- - Sunday, May 4, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

High school graduation rates are at a historic all-time high. Black students are helping drive this historic trend by graduating at a 69 percent clip — their highest rate 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’s 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 a panel that included filmmaker, producer and director of “What Black Men Think” Janks Morton; New York Times and CNN contributor Jamal Simmons; and EZ Street of radio station WKYS, FM93.9.

“If it bleeds it leads” remarked Mr. 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 using a shock factor. The kinds of stories highlighting inner-city black crime possess this shock factor and, according to Mr. Simmons, demonstrate prejudice among many media outlets.

But there are thousands of black success stories every year that the media fails to report. Take for example Mr. Simmons‘ story. Growing up in Detroit during the 1980s wasn’t exactly the quintessential childhood for young Jamal, 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 crying out for “love” from a father more than anything else. Mr. Morton added, “We don’t have a black youth problem, we have a black adult problem.”

Fortunately for Mr. Simmons, he had a father who was present in his family. He 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 Mr. 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 black community faces. Over 72 percent of black births are out of wedlock and 67 percent of our community’s 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 blacks 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.

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 Mr. 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.

Armstrong Williams is sole owner/manager of Howard Stirk Holdings and executive editor of American CurrentSee Online Magazine.

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