What we see in the media is not always a direct reflection of reality. In an article by Sam Fulwood III he points out how African Americans are misrepresented regularly and particularly in sports.
This reminded me a lot of Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” when he is explaining to his nephew what the white world expects of him. While this is written 50 years later it still has some very interesting connections. We see in Fulwood’s article that there are only 1,200 black professional athletes even though African Americans make up 13 percent of our nations population. We are shown “an endless highlight reel of slam dunks and touchdown runs, and the pictures speak for themselves”. The media represents sports and its announcers as a near if not entirely black enterprise. What we don’t see is that there are 12 times as many black lawyers than athletes, 15 times more black doctors and 20 times as many black dentists. While yes you don’t see much coverage on the news of lawyers, doctors and dentists; this exposure to what entertainment enterprise that is mostly black skews our view on race.
In Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time” he tells his nephew to not believe what white America says about him, to not believe in his inferiority. But if you look at the media today most of the black success and leadership you see is in the sports world. This helps create a culture that thinks of the majority of professional athletes being black. Fulwood makes this case by referring to an article that half-jokingly had people guess how many black athletes there were in America. The lowest number guessed was “500,000” minimum. This gives us the assumption that 1 out of 26 African Americans in the United States is a professional athlete when the real number is more like 1 in 4000.
Even though some would say we live in a post racial, we simply don’t. We live in an America where racial stereotypes are still very much alive and well. While outright hatred and discrimination may no longer be socially acceptable we still tiptoe the line when it comes stereotypes, prejudices and subtle discrimination. What rang true for Baldwin about expectations still does today. Even though we try to correct it and disapprove of it, racial stereotyping still exists. We as Baldwin says is “in effect, still trapped in a history they do not understand”.