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Double-Edged Sword: Role of Media in Race Relations

Timing is everything

Augusta is approaching the 40th year anniversary of the Race Riot of 1970. You would think that 40 years would be enough time for racial wounds to heal.  But as you all know, if you pick at a scab, it will not heal properly. If you have a broken bone and you don't immobilize it, the bone may have to be reset. To apply this in real life terms, if people keep racially picking at open wounds, they will never heal. Let's put this in context according to the current climate in Augusta.

The community in Augusta is in crisis mode. Teen and gang violence have sent shock waves across the area. The deaths of local teens like Tykiah L. Palmer (with unborn child), and Brandon Taylor (both of Butler High School) have brought people together who care about our youth. I personally witnessed the outpouring of love  and support at the Carrie J. Mays Community Center.  Larry Fryer organized a wonderful program designed to make the community aware of ways they can help our young people. Supt. Dana Bedden, Minnesota Fattz, GA. Atty. General Thurbert Baker, and many other community leaders gave inspiring speeches to uplift the spirit of the community.  All of this positive work being done in the community is very productive.  Now let's jump to Monday, March 30th, 2010.

I was listening to the Austin Rhodes Show, (a local radio talk show, but influential amongst many in the Augusta area) and the conversation was centered on insensitivity.  For some reason an e-mail came in and mentioned a skit from the Neil Boortz show called "Boo got shot".  This skit featured an eyewitness account of a shooting in a black neighborhood where the young girl giving the account rambled on unintelligibly. It became obvious that they were reinforcing and making light of the stereotypes of uneducated black youth in the ghetto. Also the fact that someone was shot hardly seems to be a laughing matter considering the recent influx of teen and gang violence in the area. To put the cherry on top, they played a mix of the girl's interview set to rap music. Why does this even matter?

The media has a powerful influence on the racial climate in a community. If you have one side of town trying to provide a positive climate for our young people, and then on the other side of town they are making fun of the desperate plight of our young people, then a racial divide can set in. I know some people may say: Why are you even listening to the Austin Rhodes show? Just turn the station! Here is the problem. People's bosses, co-workers and schoolmates are listening to the Austin Rhodes Show. If we don't challenge and confront the source of many people's racist and stereotypical ideas, then how will the situation improve. I am not calling for a boycott of the Austin Rhodes Show, I just want them to know that there are some in the community who perceive skits like "Boo got shot" to be racially divisive and insensitive. And remember timing is everything. (remember the climate after 9/11)


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