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Redeeming the image of Black men in the media

Armstrong Williams | 5/8/2014, 1:30 p.m.
Armstrong Williams

High school graduation rates are at an historic all-time high. African-American students are helping drive this historic trend with a 69 percent graduation rate—the highest graduation rate seen in years.

But you wouldn’t know this by watching mainstream media outlets. Time and time again, the media has painted Black men in a negative light. Almost every night, you can turn on the television and watch a news story about a Black man shooting or robbing someone.

This was the subject of DCTV’s 25th anniversary panel, “Changing Coverage of Black Males in the Media,” coordinated by DCTV President Nantz Rickard and Executive Vice President Bob Thomas, alongside their outstanding production crew. Bringing together such an impressive and highly accomplished panel, DCTV ignited a firestorm of new thinking about the neglected recognizable achievements of many Black Americans across our nation.  

Last week, I had the privilege of moderating this panel, which included Janks Morton, filmmaker, producer and director of “What Black Men Think”; New York Times and CNN contributor Jamal Simmons; and EZ Street of 93.9 WKYS.

“If it bleeds it leads,” remarked Morton during our discussion. The media has an obsession with reporting on violent, specifically Black crime. Instead of focusing on the positive developments of the Black community, the media loves to tell stories that grab viewers’ attention by using a shock factor. The kinds of stories highlighting inner-city Black crime possess this shock factor and, according to Simmons, demonstrate the prejudice that exists among many media outlets.

But there are thousands of Black success stories every year that the media fails to report. Take, for example, Simmons’ story. Growing up in Detroit during the 1980s wasn’t exactly the quintessential childhood for young Simmons, but he had the guidance of a loving and supportive father who helped shape him into the man he is today.

EZ Street commented during our discussion on the overwhelming desire of Black men for love from a father more than anything else. Morton added, “We don’t have a Black youth problem; we have a Black adult problem.”

Fortunately for Simmons, he had a father who was present in his family. Simmons graduated high school and went on to earn a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University. He is now a prominent and well-spoken commentator and political analyst.

Success stories like Simmons’ are not uncommon in the Black community. You just do not hear about them enough.

Now no one is denying the struggles that the African-American community faces. Over 72 percent of African-American births are out of wedlock and 67 percent of African-American children live in single-parent households.

Yes, the absence of the father in Black families is alarming. Yes, Black shootings occur far too often. And yes, we need to take personal responsibility of our own actions and the actions of those in our community.

But when the media exclusively covers news stories that paint Black men as violent and incompetent, they create false stereotypes developed from inaccurate generalizations. This destroys the image of African-Americans as a whole through ignoring their many accomplishments. The assumption that young Black men are inadequate because some of their brothers are committing acts of violence is not only misleading, but is morally wrong.

But we don’t have to let it continue. The way to change the negative Black male image in the media is to own the image and own the media outlets. Media outlets like my own and DCTV have begun the process of restoring the black male image.

One of the highlights of my time with our panel at DCTV was when Simmons said: “African-Americans are the most creative people on the face of the planet.” I, along with millions of Americans throughout the country, believe this to be true.

Join us in sharing the many success stories of the African-American community. Let’s begin to rewrite the narrative and redeem the image of Black men in our society.   

Read Armstrong Williams’, author of the brand-new book “Reawakening Virtues,”and visit RightSideWire.com. Come join the discussion live 4-5 p.m. EST at www.livestream.com/armstrongwilliams or tune in 4-5 p.m EST on S.C. WGCV and Sirius/XM Power 110 at 6-7 p.m. and 5-6 a.m. EST. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.