Provocative Images

I went to Bay Area Rapid Transit’s website to look up the train schedule and caught this photo:


My immediate reaction was “Good for them for using a young brotha’s photo among the commuters, professionals, and suburbanites that they usually feature.”

Then I thought, “Should I be cynical about the use of this photo given the Oscar Grant tragedy?”

And furthermore, “Does this simple image of a capped and “hoodie-d” teen evoke a sense of fear among some of BART’s riders, especially those already nervous about using public transportation?”

This photo reminds me of the Project Implicit tests that gauge deep-seated biases for/against certain categories of people. The tests are quite revealing – and can be troubling.

For a long while I’ve contended that race and class – specifically the devaluation of darker-skinned people –  play major roles in expectation setting and stereotyping. These kinds of biases show up the way that people with privilege and power treat those that have less or neither.

I’m still trying to figure out a way to factor image-shaping into our College Bound Brotherhood initiative. While our top priority is supporting the direct service work to get young black men prepared for college success, I also wonder about provoking a public dialogue about images of young black men – embraced by blacks and non-blacks alike – that limit and suppress their potential.

Got any ideas??

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