I clicked on a headline about the June 7 Black Lives Matter protest in Augusta (“Chief: Vehicles were towed after Augusta officers grew ‘overwhelmed’ by large crowd at Black Lives Matter protest”) and saw a picture of my friend Karlene with her arms around her husband and son. I texted it to her saying that I loved it.

Karlene replied, “Thanks. And yet I am overwhelmed that they used it with the title of the article. Cops ‘overwhelmed’ and they show a picture of 3 Black people.”

I saw a tender picture of a Black mother protecting her family; Karlene saw that their images were used with words that represent fear in relation to police officers. I am white, and despite my commitment to understanding the ways I am complicit in perpetuating racism, I do not always see the structural and systemic biases against people of color. But they are real.

I hope that the pairing of the words “officers” and “overwhelmed” with a picture of a Black family was motivated by the desire to use a picture of Black people with an article about a Black Lives Matter event, rather than a deliberate effort to stoke fear. But even if the intentions were good, that this pairing happened is a failure to understand what people who are directly impacted by racism experience.

Karlene: “It is a moving picture. And it could have been used for a powerful piece. The pain on our faces. The need for me to hold my family up. The chance to show people our humanity. And yet they use it with a deceiving and scary title.”

I invite the paper to reflect on its own internal biases and to stop perpetuating negative stereotypes of Black people and other people of color.

Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes
Mount Vernon

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