Monday, February 11, 2008

Racism on Good Morning America

There's a lot of subtle racism that goes on and its everywhere: in our everyday interactions, in our schools, in our systems, and in our institutions. The media is definitely no exception: the morning news and our national newspapers often seem like mere vehicles for disseminating xenophobic views of foreign countries and their terrorist ways. As I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning, chomping on my delicious cereal, watching GMA (which is probably a horrible habit but it's just too boring to sit and eat alone in silence), a particular lifestyle story came up that absolutely appalled me. It was about this little black boy who had been rude to his teacher in class and as a punishment, his mother made him stand on a street outside of the school holding a sign about how sorry he was that he was rude and how he had learned his lesson.

Of course, the reporting was done by token Robin Roberts, the token black woman on the show who tends to do the interviews and reporting whenever black people are involved. The segment focused on the tactic of humiliating punishment and whether it was effective or whether it would just breed resentment in the child: in this case, Roland, the little boy testified to having learned his lesson from the punishment, that he's "got to do good in school and do right". Good Morning America chose to focus on the parenting tactics of a black mom, at times portraying her treatment of her child as near-abusive (they tried to straddle the fence in weighing whether or not the punishment was effective but they sure did talk a whole lot about whether or not this experience would scar Roland).

Why did this trivial story make it to the national news? This image of black people not knowing how to do anything, including parent their own children, sickens me to my stomach and you know what? It's not just a coincidence either. Paired with this anecdote, GMA also included reminders and pictures of previous featured stories about similar sign-holding-in-public punishments that other parents has doled out to their children. Why did the slideshow consist only of black parents punishing their children in "questionable" ways? Why is it that white people and white media somehow get to be the arbiters of black people's lives?

I visited GMA's website to get a picture for this post and there was a column of related articles, including a link that beckoned me to "click here!" if I had an out of control child. Really? Okay. Personally, I think the problem is out of control ABC/NBC/CNN news networks. Anyhoo, I clicked on the link and lo and behold, a book about Parenting Defiant Children. On the cover? A smiling, formerly out-of-control black kid (complete with afro) now under complete control because a white man taught him how to behave. We should in no way perceive this as an isolated incident. Look closer: be on your toes when exposed to media and ask yourself what their portrayals, not only of people of color, but also of white people are saying about whiteness and non-whites. Otherwise, not just little black boys, but all of us, will be parented by the patriarchal, old, white men of the media, of the health care system, and of the government.

9 comments:

Southern Sage said...

hmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Im new here but this is a good post.
They are pointing out that not all blacks are idiots to stupid to raise their kids.
Let me ask a question though, what if the arent had been a white 30 something with long stringy unwashed hair? What would the coverage have been if any? I believe they would have sought out to punish the white poor parent as abusive.
Just my take
good post.

cuntstorm said...

I'm glad you thought it was a good post! And that I have a reader or two now! :) haha but i don't think we're on the same page. i believe that GMA's portrayals of black parenthood are racist in that they hint at the damaging effects of the ways in which they're trying to deal with their kids. in response to the hypothetical question you raised, it is just that: a hypothetical question because GMA has never featured a white parent and how they punish their child (or if they have, they have definitely not made as big a deal of it).
hope to hear from you more,
cuntstorm

Southern Sage said...

I surely didn't see the coverage but I would think it would have been more racist had they done a peice on a black parent (or any parent) who allowed their rude child to go unpunished. They would have then been saying that the parents in like circumstances were unfit, then could easily slide right into the disproportionate prison population, teen pregnancy, etc etc.
I knew we weren't on the same page, thats why I offered a different perspective.
The more you comment elsewhere the more eaders/commentors you wil have.

Gala said...

Wow. That was really well-written & compelling. Bravo!

cuntstorm said...

why thank you! i so enjoy the stuff you write: a part of me inside jumped when i saw you commented on my post! haha

Shay said...

Disgusting - thank you so much for speaking out. This is why I avoid much of American TV.

Anonymous said...

True None.-racists are color blind.
The True racist differentiates between white and black and makes that difference greater than it need be.Racism per se is a political tool that is used to create and magnify differentials so that it 'appears' that one side or the other is victimized or has greater advantage.
Its a bit like saying that people with big noses,(or small noses) are being victimized by small/big noses when no such thing is taking place but the person saying it is merely distorting the truth to gain sympathy and advantage over the other one.In a truly egalitarian society no differentiating categorizations are made because they dont 'need to be.In a society that 'wants' advantage the differences are emphasised so that the advantage gainable will be that much greater.When the Nazia earmarked the Jews as different they did it to secure advantage over them.When Mugabe blames white farmers for his country's ill he wants to gain advantage over them and secure his own power base whilst deflecting attention from his own failings.People who differentiate on racial grounds are by definition themselves 'Racist' because thats what 'Racists' do.

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