I wonder if some people with mental illness, and their families, hold their breath when they hear news break about a terrible crime or a mass killing, such as the one that recently took place in Newtown, Massachusetts. If so, it is understandable. Too often, the media makes mental illness the focus of attention, regardless of whether it is even an integral part of the storyline. And in too many instances, a fuzzy and unsubstantiated cause and effect relationship connects mental illness and violence; in spite of scientific evidence that clearly shows most people who are mentally ill are not violent.
When a terrorist act is committed, is there a momentary, collective sigh of relief on the part of some Arabs and Muslims when they find out that the person responsible is not “one of their own?” Or if the perpetrator is a Muslim or Arab, or viewed as one, is there widespread consternation; knowing that the media has a long-established reputation of promoting Arabs and Muslims as the 3 B’s – bombers, billionaires and belly dancers.
As a white male, I do not spend time worrying about how media images might stereotype and implicate me. I can pretty much violate any norm I want without implicating others who share my gender and race. Why, because I have the social, economic, and political power that comes with being a member of a majority group.
Carl Rowan, noted journalist and author, put it best when he said, “ A minority group has “arrived” only when it has the right to produce some fools and scoundrels without the entire group paying for it.