Friday, September 16, 2011

Teaching to shoot down stereotypes?

So far in Race, Gender, and the Media, we have been taught to look at the media from a media literate standpoint. It has been eye-opening to see  the media and how it can influence us as a society to think about minorities, crime rates, etc. I also agree that the media has made tremendous strides to right the wrong, although subtle stereotypes still do occur and much more work is needed.

With this in mind, I find it interesting that in a class that teaches to be media literate, stereotypes are thrown around, often to without the knowledge of the class. Thursday night, September 15, I heard a comment that I found interesting and that if you really looked into it, you would find a clear stereotype that is both unfair and offensive, yet it was brushed aside.

The comment in question was in regards to a discussion about why women aren't allowed to be umpires in the NFL or MLB. The questions evolved into why women couldn't play in the NFL, because of obvious biological differences. Then this quote really caught my attention.

"Well women would probably have to take steroids just like all the other players anyway," said Tracy Everbach.

I find this to be just as stereotypical and unfair as any stereotype out there. And it should really bother a lot of people considering how many people are athletes, whether they are black, white or any other color. I take offense when athletes are labeled as "steroid-users", "meatheads", and "unintelligent", to name a few.

Do athletes from high school to professional levels use steroids? Yes. It is a known fact. Some of our greatest baseball players during the recent decade have tested positive for steroids, including Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire, and Manny Ramirez. 2009 Defensive Player of the year, Brian Cushing, a current linebacker for the Houston Texans, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and was subsequently striped of his award and suspended for the beginning of the 2010 season. The evidence is there that steroids is used in sports. I firmly believe, however, that the MLB and NFL, among others, have taken significant strides to reduce the amount steroid use.

When you look at players, such as Josh Hamilton, you can see that weekly testing shows that he is consistently clean of both drugs and steroids. Many more players in the NFL and MLB don't use steroids. With the upcoming generation of players in the MLB living in the shadow of the Steroids Era, they realize the effects of steroids and are more educated about them than their predecessors.

In the Mitchell Report, it was reported that at least 1 player from each of the 30 MLB teams were using steroids in 2004. Yes, the use was wide spread. But when you consider that if each team has 25 players on the active roster alone, there are 750 players in a given time in the entire MLB combined. Those using steroids are are a significantly smaller percentage than those not using them.

So I find the phrase, "Well women would probably have to take steroids just like all the other players anyway," offensive, especially being a former high school and college athlete. From my personal experience, I weighed 140 lbs coming out of high school and now weigh 190 lbs. I gained 50 lbs. of muscle  in three years by solely working out one hour a day.

Now when you consider the athletic trainers, facilities, and the fact that today's athletes are paid to workout, there should be no surprise that they are able to put on 10 or 20 lbs in during the off season. This is why I feel like it is degrading to stereotype athletes and say they must be taking steroids. Steroids do NOT improve one's athletic ability. Extreme athletic skill is stilled needed to hit a 98-mph fastball. Extremely athletic concentration is needed to haul in a football while dragging your toes to stay in bounds. Steroids do not equate to athletic ability. They do not activate some athletic gene. No, they are just a cheaters way of getting a little stronger.

This is not attended to call anyone out. It is to demonstrate that people who are athletic are not meat heads, steroid users, or dumb. (Look at Sam Bradford, Ram's QB, or Andrew Luck, QB for the University of Stanford.) I simply looking for fair representation of  athletes that is also being asked by minorities, females, and the gay community. I just looking for a sense of fair.

A Hidden Past

I found it interesting after watching the video about the Black Newspapers was interesting. However, it is of no surprise that it is often left out of history classes. Maybe it is deemed "not important enough". This is not just a problem with Texas, but I think throughout the nation in history education.

For instance, people might not be aware that Texas, and Dallas specifically, used to be where the Ku Klux Klan based their operations out of.  Or that during the Texas Revolution, the Tejanos, Texas natives of Mexican descent, supported the Texas Revolution just as much as the white Americans that were moving into Texas. Or that the Mexican-American War was one of the most unjustified wars in American history and that it was completely racial.

Why is it this way? We often deem white history as the more important part of history while minorities often take a back seat. However, a more complete picture of history can be captured through studying accounts of minorities like the Tejanos. For example, the lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco in 1916 was one of the most gruesome lynchings of its time. Yet I never learned about it until taking a class about Texas history in college. It was these events that made NAACP choose Texas as the state to begin systematically attacking racial injustices.

We, in order to understand society as a whole, need to know these stories and events in history. And it is not only Texas that these stories remain hidden. The North was fighting for extinction of slavery in the Civil War but not because the cared about the welfare of blacks. They were concerned that if slavery were to extend North, that factory workers would be out of the job with an influx of unpaid labor.

It's also facts like this that need to be looked at to emphasize a point that the North was not this redeeming savior of blacks, like it is often portrayed. From Boston, Massachusetts to Dallas, Texas, blacks faced, and do currently face, prejudice and while Southern cities exhibited more physical acts of violence,  it should not go without notice that many Northern cities were just as prejudiced. Many Northern cities deal with racial tension, Cincinnati being a prime example.

All this evidence goes to show that both sides need to be looked at and ignoring facts just equates to ignorance.  

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Work in Progress

Racial and gender stereotypes exist in our world whether we like it or not. It is how humans, with a constant need for structure in their lives, quickly categorize and make sense of the information they are receiving about people. Stereotyping can and does often carry over into the media world, which is no surprise to anyone. The media is a human institution, so journalist have their own families, lives and experiences which they sometimes reflect into their work. The best journalist is the one that can consistently be objective in both their writing and which stories they choose to write about. 

While stereotypes do exist, no one can deny the fact that they have been significantly reduced since Civil Rights were enacted in 1965. The progress has happened and people are more aware of stereotypes that exist. However, it is our society, which often seeks instant gratification, that is loudly protesting against ideals much older than their selves or even our own country.

 With the settling of Jamestown, English immigrants brought racial ideas to the colonies that suppressed people of color, often degrading them as sub-human. When you think about how pervasive these ideas were, and consider that founding fathers also owned slaves, it is unrealistic to expect that an idea that has been ingrained in the middle and upper class to immediately disappear. More than 300 years of slavery and oppression cannot be erased in the 50 years since the Civil Rights Movement. 

So the only answer to this is to continue to encouragement minorities in America to pursue careers, maybe as journalist or maybe as business leaders, in order that they may gain hold of the socioeconomic ladder and begin to work their way up. Media, in the bottom line, is a business, and just like any business you have to cater to those who have money, as sad as that is. It would be ideal for journalist to purely report the news but our world doesn't work like that. Unfortunately, we can't all grow up to be astronauts or the president, nor can we be a child forever. We have to face the real world.