October 2009 Archives
leveling off and -- because there are not enough journalists of color on staff
or in leadership positions -- stories are not sufficiently attuned to cultural differences
and nuances in an increasingly diverse society."
- Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists by Robert J. Haiman
During the 2008-2009 academic year, I lived in the Polish Hill neighborhood of
While the percent of blacks living in Greensburg is lower than the average national percent of the people of African decent living in the United States, it was still large enough that I didn't observe much racism through-out my childhood. The only two incidents I can recall are from High School, when a girl stated that she "didn't care" for black people in a crowded lunch room, and when a special education student (who lived in a rural area) casually told me that he kept a pistol underneath his pillow "in case one of these niggers try to rob me", gesturing to a few black students who were nearby. I commonly caught much more flak for being overweight than I observed harassment of black students, although what I experienced was never as serious as the examples I gave. So it was a shock to me when I recently became aware of how common some of the sentiments about African-Americans are in other predominately white communities.
Starting with a conversation I had earlier this year with a friend of mine from the posh housing developments of Wexford, PA, I learned about a common response that I now far too often receive when I talk to white people from rural or suburban backgrounds about race. They will say that "there are two types of black people, those we like," and "those we don't" or "niggers". The first time I heard it, I thought that it was terrible. Justifying racism by saying you are a bigot, is hardly an adequate or educated response to race issues. Saying that you only like black people who look act like you in every aspect, except for their physical differences, is inexcusable, and I can't see how it can be so pervasive. So when I read the quote I used at the beginning of this entry, it made an impact on me.
The people that I have heard use this phrase to describe African-Americans are always very sheltered, and while some who I have heard say it are Seton Hill students from outside of Greensburg, they are never the most educated or cultured people I have encountered. But from what I can ascertain, this sentiment comes back to fear, often caused (intentionally or not) by the news media. All of these people know at least a few black people, who of course like most African-Americans, don't fit the harmful, negative stereotypes of blacks in the