Black Men Aren't Superpredators, They're Accountants
A black male social media guru and karaoke enthusiast. A black male entrepreneur who's travelled the world. A black male PR executive and wine connoisseur. A black male accountant, teacher, reporter. These aren't the black men you usually see in the media. But they're all there, hanging out, on "The Faces of Black Men" Pinterest board and Tumblr.
The tragic death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager who was shot dead last month by a neighborhood watch volunteer, sparked protests around the country. Many thought Martin's blackness and maleness made him a target. "He was born black and male in the United States," writes Kai Wright in the magazine Colorlines, "and was thus marked for death."
Dori Maynard is sick of reading stories about black, male criminals. One study, which looked at a three-month period in 2010, found that 86 percent of the news stories on TV that featured black men involved crime.
"If you've been bombarded by all these negative images of black men, it's unfortunate, but is it surprising that people are acting this way?" asks Maynard, referring to the man's assumption that Martin might be a threat.
So she decided to collect photographs and short bios of the black men in her life that she loved, and post them to Pinterest. Later she made it a Tumblr post too, so that other people could contribute the stories and images of the black men who inspire them.
"I see it as journalism," she says. "Setting the record straight."
Maynard is the president of the Maynard Institute, which trains journalists of color, and helps the media portray minorities more accurately.
"It's a media myth that there are no black fathers, no black husbands," she says. When she started writing the bios of her friends, she kept mentioning that they were loving spouses and devoted parents. But then she stopped. "I got tired of it," she says. "It was redundant."
Maynard wishes these kinds of men could make the news more often. "Of course the article 'Black Married Accountant, Father of Two' would be odd," she says. "But this December, we're going to see stories about Christmas, about Christmas shopping. Just as we show white women and white men going Christmas shopping, we can show black men going Christmas shopping."
"I don't have kids, but apparently they go back to school once a year," she continues. "And we'll have pictures of parents taking their kids. Black men are doing that."
It's not that the media should avoid covering crimes when black men are involved, she says. But rather, "All we can do, is show black men participating in the daily fabric of our society. We do stories about the daily fabric of society all the time."
Maynard doesn't think "The Faces of Black Men" is political. She was taken aback when AOL Jobs called it a "campaign."
"I'm just a woman sitting in her room, putting pictures on her Pinterest," she says. "As a journalist, I just thought: 'This is the beauty of social media. We can create our own story.' So I did."
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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