Feeding Stereotypes

May 31, 1991|By JERRY BEMBRY | JERRY BEMBRY,Jerry Bembry is a sports reporter for The Sun.

While standing outside of my mother's apartment building on a recent visit to New York, what I saw in just a short time in the predominantly black Flatbush section of Brooklyn just reinforced both sides of why I both hate and love the city.

My hate is fueled by the city's grime, the hectic pace, the outward drug dealing and just the general coldness that New York is known for. My love is nourished by the majority of the decent people who, despite the numerous obstacles that would drain and demoralize most, still approach each day with the thoughts of overcoming their predicament.

A ghetto? Yes, in the sense that it is a neighborhood of the working poor that is wracked with social ills.

But definitely not in the sense of Ken Hamblin's article, ''PleasDon't Feed the Blacks,'' which appeared on this page Tuesday. Not only does the article bring into question Mr. Hamblin's motive for writing such a generalized, sweeping attack on the black underclass, but also this paper's reason for allowing publishing it.

If you haven't read the piece, and you find the title -- taken out of the article's text -- offensive, go back and read it. In the piece Mr. Hamblin, a Denver radio talk-show host, recalls a recent ''tour'' of New York. Weeks later he is still ''reeling from the rubbish, the grimness and the failure of black people . . . resigned to becoming little more than welfare pets.'' Later he added, ''Like the brown bears that forage for sustenance in garbage dumps, ghetto blacks have lost the need to support their children and to fend for themselves.''

It's not the subject matter that disturbs me, because I am concerned about problems such as increasing homicide rates, drug problems and poverty that affect people of all colors -- especially black people. And an Opinion * Commentary page is a good forum for articles addressing such issues, as long as the pieces are intelligently and thoughtfully written and generate healthy dialogue.

But Mr. Hamblin -- a native New Yorker who states neither what part of the city he's from, nor what areas he toured -- writes a piece that denigrates all blacks. He uses inflammatory language that generates an ''I told you so'' mentality from the large segment of society that really believes all blacks are shiftless and lazy.

Mr. Hamblin's vicious tone has appeared on this page before, but it's time that future attacks by him, and other authors, find another forum. Mainstream newspaper editors must shun the demoralizing stereotypes that creep into newspapers over and over again. All that's necessary is the application of the coverage of blacks that apply to all races.

Some of my colleagues have said that the page should have included a rebuttal piece the same day, but that's also unacceptable. When's the last time you read a piece in a mainstream daily where a whole group of people were described

as animals? Take out the use of the word black in the article, and insert whites, or Jews, or gays throughout. Does ''Please Don't Feed the Whites'' make the paper?

I don't think so.

I've never met Mr. Hamblin before, but I had a hunch from the first article of his that I read that he was black (I found out, this week, that my hunch was correct). Mr. Hamblin is just the latest of a very small number of blacks who have attempted to make a career of being overly critical of blacks. What's sad is that the media are welcoming the material with open arms -- regardless of how absurd it is.

Blacks have long been unrepresented in the media -- especially in the management ranks -- and this is just the latest example of why those numbers need to be increased. The fact that ''Please Don't Feed the Blacks'' could appear in print, in any newspaper, clearly illustrates that there is a great segment of society that is still greatly misunderstood.

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