Thug, gangster, criminal and terrorist are words the media sometimes uses to describe people of color, and one of these was applied to the renowned and accomplished political activist, Dr. Angela Davis.
The label came from Texas State’s future student body vice president, Colton Duncan, in a Facebook post criticizing her for an upcoming talk on campus. While Duncan isn’t the first person to make shortsighted comments about the legacy of Dr. Davis, the real harm lies in the label of terrorist.
Duncan should not call Dr. Davis a terrorist because it perpetuates the narrative that black people are dangerous even when they are not.
Mass media has been used to discredit many black historical figures since their prime years in the ‘60s and ‘70s. This only serves to draw attention to the double standard of how stories are told and the way people are portrayed in the media based on their race.
White Charleston shooter Dylan Roof murdered nine innocent people, Colorado theater shooter James Holmes killed 12 people and Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza murdered 20 children and 6 adults all while maintaining the descriptions of “lone wolf” and “victims of mental illness.”
The media is responsible for the way black people are generally perceived in society, and this portrayal did not start within the past 20 years. “The Birth of a Nation” portrayed a black man as a savage who would only take a break from eating his turkey leg to rape a white woman.
Duncan’s rhetoric is no different, it feeds into the narrative that causes people to view African-Americans as more dangerous than they actually are. We have to understand when we call Black Lives Matter a terrorist group or say President Trump is the new Hitler, we run the risk of eliciting real fear from people.
Unwarranted fear can cause people to be more hostile toward specific groups and pose a bigger threat to the person they are afraid of. Maybe Trayvon and Tamir would still be alive today if they appeared just a bit less dangerous in the eyes of their killers.
Duncan attempted to justify his attack on Dr. Davis’ character by mentioning she was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list. But if Duncan did his homework, he would know Davis was placed on the list because guns she purchased were used in a hostage situation. She was later tried and acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury.
Duncan stated tuition dollars should not be spent on someone whose “ideologies caused more harm than any war or famine in history.” This seems awfully ironic considering he claimed to be a proponent of free speech and first amendment rights during his campaign. Surely Duncan isn’t suggesting Davis shouldn’t be considered in conversation because her Communist ideas don’t agree with his Republican ideas.
Even Duncan’s administration partner, future student body president Connor Clegg, denounced Duncan’s comments. Clegg made it clear Duncan’s comments “speak for neither his own views or the views of the administration.”
I think the lesson we should take from future vice president Duncan’s Facebook post is that it’s never a good idea to speak in hyperbole and superlatives when discussing people because it can associate inaccurate personas that could spur actual danger for those individuals.
-Carrington Tatum is an electronic media freshman