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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Maybe This Is Why We Can't All Just "Get Along"...

From the files of "I Wish I Were Making This Up"...
I was drifting through Google images the other day on an unrelated story looking for stock images and discovered something pretty disturbing. Black people are the recipients of charity, every person in Africa is starving, destitute and half naked, black love involves ONLY the intertwining of half naked, muscular drawings of Black men and women (and quite a bit of porn). I was amazed to find out these things about myself just by typing in a handful of innocuous words. Sure, I've read the articles and engaged in brief chuckles about when Google's "fill in the blank" feature goes wrong, but I didn't realize how a simple word can trigger such varied images. (By the way, this isn't my attempt at Google bashing...I'm a bit addicted to it as a means of answering the random questions that flip, flower and roll through my head.)

When I'm overemphasizing my best qualities in my head, one of my favorite images is of myself as a boulder, planted firmly in the middle of a rushing torrent of water. And from this rock erupts my voice, sounding strangely like Antoine Fisher, yelling, "I'm still standin'! I'm still strong!". (Pauses to allow the mental image...) You see, I pride myself on not letting every little thing buffet and toss me for a loop. I'm a boulder, not a pebble, so this should have drifted by my shoulders and passed on it's merry way to become an oily part of someone else's subconscious. But things don't always work out that way. So, allow me to admit, that I became a tad obsessed. For the next several hours ...minutes, I typed random words and marvelled at the images that popped up.

I typed "thief", and found zombies. I typed "masculinity", and found random androgynous women. I typed "cute" and was visually assaulted by doe eyed babies and animals of all types, except Black, until page 22. Look, it's no mystery that we are all somewhat concerned about how we are perceived. Short of psychopaths, most of us have engaged in hair, nose, breath checking behaviors to ensure that we put our best foot forward. At the same time, it's impossible to ignore a reaction to our physical presence amongst strangers. Think about it. You enter a room of people in the same general socio~economic bracket as yourself, and the unspoken ideal is to blend and mix well, not be perceived as "different" or alien. If you challenge this concept, dig deeply within yourself and ask why is it that you've never actually gone to a bookstore and screamed "I WANT PICKLED CHEESECAKE!" at the top of your lungs. (Exactly...) So what am I to take from a society that must cycle through 22 mental pages to associate me (or someone who looks like me) with the word "cute"?

A recent CNN report detailed how this phenomena plays out with young children offered the choice to play with a black doll or a white doll. In the African American community, the results came as no real surprise. Black children predominantly chose to play with the white doll, citing her has "prettier" and attributing more negative reactions to the black doll. In my own interactions with children, most notably a recent Wish Board project, designed to identify values, likes and dislikes, I found myself head shakingly familiar with boards filled with images of White celebrities, despite utilizing magazines targeted towards the "urban" community. The disparity is disheartening, when we also consider how little is being done to encourage a wider more receptive world view.

This is a color issue.
This is an ethnicity issue.
This is a gender issue.
This is an economic issue.
This is a religious issue.
Because a human issue.

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