THE MAGAZINE

The Many Faces of Diversity

By Sherry Harowitz

*** Several readers have objected to the cover image. Below is the December Editor's Note, which addresses those concerns. It will also appear in the December print edition. ***

As the magazine staff prepared to send this issue to the printer in early November, history was made with the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American President of the United States. By itself, that one accomplishment may not end racism, as others have noted, but it’s pretty convincing evidence that this country has come a long way since the 1960s.

Unfortunately, the United States has miles to go before we put aside all prejudice—and suspicions of prejudice—that color our perceptions of each other. I see this in the reaction some readers had to last month’s cover. It illustrated a story on gang witness intimidation by showing two menacing men with guns; the man in the foreground was Hispanic, the other man was African-American.

Several readers expressed great offense at this portrayal. One said it was “stereotyping of thugs to be black men,” and that “our choice was poor because most black men are not thugs.” Another said that there should not have been “any picture of any nationality because crime and evil has no race.” (See their full statements in the forthcoming December “Letters,” page 131.)

The implication is that one should only portray people in a positive light—because any picture of any person of any race doing anything wrong is offensive and slanders that person’s entire race or ethnic group.

I don’t accept that premise. I think our readers are more intelligent than that. The election of Barack Obama shows that the country as a whole is smarter than that.

I understand the sensitivity to stereotyping, and the magazine should be criticized if it repeatedly shows any minority group negatively. That is not the case. Some recent covers: March had a crazed white man with a gun poised to shoot up an office; April had an Asian student circled as a campus killer; May had a white man stealing a computer; and June had a white man with a gun about to wreak havoc in an ER.

So, yes, in November, with a story about gangs intimidating witnesses, where statistics show that 47 percent of gang members are Hispanic and 35 percent are African-American, we chose to have our story illustrated with one person from each of those groups. Having this illustration no more smears the millions of law abiding and successful African-Americans and Hispanics than our other covers malign whites and Asians. It sells readers short to assume that they can’t make the distinction between an illustration of one story and a universal statement.

Let’s celebrate the election of President Obama, who shows us an African-American face that embodies the best of human achievement. But let’s also not shrink from showing that all groups, with a diversity of faces, share in the full range of human behaviors—even the less admirable ones that lead to the problems Security Management tries to help you prevent.

Comments

Diversity Does Have Many Faces

I am appalled to read the comments of the readers feeling that an image is something to be looked at and feel disappointment. If that were true then why did any of you not voice their disappointment in the images stated by Ms. Harowitz in the other editions? Being of a multi-racial heritage it makes me very sad to know that we still have not learned the basics of humanity: we are one human race and color has nothing to do with it. As pointed out, we still do racial profiling and I have been there as part of this atrocity was inflicted many times on African-American men and I felt very angry by the attitude. Yet this does not change the simple and true fact, as mentioned by Ms. Harowitz and her statistics, more gang members are either African-American or Hispanic but that is not to say they comprise them exclusively because I have seen the Cambodian gang conflicts between the Hispanic members in Long Beach. Having grown up with the Hispanic class and being Hispanic, I would have reason to take offense to the picture of the other figure on the cover but I do not because I understand the message it is sending.

One comment states that these images give rise to people mistrusting those “people” because it gives the idea that all are the same. I would feel that the depiction of an angry white man trying to shoot up an office or the other one with him stealing a computer, both of which imply that only white men go crazy and do bad things in the workforce, would give people pause as well. So by the comment of “you or most of your readers clutch their purses tighter or cross the street, etc to avoid the African-Americans”, anyone working in an office should be inclined to think that they should fear all of their white co-workers with that depiction.

The one thing that many have lost sight of, we are a nation of diverse cultures trying to mesh with one and other. Unfortunately for some races the lesser educated and thug types bring shame to all within their heritage. In my opinion the white supremacists are a joke because they feel they are the only ones allowed to live on this ground, because they are the only true Americans. What a minute what are they talking about, have they forgotten that their (and that includes my) forefathers stole the land from the true natives of this land, the American Indians. They may have some protections but they live a horrible life and not by their choice like that of the Hispanic, African-American, Asian, and other gang members of different nationality. They are not allowed to live truly as their heritage dictates because it is not something that the government will allow. Imagine that, not being able to have freedom of religion, tradition, or medicine because it was put into someplace that to practice that would constitute a violation of some stupid American law. For them to be able to integrate with the rest of the population one must denounce the one thing that makes a person unique, their heritage of many generations.

