Racist Reporter Turns Law-Abiding Four Year Old Into a Thug

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University – Scholarship in Action 

After a recent drive-by shooting involving two teens in Chicago, a CBS affiliate (WBBM) decided to engage in some good old fashioned racist black male stereotyping.  The station interviewed a four year-old boy to ask him what he thought about the violence in the neighborhood, and ended up completely misrepresenting the child in the process.

Here is a transcription of the conversation with the boy that the network aired.

Boy: "I’m not scared of nothing."

Reporter: "When you get older are you going to stay away from all these guns?"

Boy: "No."

Reporter: "No? What are you going to do when you get older?"

Boy: "I’m going to have me a gun!"

The anchor ended the story by saying, "that was scary indeed."

The problem with the station’s depiction is that the boy’s words were taken completely out of context.  The boy mentioned that he wanted a gun, not because his preschool had taught him to become a gang banger.  Instead, he wanted the gun because he was planning to become a police officer. 

So, similar to the racial disease that infects the images and outcomes of millions of other black boys in America, the media had turned a law abiding four year old into a menace to society before he’d even learned how to read.

After realizing what they’d done, WBBM issued an apology:

We accept responsibility for the mistakes that were made, both in the reporting and editing of the story. The video of the child should not have aired. As soon as news management identified the problem, they took immediate steps to ensure that the video would not air in subsequent newscasts. In addition, we have followed up with our employees to make sure that we all have learned from the mistakes that were made.

It’s easy to overlook this incident as a simple mistake, but it’s much deeper than we might think.  The image of the African American male as a lazy, violent, ignorant animal is one that is held by millions of people across America (many of them being black males themselves).  We hear music on the radio where corporate America has paid some black man to brag about how many other black men he shot last week, we deal with school teachers who suspend us for even looking at them the wrong way, and we confront employers who don’t give us the time of day when we show up for job interviews with our Masters degrees in tow.   The stress is both exhausting and irritating, building exactly the kind of angry black man that the system is designed to create.

Even more challenging is the frustration that millions of educated, hard working, law abiding black men feel when the world typecasts us as being less than human.   This little boy is already growing up in a city, Chicago, where a brilliant and hard-working man by the name of Rev. Jeremiah Wright had his 40-year legacy crippled by a Fox News sound bite that presented him to be the kind of unpatriotic, hateful black man that Fox News loves to present to its audience.  In fact, during the week-long tirade that Bill O’Reilly conducted to get me fired from Syracuse University, the host was skillful in making the audience fear me by simply presenting an image of me not smiling into the camera.

The little boy in this story has a bright future ahead of him full of infinite possibility.  But already, his vast potential is being threatened by the social cage being built around him by those whose minds remain enslaved by racism.  That is one of the great tragedies of America and if all of us don’t take time to consciously reflect on the magnitude of this issue, we will continue to destroy the futures of our children.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 



Filed under African Americans

34 responses to “Racist Reporter Turns Law-Abiding Four Year Old Into a Thug

  1. Pingback: Racist Reporter Turns Law-Abiding Four Year Old Into a Thug « Black Gossip for Black America

  2. The media is not our friend, but it is important to keep an eye on what they say or do. The media has been called left and right, but the media is owned by the elite and they are neither left-wing nor right-wing, they are determined to keep certain people in certain places with certain state of minds.

    The only media worth adhering to and believing is a public media which does not accept donations, ads, or monies from the elite. The corporate elite which owns the political and all government so-called “leadership”. The elite owned media which is manipulating the minds of everyone in all sorts of ways according to their “race” nationality, and color. The only media we should be paying attention to is not showing regular fantasy shows on TV or concocting worthless news stories.

    We are victims of a very racist and white supremacist social structure, and what do we do? We send our children to their schools and raise them to blend into this vile society even when we know it isn’t built for us. Alas it appears we have no choice…Or do we? We have no consciousness as to our dilemma and how we are being exploited decade after decade. Our children join the military and fight for this vile social structure and have no knowledge of just how diabolical the owners and leaders of this social structure are.
    They intend to demonize us and pick us off every chance they get, and they do a very good job of it. You might say they are experts at what they do. They sure have most of us fooled, in fact they’ve got most of the world fooled!

