These four chapters are about the perception and challenges of African Americans. Chapter 2 is entitled, “Every Road Has an End.” Written by a gay black man, this chapter discusses his perception of black oppression based on his research as a university professor. He writes that his experiences growing up have given him insight into a richer spiritual and emotional life, but he also writes about the challenges he faced because of homophobia and racism.
He strives to give his students a solid background in the ways African Americans suffered through slavery and oppression, as he is uncertain they fully grasp this part of history. He recalls his childhood and experiences with segregation. He writes about experiences of racism as an adult and questions why some whites hate blacks with such contempt. He writes that while some whites do not understand this, it is because they have not experienced racism but rather white superiority. Whether a black person has lighter or darker skin also determines how they are treated because lighter skin indicates roots in European ancestry, which is more highly valued. The conclusion of this chapter is about the author’s realization, through is own experiences and through his research on drug use, that everyone should treat each other with human respect and compassion.
Chapter 7 is about how crime, in general, has become defined by the African American male as depicted in the media as a stereotype. The knowledge people gain through interactions with other people and through mass media, defines their view of crimes, such as gang violence, drug use and murder, as committed by African American men. While statistics show otherwise, the perception is that African American men use drugs more than white men and the overall perception is that black men cannot be as successful, in general, as white men.
The Uniform Crime Report, from which such data is gathered, is also bias in that is does not include white-collar crime (fraud, money laundering, for example) that is more likely to be committed by white males. Because fewer blacks hold white-collar positions, the data is skewed to represent a higher index of violent or street crimes committed by blacks and do not accurately reflect white-collar crime. This chapter also discussed law enforcement is bias against blacks based on race and class, including a higher arrest rate when a white person makes the complaint. Much of this bias, according to the author, is based on historical stereotyping that blacks are inferior to whites. The author also observes that overall, the media places more emphasis on crimes committed by blacks than whites which he refers to as a kind of entrapment by the media based on images it presents.
Chapter 12 is about two kinds of black stereotypes that were perpetuated by politicians as part of their platform. Willie Horton, who was sentenced to multiple life sentences for crimes against white individuals, was held up as an example of black against white crime. In addition, Horton was given a weekend pass by then Democratic presidential candidate, Michael Dukakis in the 1980s, after which Horton committed additional crimes. Republican president George Bush, used this incident to bolster his political base and the Willie Horton case was referred to in the future as an example of the untrustworthiness of blacks.
When Ronald Reagan was president, his platform included a stance on welfare abuse and reform. Reagan used examples of a few women who had come up with plans to abuse the welfare system to collect more money. Reagan perpetuated in the media and these examples during his campaign. Women on welfare were collectively categorized as abusers of the system and it was no coincidence that they were black. Republicans later used the Willie Horton case to create a sense of fear of blacks to white America.
Chapter 17 is also about black stereotypes and how they are used to create an environment of fear among whites. The author writes about her own experiences on how stereotypes of blacks as poor and as drug dealers pose a threat to whites. She writes of her personal experiences of warnings of the dangers, as a black female, posed by white and black men – especially lower class blacks. She was also told when growing up, that there were black women who only wanted to get pregnant because they could not control themselves. Therefore, she grew up hearing about these kinds of stereotypes. She writes that images of blacks as criminals are following the path of slaves. This image has given way to what she refers to as clues one can encounter that sends the message of danger: black men standing on a corner using bad language or drinking or wearing certain clothes.
These four chapters touch upon other topics in the book about stereotypes and where they come from and how they are perpetuated. These stereotypes, which are all negative, impact how the general public treats in the criminal justice system, the media and blacks. This is a recurring theme throughout the book and I believe this is definitely true. While the media will cover big stories about white-collar crime, such as the Bernie Madoff story, the victims in this case were wealthy white people who trusted him. There was no violence associated with this story and the basis of media interest was that no one could believe he did this. When a major news story is about a high profile black man, rather than surprise that he committed a crime, there is less of an element of surprise. This is because many people believe black men are more prone to committing crimes, in particular against whites, so they are not surprised when they hear about it in the media.