For the past week, the national media has been buzzing about two black males in Chicago having their words taken out of context. One of them is a 39 year old former radio host; The other, a 4 year old boy. Both incidents involve the highly sensitive issue of race but in very different ways.
The first guy, Lenny McAllister found out what happens "when keeping it real...goes wrong" (a reference to the Dave Chappelle skit from years ago). He's the conservative African-American media personality who had a show on WVON radio until last Wednesday. In a nutshell, it is alleged that he lost his job because he proposed a boycott of McDonalds owned by a specific franchise owner who fired one of his mentees. And this quite a big deal for more than just his former listeners. McAllister is a go-to-guy for many media outlets like CNN and the Chicago Defender, as well as political groups such as the Tea Party. His departure leads to the bigger issue of what happens when a black person critiques not only a sponsor but a black businessman on a supposedly black-oriented station.
By contrast, WBBM-TV is dealing with criticism for how it portrayed another black male who might not be old enough to watch the news. Last month, a 4 year-old boy was interviewed by a "stringer" (someone outside of the media who submits photos or videos to newsrooms) who was covering a shooting nearby.
Okay. Let's stop for a minute and put that part of the story in its proper context.
I used to live near the area of crime and it is truly a stark contrast of living conditions on different sides of the major street which divides our neighborhood. On my side of the neighborhood, we had manicured lawns and well-kept bungalows. On the other side, you would always see kids the boy's age walking around unattended all hours of the day. That is why I wasn't that surprised that this happened, but I wasn't happy either. People have been wondering where the boys' parents were, but I'm sure he was wondering the same thing.
But this particular story has gone viral online and has caught the attention of radio host Tom Joyner. (I got a text from a friend who was listening to his show this morning). And it just seems like our city is getting a bad rep for more than just urban violence. It seems like when a man of color speaks out for what he feels is right, there are consequences. On the flip side, if a little kid gets taken out of context by someone who shouldn't be interviewing him in the first place -- he helps boost ratings until somebody calls a flag on the play.
Can we find a middle ground in our city? Can we have more positive portrayals and less negative circumstances? I don't know for sure. I just know that for every action, there is a reaction.
Hopefully, the reaction won't cause more trouble than the action itself.