  3. Tula

    Dr. B – you nailed it!

  4. We must admit that WE do overlook this type of situation too much! Just a friendly reminder for US to stay sharp! That’s the Oldschoolers always tried to instill in US.

  5. Mr. Charlie

    Typical Negro behavior.

  6. I miss the days when children understood not to talk to strangers.

  7. Debbie

    It is funny that white people always try to make us look bad but every time I turn around a white person is trying to act like a black person…If they don’t like us, why the hell are they trying to be like us?

  8. Madmax

    No legitimate journalist would conduct an interview of a child without parental consent. If they had consent, shame on the parent who approved it. If they didn’t approve it, sue his a%@ off.

  9. Mustafa Rasul Al-Amin

    So many seem to truly be missing the fundamental point of this story. The point being; this is not an isolated incident and is in fact an historical, premeditated and calulated assault on Afrikan people which has been ongoing for years. It is a part of the racists plan to re-create Afrikan people into something other than human. It is a plan which includes the killing of our youth, even before they have had a chance to grow. it is a part of the plan to turn Afrikan people into niggers and thugs; justifying their incarceration and annhilation (Read the excerpt below):

    Dehumanization is a psychological process whereby members of the dominant, oppressive group asserts the “inferiority” of the weaker group through subtle or overt acts and statements, promoting them as being less than human; void of any humanity and thus, not deserving of any moral or humanistic considerations.

    In the case of Afrikan peoples; deceptive religions and religious doctrines, ersatz science, propagandized societal and social programs (to include the exploitation of media outlets), and legislative processes have been utilized and exploited for the purposes of dehumanizing Afrikan peoples. History is full of examples; from the misinterpretations of Biblical passages to the actual enactment and implementation of American laws which were created to dehumanize; and make chattel and second class humans of Afrikan people. (Excerpt from “Niggerology 101: The Basic Nigger Lesson Plan)

    Mustafa Rasul Al-Amin

  10. Well-done article, Dr. Watkins. As you said, it’s easy to overlook this incident as a simple mistake, but it’s much deeper. When journalists deliberately distort the image and comments of a young person in such a way, holding the media accountable is important. Did the journalist even get the parent/s permission to interview this child?

  11. Karen C

    Dr. Boyce, you’re a brilliant AA man, who’s right on the money!



  13. This just makes me sick. Every day it’s just one more disgusting thing after another….. We make a bit of progress….as in the 60s where we saw the bad…but, at the same time, we also saw people doing HEROIC things to cross that great divide that separates us. People who definitely listened to their better angels, and HELPED THEIR FELLOW MAN….NO MATTER THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN.! In the spirit of Dr. King and all the dear brave souls who tried to make our existence worthy….I send you my good will, and friendship.

  14. Theressa Wesley

    How awful that someone would twist the comments of a four year old to make him appear to be a violent, raging monster! And, who would even believe that such asinine thoughts came, unprovoked and unembellished, from the mind of a four year old? This is the epitome of evil!…sheer wickedness!

    Thanks, Dr. Watkins, for continuing to probe into the roots of systemic racism…and for sharing with us the depth of the sickness that has created the atrocities that underlie the basic framework of this society. Until we truly understand the full scope of racism, we will not be able to teach our children how to maneuver their ways through the muck and marrow of its deadly and brutally debilitating den of iniquity.

  15. Lamar Johnson

    Where are the so called black leaders in this country?They are nowhere to be found.Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are playing for the elite.They made Al Sharpton go away with tax fraud talk but yet he’s up Obamas ass.Why?”Blacks”will never understand that we need a pan africanist approach to our problems.A unified black nation is what is needed but until we all learn our history this will never happen.They keep us fighting each other while they laugh all the way to the bank.No one has the gaul to stand up on a nation or global platform and speak of the hidden and sometimes blatant racism in america.The “black” president who every black person adored years ago has done nothing for us.He works for big business and has little say in matters just as every other president.White society can’t sustain foreverness.They will eventually fall as all great civilization have.

