I’d just put down Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow, in which I’d been reading page after page of evidence of the many racial disparities and stereotypes in the “war on drugs.” When I picked up the Dec. 5 Mountain Xpress, an African-American face jumped out at me from the cover with two fingers pointed towards my face. I wondered, what does this have to do with the cover story?
Then I turned to page 10 and was greeted by an ominous photo of Lexington Avenue with three dark figures lurking on crumpled sidewalk. The caption read, “Changing dynamics on Lexington Avenue have business owners and residents looking for solutions.” The article goes on to discuss the increase in violence and in hard drugs.
What message is Xpress really trying to portray? Who are these people who are making others feel so unsafe that they are afraid to pick up a DVD at 10 at night? Sure looks like the implication is that this “changing dynamic” may really mean “African-American.”
What I know from having lived here for more than 10 years and walked down Lexington alone on many occasions (safely, I may add) is that the suspicious people I see hanging out in that spot are typically scroungy looking white guys. Why did Xpress choose these specific images to print?
Well, as I read further, it turns out that perhaps all that has changed is the perception of crime, not the actual number of incidents. And, after investigating further online, the face on the cover is that of the musician Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, as seen on a Lexington Avenue mural on [the storefront of Static Age Records]. Nothing identifies it as such in the printed paper.
In a country where blacks have been portrayed as the evil bad guys over and over again, we and Xpress must take responsibility to not perpetuate fears and stereotypes.
— Linda Block