From the coast of Texas today there comes news of three sport fishermen who were rescued by civilian boaters eight days after being stranded in the Gulf of Mexico due to equipment malfunction. The coastguard had called off their search, having had no luck after five days. Luckily, someone else spotted and rescued them.
But something is amiss. Have a look at the CNN article here. Why is a cop with a gun watching them in the article image? Is it because they’re black?
I dispute the concept of racism and the uses to which we put it in the US generally. We are far too quick to call on racism to explain what goes on between people of different races, often when racism is not involved. But racism is always present in the US, so much in small places we fail to notice. Our flawed concept of racism obscures the real racism with which we live, and the real problems of race go on unaddressed.
I can’t help but interpret this image as racist. Sure, we live in a totalitarian police state, but would white men have been photographed skulking away under the armed and watchful eye of the law? No, they would have been weeping, smiling, greeting their families, facing the camera.
The image positions its subjects as culprits, not victims. It seems tailored to communicating this notion. You can’t help but wonder if the men are lying about what they were doing out in the Gulf, or if they are somehow culpable for the accident. The image says they have something to hide, that they have done something wrong. Yet there is no information in the article to support these assertions.
This is the most troubling form of racism for me. We can deal with the idiot throwbacks full of physical hate. But this racism is harder to combat, as it is encoded in normal expectations, it is insidious and culturally embedded.
The person who selected this image and posted it on CNN probably did not intend to incriminate these men, but they did. Were they more sensitive it is likely they would have seen the implications of their choice of image and made another. Or elected to use no image at all. No image would have been better than this image, and a more accurate reflection of the content of the article.
Here is the image in case CNN takes it down…