  16. angel

    What about the drive by shooting? What about black men killing black men like crazy? Nobody talks about that. We blame everybody but what about what we do to each other?

  17. Regg'e

    I worked for a television affiliate station for 16 years and obtained my graduate degree from a prestigious private university. It’s all about getting the scoop over the competition. . . Yes, even if it means taking a story out of context. Let’s start with the most obvious question. What’s the reason behind interviewing a 4 year old in the first place? Secondly, why would the parent(s) allow such an interview in the first place? There were unwritten boundaries when it came to interviewing children, which was oftentimes for the “light family type closer stories”. Today, anything goes, in the name of ratings!

  18. lacey

    I fault the parent(s) first of all for allowing the child to be interviewed without asking what questions would be asked of the child.
    Someone spoke of black leaders (joke). Our BLACK MEN need to get off their hindparts. Stop complaining about how some one else should solve these problems and take the matters into your hand. Forms groups around every state, discuss plans and ideas to address black men and women to Change their thinking. Then march and demand what is rightfully just. If a Tea Party group can move the government to adhere to what they want. Why can’ t we as Black Americans do the same. Make the nation Stop and Look and Listen and Respond to demands of Black People. As a Black Man “you” must stand up or quit complaining and continue to take the abuse. What you say Black Man. Because your Sisters will stand with you. Will you take the challenge.

  19. Drew

    I agree with Lacey. I been trying to meet someone with the same ideal. I have a plan also for our People as a whole. I am talking about us as Black People. I’m hoping I can get a chance to speak with Lacey. Great Ideal.

  20. tewdrowos

    why the electronic media was at fault for misrepresenting the boy,make no mistake a large number of our people do program fool,nigga,dogg culture into them(baby boy’s) at very young age’s.I can not begin to tell you the number of BLACK baby boy’s I have seen with tattoo’s ,saggy pants,playing with toy (real looking gun’s),while at the seem time rapping to some negative rap song ,but could not even spell their own name..I even heard them say stuff like I’ll shoot you while with their young ignorant parent (normally a young out of wedlock mother). so yes certain white folk’s are going to do what they do ,however most of our problems and images stem from lack of personal responsibility.we have two types of Black people just like Chris Rock said there are Black people and there are (NIGGA’S,NIGGER’S,NIGGAZ, calll it anyway you want but its all the same thing because they were all made in AMERICA…..

  21. TAS

    Dr B……Unfortunately, you failed to inform your readers that the source of your problems with OReilly & perhaps Syracuse too was your own Racist “Happy Negro” Comments about Juan Williams; someone you disagreed with but didn’t have to slander…..The CBS report was shoddy & unacceptable but they apologized…..HAVE YOU???

  22. Negre Marron

    Don’t parents have to consent or sign off if a child is interviewed for news program?

  23. Angeleigh50

    They should be required to broadcast the actual interview. Showing the preschoolers actual intent. OMG, a preschooler. How do we combat such a foe?

  24. Well, our collective reputation has already been soiled beyond repair. Anything else can’t really do any more damage…

  25. turtle1

    Don’t nknow exactly what happen so my opinion is limited. However, engaging in conversation with a four year old about adult situation seems to me that the reporter is framing and staging questions to present a picture to slant the public. Whether the parents gave consent or know the reporter is still responsible for dissemination of correct information as is the editor. Th entire converstaion needs viewing however, this too has already been damaged by re-editing of the story.

    Lacey and Drew, not all blackmen are lazy and shiftless. As a matter of course, more are working than not. you don’t see them because they are working and taking care of business(home) so that interacting with other people is limited. Those people, men and women who have time to meet should do so. I would like to meet with you two also to initiate a group think tank to come up with a solution to the problems we as black Americans encounter. As a matter of fact I am at work as I write this because I had a littke time to respond and refute your thinking iposed upon you by by the media.

