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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | SEPTEMBER 23, 2013 5:00 AM

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It is very disheartening to see racism displayed in our community. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 92.8 percent of Iowans are white, whereas African Americans make up 3.2 percent of the population in Iowa. In Coralville, the statistics are 79.4 percent white and 7.9 percent African American. With that being said, consider the target audience of an ad/public service announcement that can be found in Coralville city buses.

The ad states, “When it comes to our safety, we can always use an extra pair of eyes. Look around. Be aware. If something does not look right, let us know.” The message in and of itself is fair and unbiased, until you look directly next to the message. There is a close-up picture of a male, African American youth or young adult with a cold, unhappy expression. Because of the zoom, expression of the male, and the background of the picture not removed to match the background of the ad, it could easily be assumed to be a mug shot.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and I feel like many, many words can be said about this picture. Considering that the majority of Iowans and Coralville citizens are white, is this picture conveying a person who is being “aware” for something that does not “look right,” or is this picture an indirect message of who to look out for in our city? When I look at this, I see Coralville telling the public that this picture is to aid in citizens identifying who “doesn’t look right” so that we can observe them and call the police. This is another prime example of racism, basically wanting citizens to watch out for African Americans for “our safety.” 

Some might be apathetic about this ad, because they aren’t directly affected by such negativity and racism, especially if you are non-African American. But consider the ramifications. This ad is implicitly telling African Americans that we are watching you, because we think you are a threat to our safety. That can be really hurtful and damaging for someone who is African American, especially coming from the community where they live. 

This ad should not be on a city bus. African Americans, along with all other minorities, are constantly striving to overcome everyday social injustices, and a government-sponsored ad has no place in public transportation or anywhere. This ad could easily have used any other picture, such as using a picture that includes more than one person, used a female instead of a male, or maybe used the same person who looked more like they were happy or just looking observant.

Please, just make this ad a conversation. Whether you agree or not, talk about it with your friends, neighbors, or whoever. Just talk about it. If you feel like I do, please make a stand. Call the Coralville Public Transportation. Write about it. Spread the word. Do something — that is how change happens.

Jessica Brierton


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