The Story of Renisha McBride & the Negative Stereotypes of African-American woman on Television: How Can We Make a Difference?

By: Brandee Adams

I remember like it was yesterday sitting in my African-American Studies class, when Professor Stevenson asked the class whether anyone had heard of the young man who was shot and killed in Florida by a white man. At this time I hadn’t heard anything but when a student raised their hand and said “yes” I knew this was something worth paying attention to. The student explained that the young man was Trayvon Martin and he was shot and killed by a man named George Zimmerman. A few years later another African-American man by the name of Mike Brown became the next victim of police brutality to gain nationwide attention when he was shot more than seven times and killed by white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Both Martin and Brown’s perpetrators were never sentenced or indicted.

However, what has me at odds even more than these two young men is the story of 17 year-old Renisha McBride, a young African-American woman who was shot and killed by a white man after knocking on his door one evening. Her perpetrator Theodore Wafer claimed to have felt threatened by the knock and retaliated by shooting her through his locked door. Wafer was sentenced and given a minimum of 17 years in prison. Unlike Martin and Brown, justice was served.

These cases may a be a few years old now, but I still wonder specifically about the McBride case, could Wafer have profiled not just McBride but all African-American women based on reality shows that he may have seen on television? There are now so many different reality shows such as The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love & Hip Hop, K.Michelle: My Life, and Black Ink Crew, with all African-American casts. On these shows African-American women are portrayed in negative and dangerous ways. These African-American women bully, degrade, and fight each other on TV, and the sad thing about this is that the ones that simply do not fight back or walk away during a conflict are seen as weak and the those who are not afraid and who do fight are liked the most and given the most praise. When did violence become the way to go about things especially with African-American women fighting their own kind?

I am NOT in anyway saying that this gives Wafer an excuse for shooting McBride; however, I am saying that the perceptions of African-American women on television are affecting our nation and how other races see All African-American women even on our campus today.

On our campus today African-American women are profiled. I know this first-hand because I am an African-American woman and have been profiled on campus. It was my first day working at the Mary Idema Pew Library. I was nervous did not want to mess up or do anything wrong. I remember one of my co-workers coming over and talking to me. Right away we both found that we had a lot in common, from the music we listened to our favorite foods, and even the people we knew on campus. But towards the end our conversation he told me that I seemed really cool, but when he first saw me he thought I would be stuck up. I didn’t take any offense to his statement because he was being honest and what he thought of me may be the same perception that other students have or will think of me and other African-American women. I know that I am not the only African-American woman to have been profiled on campus and I wont be the last. The faces of African-American women, through way of TV, has a negative connotation behind it. When people see African-American woman they are seen as bullies and degrading women. When will their perceptions stop? Or will they ever stop? Regardless, better representation of African-Americans on TV would be the best place to start.

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