  26. Milo

    Unfortunately, young Black men are just about the biggest “problem demographic” in America today. From incarceration rates to absent fathers, they are, IN GENERAL, worse than just about anybody else. This certainly does not excuse the irresponsible journalism portrayed in this story, but it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

    It does not help things when people like “HERE WE GO AGAIN” makes statements about “little white girls” being unable to resist the prowess of the sexually potent Black man; this is a stereotype that most enlightened people gave up decades ago.

    Debbie – you are absolutely right about White people acting Black. As much as I dislike many aspects of Black culture, the positive influence of Black America on our culture, from Rock and Roll to slang, has spread worldwide and has kept the world from being boring.

  27. tabry06

    Mainstream media should be held accountable for disseminating news which lacks of integrity and incivility. I’m just glad it didn’t take Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to point out the blatant disregard WBBM held for its story regarding the 4yr old boy. America and in particular White America does not like to be reminded that racist behavior still permeates to the very core of our society. Quit making excuses for the media’s sensational portrayal of non-whites, particularly people of color. Statistics will point out that every race has individuals who are welfare collectors(greedy corporate welfare recipients too ) incarcerated, unwed, high school drop outs, unemployed, and drug/alcohol dependent. The lack of responsible reporting from those whom we hold in high regard only nurtures fear and animosity and this in return generates hate.

  28. marcie b

    i live in chicago and this occurs all the time not just with reporters but police officers as well who feed this crap to the media …and the police blog…it is unreal what they say ..but they are suppose to serve and protect us..i am a dispatcher for the police department and it is unreal what they do to black males ..it is unfortunate the fcc dont do their jobs either because most of their racist comments come over the airways against us and we cant respond and no discipline action is taken ….is there something we can do to have this reporter fired…i am tired of white people

  29. Milo

    So people like Marcie B are tired of white people, and plenty of whites are tired of black people. I guess it is just as well that both races tend to keep themselves separate.

  30. KIm

    I hope that black people realize that not all white people believe what they hear from the media. I certainly do not believe everything I hear. They perpetuate the stereotypes. I only watch the local news for the weather. I understand that the media is after ratings. It is all hype. I email them regularly with my thoughts even though it has not changed anything.

    It worries me that all of us are so quick to judge one group of people. Don’t get me wrong. I know the advantages the white race has had. I just want you to know that not all white people stick together where this controversy is concerned.

  31. Conor O'Hara

    Debbie, why are you marring an otherwise informative and intellectual piece? It is because of people like you, within every race, that these prejudices are more easily conducted.

    From a Canadian perspective, outside of perhaps Windsor and Toronto, there is a marked cultural symbiosis between those that inhabit many of our major cities. Now, obviously, Canada is not a racially Utopian society wherein no conflict is present. However, if America is willing to adapt to something as extreme as a Canadian-inspired form of health care then I see no reason for cultural academics like Dr. Watkins to research the differences between American and Canadian cultural integration to benefit those societies in need.

    My two best friends are Cameroonian and Chinese. I know why these kinds of friendships cannot be replicated consistently in the much more tolerant universal society of 2011: racial grouping. Instead of harbouring solutions with those of like-kin for a global benefit, why not expand your interpersonal (and interracial) horizons? I find that the most hypocritical people in the world are those who advocate change in interracial disposition, yet do so with a racially-exclusive context. Blacks with Blacks, Whites with Whites, Arabs with Arabs, Asians with Asians who are all for the melting pot. So many say that it is an impossibility to inherently understand another race’s culture; well, of course it is! Those same people choose not leave the comforts of their own cultures to seek their ideal diversity, and that is entirely their fault. If I, at 18, can have two terrific best friends of different ethnic backgrounds, whose friendships took maybe months to attain to their full capacities, then why can’t grown men and women do the same?

    One answer is: people like Debbie. But jokes aside, she is in the vast minority and is used a scapegoat for tension by lazy advocates or critics. I hope that a solution may be found soon because if – in an America that is governed by Barack Obama – there is not a greater interracial unity and conversations that were had thirty years ago continue to be regular, maybe true change is impossible for the greater population. Maybe change can only be made by the few who are able to make it.

  32. Conor O'Hara

    *”… not to research…”

  33. Conor O'Hara

    ** Wow…

    “… not to leave…”

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