The Media Can’t Get Enough of “Black Violence”

by Alisa Butler

When I turn on the TV or pop a movie in, I can’t help but notice that an association between black people and violence is portrayed everywhere. I’m not saying that because I’m a black woman and therefore prone to exaggerating or being dramatic; I’m saying it because it’s true. I have this violent stigma attached to me due to violence portrayed in the media, and I can’t be quiet anymore.

Examples of this are very successful movies like Friday and Boyz in the Hood. These are “classics”—I’m not denying that fact at all. I’ve definitely been among those who watched Friday every chance I got (it comes on TV often enough). But why are these movies so popular? Growing up, my family watched anything that had black people in leading roles to support our community. The violent stereotypes were not something we took notice of. Violence in the black community is expected because it’s pushed down our throats, then that same violence in black communities is depicted in various media outlets… it’s getting old.

There is this idea that these stories represent what it is to be black. Trust me, there is no one definition of what being black truly is. What you see in a movie does not define me or how I am in my daily life. It’s time to turn off the TV and see who we really are as people, and more importantly, individuals. You might be pleasantly surprised.

The average TV viewer or moviegoer sees these depictions and thinks that black people = violence. I have never been violent or been in a fight in my life but I am pretty positive that people look at me and think I could explode at any moment. I’ve walked down the street and children have looked stunned and afraid of me. People have crossed the street just so they wouldn’t be on the same sidewalk as I was. There have been times where I wanted to stop and cry. A combination of anger and agony is how I can explain how I feel, but that does not come close. You would think Shrek is stomping towards them, but I’m sure they would have preferred that.

After the decision to not indict the officer who shot Mike Brown, I felt eyes burning holes in my back everywhere I walked, even more so than usual. I felt like people expected me to be loud and to become violent at any moment. That’s not me. I was extremely upset about the decision but I wasn’t going to start setting couches on fire around town. (Why is that a thing again?)   

Do I have to walk around with a permanent smile on my face and a shirt that says “It’s OK Don’t Be Afraid. I’m Not Going to Get Violent”?

I don’t think I’m a threatening looking woman but one of my old friends told me that before she met me, she was afraid to approach me because I looked intimidating. She towered over me, but she was afraid of me? Whoa. She didn’t know anything about me but my physical appearance. Sure I wore baggy khaki pants, but did being black and having baggy pants make me scary? Really? And people think it’s ridiculous to be afraid of clowns.