Abuse Journalism Media responsibility Prejudice

Putting the BIG in bigotry

A routine sufferer of insomnia and social media addiction, I perused my laptop and phone before stumbling across several online references to an op-ed from Louisiana Tech University’s newspaper, The Tech Talk.

Allow me to first say that I am unopposed to this publication. I do not harbor ill will toward Lousiana Tech as an institution or the multifaceted demographic it serves.

But, as a Grambling State University trained journalist and former editor-in-chief of The Gramblinite, the city and university newspaper, my spirit was profoundly disturbed by the piece “Putting the Hood in Hoodie”, written by Tech’s editor-in-chief, Rebecca Spence.

In the piece, Spence aligned Trayvon Martin’s choice of attire on a rainy Florida night with ownership of his untimely demise at the hands of self-appointed watchman George Zimmerman.

Spence made no mention of supremacy, persistent stereotypes or white privilege, a structure that survives on the oppression of the other, in this case, the black body occupied by Martin.

How else could a slim teenager, returning from a cornerstore be blamed for being observed, called a “f*cking coon” in a police call, shot and killed? What’s in a hooded sweatshirt?

A brown face.

She failed to acknowledge that anyone is entitled to shield him or herself from precipitation and walk freely, however the individual chooses to be dressed, and experience a safe trip.

Instead of addressing the shoot-first nature of Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, a victim blaming and particularly troubling narrative that was too reminiscent of journalist Geraldo Rivera’s recent comments, was the premise of her article.

Rivera has since expressed remorse after his son told him that he went viral for the wrong reasons.

“Graffiti artists, rappers like 50 Cent, actors from the hood in movies and various gas station robbery videos have proven that hoodies are often associated with people who are up to no good,” Spence wrote.

Blondes are also presented as licentious and dim-witted. Should we assume that every flaxen haired maiden lacks cognition and plays hopscotch from bed to bed?

Should we assume that everyone in overalls who has a Southern drawl and sunburn is underexposed and incestuous? Do they live in trailers?

Southerners are familiar with race and subjugation in blatant ways that our counterparts from other regions often do not know.

As such, I was not surprised by the editorial decision to manipulate facts of this case and make the deceased victim the aggressor.

I was called the n-word by a white girl in the South. A white woman told her significant other to watch her purse when I was in a department store in the South. I have been pulled over for driving a big-body, old Cadillac in the South by white officers whose voices ratcheted up several octaves upon discovering that the brotha they hoped to pull over was, in fact, a sista.

While northern Louisiana, home to Louisiana Tech University and my alma mater, attracts minds from all over the world and different points on the ideological spectrum, the area is not noted as the apex of culture or a bastion of enlightenment.

As a result, Spence’s comments are troublesome, inflammatory and naive. But, again, hardly surprising.

As a journalist one must acknowledge not only the premise of an article, the very notion it supports, but also its headline, accompanying photos, and factual basis, or in this case lack thereof, in addition to the author’s voice.

Using the word “hood” as a pejorative term for marginalized communities and people is indicative of a lack of cultural competence and sensitivity.

This article is also erroneous. Trayvon Martin was unarmed, underage, 100-pounds slimmer–THE VICTIM. He was approached by Zimmerman, who ultimately shot and killed him.

Zimmerman vacated his vehicle to approach Martin, a pedestrian, after a law enforcement official asked Zimmerman not to do so.

Martin deserved to live regardless of what he wore, and the fact that he was murdered cannot be negated by recent allegations of marijuana possession or suspension from school.

To draw such conclusions is in poor taste.

Spence presented an alternate ending for the slain teen.

“If Martin was not wearing a hoodie with the hood on, his life could have been spared. Hoodies with the hood on have a bad connotation, like it or not.”

If writers, who shape much of society’s dialogue and countless archetypes, do not widen their lenses, they will remain myopic, like it or not.

Note: This post was shared several hundred times on Twitter & Facebook, and garnered thousands of views. When I changed my url to iamfaithspeaks.com the likes/shares were lost in translation. WordPress = hater. Also, after this piece went indie-viral, Louisiana Tech pulled the editorial from its website.

16 comments

  1. Unfortunately madam tech editor’s viewpoint is a consequence of the new mainstream media culture of subjective/opinion driven drivel…of course I’m being silly in expecting objective/fact-based reporting from such a “renowned” news source. Even for an op-ed, the article was quite…..well you put it better 🙂

    I enjoyed reading your thankfully intelligent response.

