Jump directly to the content
We Are Not Generic spivaartworkers / Flickr

We Are Not Generic


May 20 2014
Racial stereotypes defy our core Christian beliefs.

It has been an unusually colorful spring – even in the news. In recent headlines, we read about the racist comments by an NBA team owner. The tragic sinking of a ferryboat in South Korea. The horrific abduction of nearly 300 girls from their boarding school in Nigeria. A major television network's intentional move to diversify its fall lineup with shows like Fresh Off the Boat and Blackish.

But amid the nonstop coverage on our TVs and Twitter feeds came a couple blunders in the depictions of people of color. In the case of the South Korean ferry tragedy, Fox News ran a photo of a woman who, as the story was set up, appeared to be waiting for news on survivors. She wasn't. She was mourning the Mount Everest avalanche. And as #BringBackOurGirls went viral, so did the image of a young woman staring at the camera. The problem? She wasn't one of the Nigerian girls who escaped capture. She is from Guinea-Bissau.

Images that should have been specific and accurate were replaced with "generic." The photo of one sad South East Asian woman was good enough to represent a South Korean woman. The photo of a girl from Guinea-Bissau was close enough to one of the more than 200 abducted Nigerian girls. When it's convenient, we women of color are generic. We all look alike. But I'm supposed to understand that it was an honest mistake, right? (I was a newspaper reporter for five years, after all. I know mistakes can happen.)

Mistakes are always costly, but in today's hyper-connected, image-saturated culture where tweets with photos will drive up traffic better than words alone the costs ought to be higher. In these two cases, I'm not sure there was a cost. The women in those photographs remain anonymous, generic and conveniently left as an image associated with a tragedy.

This happens in other ways to men of color, particularly black or brown men. When two white teenage boys shot down classmates at Columbine High School, parents of young white men did not tell their sons to stay home and stay out of sight. Parents of black boys have that talk regularly with their sons about tone, body language, crowds, the police, and neighborhoods. When the shooter at Virginia Tech was identified as Korean American many of my Asian American colleagues, scattered across the country, emailed one another concerned about retaliation. In these cases, even though an individual may be the perpetrator, the act or threat of the act being repeated gets assigned to the whole. Again, an entire race or ethnic group becomes generic, assigned value or intent.

From: May 2014
Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Why Adult Coloring Works for Christians

Why Adult Coloring Works for Christians

I mocked the coloring book trend, until I discovered it for myself.
Does the Road to Character Run Through Silicon Valley?

Does the Road to Character Run Through Silicon Valley?

The HBO show draws us in with deeper questions about power and morals.
Blessed Are the Agnostics

Blessed Are the Agnostics

How I learned to see my unbelieving husband through God’s eyes.
Blue-Collar Contentment

Blue-Collar Contentment

A parent's lesson from where providence meets the American dream.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

Blessed Are the Agnostics

How I learned to see my unbelieving husband through God’s eyes.

Twitter

  • RT @BethMooreLPM: A new blog post. This one is written particularly to you servants of Jesus in your 30s and 40s. With much love. https://2026
  • RT @bronleatweets: "For (our children) to live the life we have lived would be a failure." On contentment @sometimesalight @CT_Women https:2026
  • RT @CTLocalChurch: Earlier this month, an Amber Alert went out to Tennessee residents. Here's what one local church did. https://t.co/Oh4rf2026
  • "I struggle to resist the lie that I am somehow behind." https://t.co/usEJASvH7N
  • Are we over-spiritualizing this whole "coloring books for adults" trend? https://t.co/BYKm3GgD8C


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
We Are Not Generic