The Autistic Journalist

Using words to explain the mind

How autism and race go together

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In my media literacy class, we read and discussed a book chapter on criminalizing black culture and watched a segment of Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke. If you’re unfamiliar with the program, When the Levees Broke reports on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Bush administration’s failure to respond quickly to the disaster. The article and the documentary, question how racism (and the lack of government help in the first week after Katrina hit) affected the treatment of the black culture; the article in regards to stereotyping blacks and the documentary in regards to ignoring pleas for help because New Orleans is predominantly black.

I’m sure my one or two readers are familiar with the infamous Associated Press pictures depicting whites “looking” for supplies while blacks were “looting” them. Katrina really undermined how little the country had progressed in defeating racism 40 years after the Civil Rights movement. I won’t discuss the what ifs because it’s impossible to measure the variables now with a new President (what if a Democrat was President, what if New Orleans was mostly white), but taking track record into account, historians may point to this moment as the event that sparked the unraveling of the Bush administration and the ripple effect it had on the GOP. Republicans had total control of Congress in 2005 when Katrina hit and since have been pushed out by the DFL.

While Obama’s election was an important milestone in the quest for racial tolerance, reading the chapter and watching the film gave me new thoughts on how race is viewed. The chapter discusses how the Moynihan reports in the ’60s and the War on Drugs in the ’80s were catalysts for overrepresenting blacks as mindless criminals; animals who needed to be kept on a leash. These stereotypes of gangbangers and objectifying women still exist in music videos, especially BET, which was designed to be an outlet for blacks (ironic?). However, the depiction of women now is different from the ’80s in the sense that women were portrayed as crack whores abusing the welfare system (Reagan and the second Bush cut a lot of social welfare programs in their tenures as President). I can provide the documentation if necessary.

Even local coverage often follows the conventional wisdom established in the ’80s. North Minneapolis is a prime example where viewers would believe the neighborhood is a war zone, and while stats do show there are more problems than other neighborhoods, north Minneapolis natives tell me it’s not that bad. You’ll see the occasional token story about something positive happening in the neighborhood followed by a series of stories reverting to conventional wisdom. Again, I have stats to back me up if you don’t believe me.

So what does this have to do with autism? Given that we’re supposed to be logical beings, I always get riled up over stories of racism because I find criticizing people over something they can’t change illogical. As a result, I also find that clinging to beliefs that are factually incorrect illogical. Unfortunately, I feel that view is lost in people that act on impulse and emotion rather than logic and facts (and yet I express them in these circumstances). My parents don’t completely share my perspective, particularly my father, who has used the n-word in my presence. While his mechanical skills and knowledge of cell phones could probably land him several jobs if he decided to pursue them, you can tell he doesn’t follow current events and social topics like I do. I’m very concerned that if something happened to me and the perpetrator was a person of color, my parents would automatically revert to the false stereotypes of that particular group, which I would find very disappointing.

Conversely, I also believe that every ethnic background shelters themselves too often when they should be attempting to bridge the racial divide, as was the case in some ways with the Michael Richards tirade and Don Imus’ “nappy-headed hos” comment towards the Rutgers women’s basketball team in 2007. I won’t divulge too much as it’s quite complicated.

This argument about stereotypes could also be applied to the Arab community in the wake of 9/11 or the multiracial population, especially those who are part black, with the one drop rule. I consider myself fortunate that I’m willing to embrace differnces rather than fear them. In order to reach the next step, however, conventional wisdom categorizing blacks as criminals must be purged. It gives white criminals an easy scapegoat to cover up their own crimes (several were listed in the chapter written by Stabile) and allows them to manipulate the people who are giving them a voice. In other words, if the facts don’t add up, don’t automatically trust the person in question. In a less extreme scenario, before you believe something, make sure you have indisputable evidence to support your claim.


Written by TheSportsBrain

February 24, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Posted in autism, progress, racism

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