Don’t Believe the Media Hype
Labels such as thug, gangster, and dangerous (just to name a few) have been used by the media to describe men of color for years. I feel like some young black men may identify with the term “player” just because it’s already assumed that they are or they feel like it’s the only role that they can achieve.
As for my friends and I, we take sex very seriously. There are too many sexually transmitted infections to indulge in the notorious “player” lifestyle but even bigger than that, the implications of such labels also affect women within our culture. The portrayal of black men being surrounded by women, often shown in music videos or in ads, have given women the image of being “gold-diggers” as well as other negative labels. This stereotype has not only affected the black men in our communities but also the women.
There are many people who will perceive me as a player because of my skin tone, what I wear, or even because of the community I come from. It is also challenging to enter a relationship and be taken seriously because of this perceived reputation. Most people think that I’ve had or have many partners or that I am using females just for sex. Many can’t believe that I enjoy being in a monogamous relationship and that it’s something that is very important to me. Females are very cautious going into relationship with guys that dress or look like or have a style similar to mine just because of these stereotypes.
I understand that these assumptions come mainly from the media. I also understand that we have supported some of these stereotypes by purchasing the music or clothes that portray black men as players. I feel that one possible solution is not supporting media outlets that encourage these negative stereotypes. If we come together and hit advertisers where it hurts—their pockets—they will probably begin changing some of their negative messages. Another way is by educating young people through media literacy so they can have a better understanding of how media messages can influence the decision they make.
As a young black man I face stereotypes almost every day on my way to school, work, or home. When it happens I try to ignore it but it also makes me angry that people would judge me without even knowing me. Being a peer educator has shown me the importance of educating others and as of now that is what I will continue to do. If I hear my friend talking about black men being players I stop and I try to figure out where that comment is coming from. It’s hard enough being black and dealing with police profiling, people thinking I will steal their purse as I approach them, and now being judged as a player. People need to understand that reinforcing these stereotypes can be damaging to not only an individual but also the community at large. Life isn’t just about living for the moment it’s also about living and creating a better future.
Have you ever had unfair labels applied to you? How did you deal with it? Tell us in the comments!
Marcus is 16 and from New York, NY. He is a member of The National Campaign’s Youth Leadership Team. His choice in fashion? Headphones, regardless of whether they’re attached to an iPod. Got a question for Marcus? Email us!