February 1, 1998 in City

Review Should Follow Spokane Chamber’s Lead

Nancy J. Nelson Special To Roundtable
 

Spokane is beginning to make strides toward understanding and accepting its diverse population.

The Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce, for one example, acknowledged the mistakes it had made during its annual luncheon last year. To apologize to people of color in Spokane for having omitted them from ceremonies during the event, the Chamber printed a letter in The Spokesman-Review and held another luncheon specifically to issue the apology in person.

For another, Spokane Prosecuting Attorney Jim Sweetser sought a longer sentence for former Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Tom DiBartolo, convicted for the murder of his wife, because DiBartolo claimed that two black males had committed the murder. Sweetser recognizes the damage and division done by that false accusation, not only in the community but with race relations nationwide.

This year’s Spokane Leadership Forum on Jan. 13 was a commendable demonstration of the diversity of Spokane and of incorporating this diversity into understanding and working toward Spokane’s future.

Unfortunately, The Spokesman-Review has not begun to acknowledge and discontinue damaging portrayals of negative racial stereotypes of African-Americans. This helps to divide the community.

On Sunday, Jan. 11, The Spokesman’s front page story was on the serial killer being sought in connection with the deaths of several young women, some of them involved in prostitution. Although none of these women - murdered since 1986 - were African-American, the paper chose to picture in a large, color photograph, an African-American woman prostitute being questioned by a police officer.

Although there are African-American women who work as prostitutes, even more prostitutes are not African-American.

Picturing only an African-American woman reinforces the false stereotypical belief that African-American women are prostitutes.

When writing a story on the effects of the new food stamp regulations, The Spokesman-Review published a photo of a soup kitchen with only African-American men being served. This reinforces the false stereotype that the people who receive food stamps are all African-American. The reality is that people of many cultures receive food stamps.

The Spokesman-Review needs to include African-Americans in photos connected with positive general stories and show other cultures, including European-Americans, in some of the negative general stories.

I hope The Spokesman-Review would follow the Chamber’s example by publicly apologizing to the African-American community for misrepresentations. I also hope the paper will work not to stereotype cultures but to picture news and the community in an honest way.

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