elevator. I don’t have to imagine that.

And yet I know that I can turn to a white restaurant owner against COVID-19 hours and she will respond with a smile and a “sweetheart”. Some see people and some see color. Some people have left racism behind. I know White and Black who had a problem with Colin Kaepernick. They have since changed course.

Given the unrest this weekend, what did Kaepernick do wrong?

Change of course means progress. It shows growth. We need to grow beyond our preconceived notions about groups of people. Imagine everyone at the protest is there to protest. You would be wrong.

Some people are there to make the protesters look bad.

Some people are there because they were planted.

Some are there because they have been in quarantine for so long that they needed an apology.

Words matter, and a wide brush can be deadly.

If there is no death, we know they will still prove costly.

Jay Gilmore is an Assistant Professor of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Memphis.

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