    Cheers

  2. Yes Imani! Im glad we have Grambling Mass Comm graduates like you! I dont think anybody else is going to be able to hit the nail on the head like you did. Whoever this girl is she may need to amplify her visual. I am just as upset about the TITLE of the article as I am about the content. Opinions are one thing but prejudice is another. The article i insulting and insensitive and its even more upsetting that Tech Talk ALLOWED that article to be printed. Sad Sad Sad.

  3. I would encourage everyone who is discontent with the poor quality of journalism and promotion of racist talking points that Ms. Spence has put forward in the Louisiana Tech Talk to e-mail Dr. Dan Reneau and Dr. Kenneth Rea.

    Dan Reneau: reneau@latech.edu
    Ken Rea: rea@latech.edu

    They need to know that this compromises the integrity and reputation of LA Tech, which is bad business for the whole Ruston/Grambling/North Louisiana area.

  4. Mrs Jackson, I enjoyed reading this piece. It is an article from someone with experience in journalism and who has followed the story and correctly stated the facts. Mrs. Spence’s article put me on “E.” After reading your thoughts on this poorly written article I feel at ease. I love when you make your mind available for me to read. Keep becoming “GREAT!”

  5. Bruthas/Sistas/All,

    This is a unfortunate moment in our time, however this is not about Hoodies or labels that society has place on us or any group or certain standard of people. This is about the lack of equality in our justice system and how it continues to show its face in the lives of AFA/Black People in this country for generations. Most importantly this is about a wakeup call for a sleeping nation, our nation, a AFA Nation. Now that we are awake thru such a tragedy, let’s not fall asleep again!! Let’s turn our cries, our marches, our protest toward our own injustice, our own Zimmerman’s who are reflections of us, those who terrorize our streets and communities daily. If you are not a part of our progress, a part of our rise as a people, then you yourself are the ENEMY and the Zimmermans of the world and all others who have slain the lives of innocent AFA men, women, boys and girls are YOU!!!!

    Odabo

    Jakori

  6. Ms. Jackson,

    This was eloquently stated as usual and said all that was think. Freedom of speech is necessary and leaned on heavily at the college level for journalism. Yet, when coupled with equal freedom to be ignorant, twist facts to your liking, and make false judgments, it makes you wish for censorship. I was a bit dismayed by the article but not at all surprised. Such ideas as those held by Ms. Spence are prevalent in the state, in the region, and within our state higher education system. Her op-ed piece is indicative of the reason we can’t turn our backs and think everything is ok. Your experiences as well tell us the following: just because we’re allowed doesn’t mean we’re welcome. What I’m most upset about is the racial tension a piece like that perpetuates and maintains. I don’t know where Ms. Spence is from or anything about her background but the same way the hoodie was indicative of the hood to her, that article said dumb, country, and typical to me. False and derogatory yes, but poor fact checking coupled with bigoted opinions leaves you very few options and what hurts most is that with every word I read I remained fully expectant of the next ignorant and one to follow.

  7. Another reason why Grambling is way better than Tech! We crank out awesome students like Imani! Keep it up lady! You’re making Grambling look really good… as always! Awesome piece, well written, sensitive but direct, perfect. I hope Ms. Spence takes notes.

  8. As a Tech alumnus and former Grambling student I add that they are both fine institutions, producing fine students that make fine contributions all over the Earth. I would like to first commend you on your response to the overtly racist letter written by this young lady. I was especially pleased to read the responses by both students/alumni from both Grambling and La. Tech. I am glad that she wrote the letter if for no other reason than to make the young students aware of how arrogant and apathetic the racisim is in North La., as well as the entire country. Many of these youth are under the guise that this society is now post racial. Nothing is farther from the truth. The fact is that as long as human are born with differing hues, the issue of race will be an issue. Rehashing the Martin case is not important, as those of us who have been gunshot victims know. The awareness that has been awakened is important. The Tech op-ed was written with a particular audience in mind, It was, unfortunately met with opposition by a very different one. I have not been familiar with your site, but was referred to it by a dear friend and former student. I am a black, former student/ athlete/gun shot victim that is now an special education/history teacher/ coach for the past 16 years…no one can tell me about beating stereotypes. What we are up against is the prevailing feeling of superiority of whites that is deeply ingrained in our society. You will not make sense of it or somehow “educate” it away. The awakening of our young people to a new and keen understanding of our society helps US navigate effectively through the problem. Our success is based on leverage, move the fulcrum!

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