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The Assassination of the Black Male Image. – book reviews

The Assassination of the Black Male Image, authored by Earl Ofari
Hutchinson, a media critic and political analyst, offers a thoughtful
perspective on the racial and sexual stereotyping of Black males.

Readers may be familiar with the author through his CBS News
coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial, for which he served as a
commentator. A prolific writer, Hutchinson is a syndicated columnist.
His works have been featured in such newspapers as The Los Angeles
Daily News and USA Today and in such magazines as Harper’s, The Nation,
Black Scholar, Ebony, Upscale, Essence, and Jewish Currents.

Hutchinson’s current text is a valuable contribution to the
literature on African American males and their experiences within
American society. It uses an array of real-life anecdotes as examples
of the many ways in which the image of Black men is devalued.

Hutchinson opens the book with a synopsis of the Rodney King
incident. Citing King’s treatment by the police and the subsequent
negative coverage of him in the media as an example, Hutchinson lays a
backdrop for a historical analysis of the creation of the image of King
— and all Black men — as menacing, sex-crazed, ominous beings.

He asserts that this image — which is perpetuated by the media and
Hollywood — was initially created by Europeans upon their first
encounter with native Africans. With only a rudimentary understanding
— if any at all — of the cultures, customs, and religious practices
of Africans, Europeans decided that what was familiar was desirable and
what was unfamiliar was not only undesirable, but inferior and negative.

These negative descriptors became a part of the psychological tools
that were used to support the European enslavement of Africans.
Hutchinson goes an to describe how prominent nineteenth- and
twentieth-century sociologists fostered and promoted these concepts
through their writings, which gained wide public acceptance. Currently,
these negative descriptors are still prevalently used in the oppression
of Black people.

Using specific incidents in the lives of everyday citizens and
prominent public figures — including Nation of Islam Minister Louis
Farrakan, Colin Powell, O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson — the author
crosses socioeconomic, political, and class boundaries to make the case
that all Black men are subject to the same prejudices and suspicions,
regardless of their background.

Hutchinson examines the fear of political and economic competition,
racism, and the desire for global dominance as some of the etiological
factors in the development and perpetuation of these myths by the
majority population.

The book also shows how the media and Hollywood have been effective
in negatively skewing the image of Black males through typecasting and
negative reporting. Chapter tow analyzes the press coverage, by five
major national daily and weekly publications, of three domestic events
that occurred during 1993. Each of the events either involved criminal
acts of focused on negative life circumstances of men. He found that in
every instance, Black men were depicted as lazy, immoral perpetrators
of crime. Conversely, White men were either given positive or neutral
descriptors, or very little coverage.

The last chapter suggests remedies for dealing with the pervasive
myths and negative stereotypes. Hutchinson’s prescriptions include an
economic boycott of media that promote negative images, and cooperative
efforts among Black businesses, manufacturers, and establishments to
support and promote positive images of African Americans. He also
indicates that efforts to promote positive images of Black men may be
hampered by members of the Black community — both men and women alike
— who have bought into the negative huperbole.

Although readers may be familiar with some of the themes in the
book, Hutchinson places the assassination of the character of Black
males on a continuum through the use of past and current examples of
how the assassination takes place. This book is an excellent resource
for academics, scholars, and those who want to understand the nature
and scope of the attack on the image of Black males.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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