Saturday, January 19, 2008

Being on both sides of one-sidedness...

I don't know how to describe the phone call I received tonight. Have you ever been falsely accused or has someone ever insinuated you are something that you really are not? Well, when you work in media, I have learned, you really open yourself up to attack--and many times it is completely unjustified.

When I was in college, I worked as a news producer for a TV station that I'd interned with in college. It was a cool gig--to be a senior in college and already get to write and decide what goes on the news, even if it was just the weekend newscasts. I gave up a good portion of my fun my senior year for this low-paying job that often left me in tears from the stress and a definitely made me target on occasion from viewers who called to complain. A lot of cranky old people watch the local news on Sunday night, that's one big thing I learned.

We also got some really awful calls. Racist rants from a really scary few people in our community who didn't like our African American sportscaster. I remember how I would rush to the newsroom immediately after the broadcast and I would try to answer the phone calls that came in first, so he wouldn't get it before me. This was a really nice guy who I'd made friends with. Often, it was just the two of us there most of the day typing away at our stories. But, in all truthfulness, he really was a sucky sportscaster. He flubbed his words a lot, read off the wrong scores and was way too monotone for sports. But, he was a nice guy and a good person. I couldn't let him pick up a phone to hear someone spewing racial slurs and cussing about how he'd read off Billy-Joe's high school football score wrong and why didn't we get this (racial slur) off the air already?

It made me sick to my stomach when I had to talk to some of these people who called in. And, it also scared me that those people were really out there in the world.

Well, today, I experienced the opposite of this. I attended/helped manage a photo shoot for our magazine's cover. I left it and came home and told my husband how good I felt about it. We had local principals nominate a couple teens from each of the high schools who they felt were inspirations and had bright futures. I'd specifically told the principals I didn't necessarily want the expected valedictorians and the kid didn't have to be top of the class. I just wanted kids who had either done something very impressive in school, sports, music, etc, or who had really great college opportunities in their future.

When we all showed up and I met the kids and their parents, I was so impressed. I didn't have a group of sullen teenagers who seemed annoyed to be there. I had 8-9 kids who wowed me completely. Not only were the completely photogenic and great cover models, they were fun, and their achievements were really impressive. These were good kids--the kind that make you feel like the future of our country is in good hands.

When I came home, I commented to my husband on one teen who impressed me. A college track star who also plays football, he had the best manners and was really a nice kid. He had a great smile and I'd told him so during the photo shoot. He also looked a LOT like a young Jaime Foxx. Cute kid.

I also had taken note of him because when his mother had called, and I explained to her that out of the 800-900 kids in his class, his Principal had nominated him and spoken very highly making sure to tell me he deserved to be on this cover. His mother actually got a little emotional on the phone because she was so flattered and so proud of her son. It was touching and made me feel good about this job I've been burned out on for several months.

The shoot went great, the kids were fun and while I think they got tired of the 10,000 photos we took (it takes a LOT to get a great cover), they left and seemed pleased.

Then, I get a call tonight from "young Jaime's" mother. She was unable to be at the shoot, but her family was. They were not happy. Apparently, they all felt like our photographer treated young Jamie different from the rest. When it came time for his individual shot, they told her she "had nothing to do with him and did nothing special." They felt she gave him less attention than the other kids and she had a problem with him.

And, I read into it what it really was. They felt she had a problem with him because of the color of his skin.

I was there. And, while the lady told her family had actually said that "the editor" (me) should have been running the shoot because I was fair and friendly and helpful to all the kids, what she was saying about our photographer was not fair. There was nothing done discriminatory in the LEAST. I have worked with this photographer for a year now and she's amazing, warm and friendly and definitely NOT racist.

And, now I have a bad taste in my mouth, y'all, after I'd felt so good about the whole thing. And, the sad thing about it is, I'm about to leave this job and I wanted to end on a good note.

I don't understand perceptions. It is amazing how a group of people can be in a room, and each one walks out the door with a different opinion of their time there.

I don't understand how that family could have been at the same shoot that I was , the very one where we were teasing this boy about his cute dimples and smile and where he was in almost every group shot when several of the other kids were not because has was so photogenic--the very shoot that I was so proud of because of the ethnic diversity represented in the shots (there were a couple Asian kids, a few Hispanics, one African-American, and a couple white teens), and they could feel discriminated against.

And, how can your kid being nominated out of his whole monsterously large class to be on a cover of a magazine...how on EARTH could that make you feel anything other than the most special senior at your school? I really just don't understand...and it really just makes me feel sad. We were trying to do something special for these kids...and now it all feels somehow ruined.

5 Comments:

Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

There's always one mom who has to complain about something. Don't sweat it. I'm sure she's the same one that complains no matter what. As long as the kid had fun, that's all that really matters.

I had one lady bitch and moan about my photo shoot. She didn't bother to come, nor did she bother to pay for her kid's photos on time. Then, she squawked about my "qualifications" and I basically let her have it. She's been nothing but nice to me since then. Sometimes you just gotta put them in their place.

You did fine. Your cover will be great and the family will still purchase their 50 copies to hand out at Christmas.

Just fluff it off to stupidity on her part.

9:30 PM, January 19, 2008  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I agree. It is incredible how different perceptions can be. I can't tell you how many times I have said something and had someone intrepret it totally wrong!

Was he the only African American? If he was then I could see her being hyper sensitive but otherwise she is just going to be that way and it wouldn't matter what you did. Leave on a high note in spite of this!

8:20 AM, January 21, 2008  
Blogger Nicole said...

That really sucks. I would be angry, too. But I agree with LBC and Debbie..doen't let that one person spoil the whole experience. You know in your heart that everyone did a great job and you really should be proud of it!

1:34 PM, January 21, 2008  
Anonymous Haylee's Gifts said...

Sorry to hear about this, but it is really weird how someone can take something so totally out of context!

11:29 AM, January 22, 2008  
Blogger Aunt Vanessa said...

I agree with the other comments; don't let this get to you. You know the truth and should be proud you did such a good job.

7:02 PM, January 24, 2008  

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