THE BLOG

Are We Being Taught to Be Afraid of African American Men?

01/13/2014 05:34 pm ET | Updated Mar 15, 2014

My heart is troubled to be reading about more racially motivated deaths toward black males. Alfred Wright and Kendrick Johnson are two names that have recently come up since Trayvon Martin and I am quite sure there are others that have not been publicized.

According to the 2011 FBI report on hate crimes, racial bias accounted for 46.9 percent of those. That is almost half of hate crimes. That means we still have a race problem in America.

This blog post isn't going to discuss poverty, education and the political system in regards to race. That will come in later entries as they all factor in. We want to start with the visual bias, the unconscious perception we can hold towards black males. Because we believe that is where it all begins. If we can get leaders to shift their perception of how they view young black males, we can then affect change with poverty, education and the political system, because that means someone cares enough to do something different for their fellow humans that only have darker skin.

I was speaking with a colleague the other day who confessed that he at times felt scared/uncomfortable around young black men he passed by on the street. He found that so troubling because he was indeed black himself. He said, even he was taught to be scared of other black men, it is what he heard and saw growing up. This same man has a Masters from Harvard and works with youth. So not only is he educated, but he works directly with young people. Those are some powerful messages that he was given as a child. That gives a lot of credit to images and subtle messages we can all come in contact with growing up.

Think of characters on TV and in movies. Are the villains or rapists usually black? Are the heroes usually white? I am talking about the every day movies and shows many grew up on, not the indie, conscious films or shows that strive to make a point or have a moral compass. Even if unintentional, those images shape our thoughts and actions.

NYU psychologist John Bargh's experiments on "automaticity of social behavior" revealed that we often judge people based on unconscious stereotypes -- and we can't help but act on them. "Stereotypes are categories that have gone too far," Bargh told Psychology Today. "When we use stereotypes, we take in the gender, the age, the color of the skin of the person before us, and our minds respond with messages that say hostile, stupid, slow, weak. Those qualities aren't out there in the environment. They don't reflect reality." Stereotyping various groups of people based on social group, ethnicity or class is something nearly all of us do, even if we make an effort not to -- and it can lead us to draw unfair and potentially damaging conclusions about entire populations.

I live in Los Angeles, which is extremely diverse and pretty liberal when it comes to race. However, I grew up in Indiana and went to college in Missouri. I know what it's like to hear racist people talk. I also know that Trayvon lived in Florida, Alfred lived in Texas and Kendrick lived in Georgia. All southern states which are sadly conveying to me that racism is still alive and well.

We are using our campaign to shift the images and stories that people hear about black males. We want to do what we can to bring the human side of black males to life in an otherwise closed off society. EVERYONE is human. EVERYONE deserves a chance to thrive. EVERYONE bleeds, pays bills, loves, feels fear, laughs and has family. We want to do our part to shift the perception that a lot of society holds towards black males because the black men we know live just like you and me and it is time to tell their stories.

About the I Am Just Like U Campaign:

I Am Just Like U is founded on influential, heartfelt storytelling of the every day black male. Communicating these stories of healthy, productive and integrity filled lives through a series of unique and simple images. To rise up and call out the role models of the current generations.

IAJLU is looking to accomplish the following in 2014: INTERVIEW 1000 men = 1000 stories (ages 10 and up), HOST One-Day Workshops in correlation with the IAJLU Photoshoot Tour, PRODUCE Annual IAJLU 5 Day Conference in LA, as well as interactive city-wide campaigns (billboards, bus stop posters, etc.).

The IAJLU campaign is invaluable because it is time to make a greater impact on society; shifting perception and inspiring change.

For more information on our vision, please visit: I AM JUST LIKE U
To support the campaign, please visit: INDIEGOGO

Join I Am Just Like U in shifting perception and inspiring change...to reach its full impact and EXPANSION as intended.

Are we being taught to be afraid of African American men?