So when you want to start flinging words about the disappointment of an image, try to remember, this country was built on the sweat and toils of many people treated below decent humanity. Some descendants chose to live a life of crime while others chose a more “sophisticated’ life.

What about the Italian and Russian mob, would you really be offended if the image was of them for this article as they also intimidate witnesses for their own reasons?

Nov/08 Witness Intimidation

As an African-American member of ASIS/subscriber of Security Management magazine for over 20 years, I must share that my initial reaction to the images on November's cover was shock and disappointment. Accepting the author's appeal to those offended to view the cover's images in its' well-intended, innocent form, is to ignore the reality that there has been a historical imbalance or an absence of positive images of minority persons/groups on the front of the magazine in the past. Even with the enormously great milestone we have achieved as a country with the election of our first African-American president, I am not sure that there is suddenly enough trust-equity to display graphic negative images of minorities in such a callous fashion and not expect anyone to be shocked or disappointed. We are absolutely living in one of the proudest moments in the history of this country and it is encouraging to realize that we are on the right path to multicultural harmony. Unfortunately, we are not quite there yet and it’s not quite yet the time to take such sudden leaps and conduct ourselves as though our (recent) past is no longer relevant. A moderate amount of sensitivity and thoughtful judgement is still in order.

NOV. SM COVER:

Ms. Harowitz,

As I mentioned in our lengthy conversation today and you assured me that the cover was not published out of malice, I am VERY disappointed in your lack of judgement to use such negative images on your front cover!

The depiction of the two young "gun-totin'angry black men" is the EXACT image that has LONG fueled this county's historical and hurtful sterotypes of African-Americans, especially males. You can not casually dismiss the consequences of racial fear and ignorance. (Our past elections showed just how far we've come and how far we still have yet to go!)

It is without question that I do not accept your casual justifications for selecting the offensive front cover; but how do you explain similar (artwork) of a "ghetto neighborhood" accompanying the inside story's text?

If we are to embrace diversity, we must also embrace cultural sensitivity and even plain ole common sense.

Ms. Harowitz, I am an African American mom with two sons, ages 30 and 26. I can say without a doubt they are smart, loving, decent, hardworking young men. I mention this because they face the unfortunate truth that because of ingrained misperceptions, they have a 50/50 chance of being "mistaken as..." or "fitting the profile of..." the images, on a DAILY bases. Have you ever been (profiled), stopped by the Police while driving through a "middle class" neighborhood? They have. I have. My father has. My husband has, and he IS the Police.

You mentioned that "you don't accept the premise, that any picture of any nationality depicted in a negative light is wrong and offensive.." What you fail to recognize is that most White, Asian and even Hispanic men are not disproportionately portrayed as "thugs", "baby-daddys", "uneducated" and "unproductive" citizens.

I encounter White, Hispanic and Asia men everyday, but I do not assume or wonder if he is "crazed" or "an angry killer" or a "gang banger" for that matter. However, if you and most of your readers are honest with themselves, they would begrudgingly admit that they have clutched their purse tighter, crossed the street, locked their car door, or picked up their pace when they were faced with two or more young African-American males. Why is that? What if they were my sons?

I'm not implying that there is not a gang problem as well as numerous other social afflictions within the African-American community, but it is certainly unfair to make African-American (and Hispanic) males the "poster children" for gangs and criminal activity.

With all due respect Ms. Horowitz, your comment that "President Obama, who shows us an African-American face that embodies the best of human achievement" is patronizing in its context and pandering to the majority or your demographics.

I close with this: I celebrated the election of President Barak Obama. As I stood and watched the HISTORIC event unfold, I too looked at his face and thought "FINALLY" my father, sons, brothers, uncles, cousins and all African-American men can be looked upon without prejudice as one "who shows us an African-American face that embodies the best of human achievement." Don't we all deserve that?

 

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