Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Inspiration: The Mirror Effect

By Tylah Deal, in Lusaka - Zambia

Africa is a place that uplifts and inspires a minority ethnicity that most of the world chooses to degrade, belittle and suppress. People of darker skin complexions have been mistreated throughout history and are still experiencing inequalities to date. Zambia in Africa takes the opposite route and celebrates dark skin. This is accomplished in the most simplistic ways but perhaps the most important, through the media. The advertisements that are heavily prevalent throughout the country are representative of this appreciation, depicting beautiful, tactful and positive images of people who are darker skinned. In America it is a widely known fact yet rarely discussed realization that dark skinned people have the stigma of being criminals, dangerous, unprofessional, untrustworthy, provocative, unattractive, and the list continues.

Photo by: http://hinterlandgazette.com/2010/10/billboard-depicting-president-obama-as.html taken in Colorado in 2010.

Negative stigmas by media

Some U.S. media are responsible for affirming the negative stigmas associated with dark skin. News stations regularly report thefts, murders, sexual assaults, and even athletic bribery’s committed by African Americans. Blacks are not the only individuals committing crimes and they are not more likely to steal or harm someone than anyone else yet they remain the face of the vast majority of crimes reported by national news stations. People only know what they are taught and news outlets and other types of productions such as movies and music videos portray blacks as hindrances to the economy, dangerous for the community and perfect examples of who to strive NOT to be like.

Balanced coverage

Zambia portrays blacks as hard workers, assets to the community and positive role models. This is evident by the types of stories that are published in the local and national newspapers. They not only tell about pertinent issues of the community such as child abuse and thefts that have been committed by people who may be dark skinned but they also focus on publicizing accomplishments as well. The balance between positive and negative coverage of people who are dark skinned helps to omit those negative associations that are prevalent in the U.S. As mentioned previously, people only know what they are taught. If the media more often than not associate negative situations and qualities with a certain race of people what is the lesson being taught?

Inspiring the youth

Zambia teaches people to appreciate everyone as they are. Although most of the population appears to be “black,” there are over seventy different ethnicities yet they seem to appreciate people as people, disregarding their ethnicities. They see the beauty of a person regardless of their exterior or physical features. Zambians have a surreal approach to life. Even those who are considered the minority, whites, are seen as beautiful and are not targeted because of the difference of skin color. It was an eye opening experience to witness the apparent unity of the Zambian culture. They are supportive of one another and work cohesively towards the national goal of peace, an idea that seems impossible for many neighboring countries yet seems to define Zambia.

Zambia embodies peace and inspires a race of people who are typically looked down upon by many different ethnic groups to reach goals that are taught to be unachievable for them. This inspiration is not spoken of but it is exemplified through actions. Government officials, presidents of corporations, professors, lawyers, doctors, journalists and every other prestigious occupation is represented by individuals who have dark skin. When dark skinned children in Zambia and across the world see successful people who mirror them it is inspiring, showing them that they too can achieve success and that no goal is unattainable.

Tylah Deal, magazine major, is one of 18 Ohio University students studying abroad in Zambia with the Institute for International Journalism over Winter intercession.

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