Coming back to an important question- Why do we need these positive black images?
Let’s travel back to my story from last week and look at what happened in my history class. This seemingly small omission of a half-page on black loyalists to Britain during the American Revolution is a simple example of how important contributions made by black people to society and to history have been overlooked. It’s so important to see and bring attention to black people doing things that would otherwise be deleted from history and regular life. Sadly, only as an adult did I discover the contribuitions black people made to our modern form of hockey I was on a black history field trip with some high school students at a school where I was helping. It’s even sadder that many Canadians don’t know about this amazing history piece. When you consider the racism that some black hockey players endure even in the present-day you can understand how knowledge is power. Imagine being a young person and loving something like hockey but feeling that you don’t belong or that you are an insignificant part of it then finding out that people like you helped to shape it to what it is now.
Integrating more positive images into media helps to normalize what should already be normal. We should be used to meeting black doctors and pilots and successful business owners but some of us still feel surprised. Outside of being a minority in terms of sheer numbers on this side of the hemisphere, there should be no reason why we are surprised. But when there is a negative skew in society it becomes strange to see people in a positive light when you’re used to a stereotypical way of looking at them. There were times I answered a question in class only to have everyone turn and look at me in surprise. There have been times when myself or other black people have been told we are not the “norm”(stereotype) because of how we speak or dress and this wasn’t only from people of other races, this sometimes came from other black people who had bought into the media produced stereotypes.
There are youth right now who only have a minimized view of what they can accomplish in life because of where they live or grew up. Even after all the trails that have been blazed by other black people. The accomplishments of black people are something we need to drill into the collective psyche. Even people from other cultures have negative views of black people despite the reality and the numbers. There are also people of other cultures fighting again stereotypes that have been assigned to them. Representation is important and right now we especially need more of a focus on the good.
Everyone needs to be educated. It’s important for all children to understand these things too- even in our modern society, bias and prejudice are being passed down behind closed doors. School and media might be the only place to bring awareness and truth. No child should feel like people expect them to be dumb. As black people, we need to actively resist generational trauma and mindsets that have stemmed from slavery times and hinder us. Ideas like black people are dumb or should be treated like children or that we are hyper-sexualized can all easily be found in media today.
Can you think of some TV shows from the past that DID promote positive black images? I can think of a few and they were my favorites. Are there some negative images that seem hard to shake that really frustrate you? Let me know in the comments!