Thursday, October 17, 2013

Racism in El Tiempo?

AfroColombians can be journalists and student activists,
but are rarely portrayed as such by the media.
A few key phrases from El Tiempo's recent article about Bogotá's AfroColombian neighborhoods:

"I don't enter the (city) blocks full of blacks ever since I saw how they planned to mug a girl who'd just gotten off of a bus..." said a man who requested anonymity.

'Fear and frustration rule in the the 10 neighborhoods where most Afros are concentrated.'

In the black neighborhoods "One has to walk carefully because they (Afros) will force you against
the wall and attack you; they'll steal all you have."

Residents of black neighbhorhoods are also generally dishonest, adds a taxi driver: "They like to fight; they don't pay for the ride, and even end up breaking the (car) windows or pulling out a knife."

Those are just some of the quotes and commentaries from an article the other day in El Tiempo, which
Afro-Colombian girls on their way to or from school.
in the past has seemed to have a sensitive attitude toward the situations of ethnic minorities. But this article consisted primarily of voices describing black neighborhoods - and their residents - as violent criminals who should best be avoided. The article included little balance and few voices examining the history of poverty and social discrimination which have contributed to making those Afro neighborhoods poor and socially troubled.

The story also neglected to mention that, of the many poor and dangerous Bogotá neighborhoods, only a few are predominantly Afro. For example, the dangerous and violent central Bogotá neighborhoods like Egipto, Las Cruces y San Bernardino are overwhelmingly by white and mestizo.

An AfroColombian univesity student
doing a presentation about a Bogotá business.
I know some young AfroColombians who live in an impoverished area called Altos de Cazuca, in the far south of Bogotá, where many residents are displaced people driven from their land and into the city by Colombia's armed conflict. Altos de Cazuca IS dangerous - residents fear returning home after dark. And criminal groups force local businesses, including street vendors, to make extortion payments - on the threat of death. But most of the victims here are the neighborhood's own AfroColombian residents. The residents also suffer severe types of discrimination: Because different illegal groups dominate neighborhoods, and different neighborhoods are predominantly black, white or mestizo, my friends tell me that if they cross into non-Afro neighborhoods they run the risk of being labeled as members of a hostile gang and attacked. These AfroColombians are victims of violence and discrimination, not generators of it, as the El Tiempo story portrays.

El Tiempo's story also perpetuates stereotypes by portraying AfroColombians as examples of poverty and crime. Even when the media portray black Colombians positively, it often still means stereotypes: as dancers, musicians or athletes. But AfroColombians also study, start businesses and hold down 'normal' jobs. But because such images don't play into established stereotypes, they're more difficult to portray.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

No comments: