Tell Me Sweet Little Lies: Racism, Bias, Confirmation, and the Disinformation Epidemic – Featuring Nicole A Cooke, PhD

Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of Dr. Cooke’s presentation is what I thought I knew, and how much I had not fully realized – then it came to me, being in the School of Information – wasn’t that a constant, ongoing process we see in the societies around us every day?

Breaking down the differences between misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation was a great great start. I honestly did not differentiate these, at least to my knowledge.

In looking at the goals of malinformation, which was to deliberately misleading, realizing it could be harmful, and which could lead to arrests and fall under criminalized activity seemed pretty on target with what I imagined and gravitated towards as a definition. What I did not realize were the subtle examples that were around me every single day that went unnoticed and unrecognized. When looking at the advertising of what was considered “unprofessional hair” and seeing countless examples of women of color depicted as unprofessional, compared to that of white women more than not depicted as professional, and recognizing the “Sweet Brown” meme often used, it was pretty obvious to see this as a version of digital black face,

The images of ads that featured Lebron James as King Kong saving women, as well as the way Serena Williams depicted as someone possessed and ape-like, the image spoke 1000 words when accompanied with this simple truth. It was easy to see the repeat pattern when Arab/Muslims are portrayed as violent killers, often also put into the same category as unfair transgender depictions. This means it is so easy fro public to apply the transgender position to individuals to someone who is not even transgender, simply as so large a public applies norms they have become used to hearing and seeing, to any and all individual that fits that category in their mind. It is quite shocking how powerful media has been able to influence so many in that aspect with the use of images and what I was unfamiliar with as digital blackface.

It was also interesting in seeing the depiction of Michael Brown as the media wanted too portray him, usually without a suit or would they have been able to portray him the same way as he appeared in a suit? Or ANYONE for that matter? it is quite easy to see how malinformation in this format caused fearmongeering, and how many unlikely connections easily go so wild so quickly.

With today’s vaccine current state, the misconceptions of past beliefs, how it was believed higher medical professions believed individuals of color had higher pain thresholds for pain, and how this affected the treatment of individuals, and showing the aspect of cultural competence (or incompetence). This was a powerful tool and lesson in light of current situations we may or may not find ourselves relating too, yet the presence and existence of this still occurring around us.

Relative to this recent has been the recent Kate and Harry interview, showing a progression from the UK. In this recent interview, the progression seeing in tabloids – headlines carrying and depicting a Megan from a point of simply emotional/crying to the point of wanting to give up on life, there are distinct parallels to the life of Princess Diana. All one has to do is follow the nature and history of the UK tabloids and you recognize the glaring similarities, and yet reactions to Harry and Megan have been quite different at times until a climbing point of release with this recent interview was conducted.

Seeing the graphic image of a sign in Scotland misrepresent information itself, in just the Kill a White on Sight sight, easily convinces those that this is the carrying cry of Black Lives Matter, when in reality, 93% of Black Lives Matter individuals were peaceful after George Floyd, and how quickly associated those individuals portraying themselves as Black Lives Matter had nothing to do with the actual movement or group, yet e never hear on the news, at the time, that reality. When examining the virtual cams and news that occur after curfew, you do find the majority of individuals tying themselves to BLM when in reality, they are not at all., Especially when violent actions occur, and then these actions are tied to BLM.

The tie to the name of the Covid 19 breakout, now being attributed to anyone of Chinese descent brings back worse days of the U.S. past. Mainly with the attribution of Japanese internment. I never even realized there was a group with the name of Stop AAPI Hate and we hear so little about organizations such as this.

It was also revealing when we looked back at the South Pacific musical seeped into these stereoptypes of malinformation, and spend more time being proactive on how incorrect past and current stereotypes can be so detrimental to others, often coming to us with no effort at all. Correcting and not accepting is often the largest hurdle towards change for sure. The critical conversations we are willing to have, instead of simply discussing the presence of these stereotypes, does indeed make all the difference.

I had never heard of Gloria Ladson Billings, but loved the quote associated with her, “We teach what we research.” I do think this mantra could help inform and awaken minds and eyes of current students, as future citizens., It is obvious through the media and through the visual how we are conditioned to value whiteness and Christianity at the sacrifice of other groups that do not fall into these categories but our perceptions. The tribal categorization of placing those into an “other” category does indeed, have its consequences.

I loved the referral to the brown doll versus the white doll test, and felt this point was driven home with the above and current moments we find ourselves in history. This falls right in line with the day after the Dr Martin Luther King assassination, and Jane Elliott’s Brown Eye test.

Kelly Marie Tran’s quote, “It wasn’t their words their words, it’s that I started to believe them.” brought back the amazing pushback she received on social media to the fact that many believed, and stated, and eventually pushed her off social media, that Star Wars had no places foe anyone of Asian descent.

As we are bombarded with stereotypes daily, consciously and unconsciously, the case of implicit bias, assigning bias based on beliefs assigned to / about groups, it is easy to see where microaggressions related to racial slights are on the increase.

In discussing the differences between gaslighting and racelighting, the importance of information literacy has never been more important before, EVER. I immediately saw the spaces where school librarians are being “excused” out of their value and positions in society, amid allowing the stop of information literacy to be presented to massed. This allows the critical literacy to fall by the wayside, and mass individuals can assign context that leads to meaning in a vacuum so much more, and so easily.

When this much is able to happen, all happen so much more without context, the misconstrued actions resulting from misconstrued perceptions grow, and grow, and grow to become a reality for so many. One of the countless ways is the fact that individuals of color are needed in the very professions that are often marginalized, the news, the medical fields, librarianship, obviously the news, and to me, it is not huge coincidence that current librarianship is still dominated by white women, and yet very few individuals of varying race and color are even encouraged into this field. Personally, when the role of a school librarian itself is being marginalized due to a host of countless reasoning, how much easily is it to apply to the areas of race, religion, news, and more? The information literacy that is and has been represented via school librarians, as it disappears, is often replaced with the beliefs individuals feel comfortable with, not the realities that exist in the world today.

One of the most powerful aspects of Dr. Cooke’s presentation was the vividness and the acute clarity of the images she utilized during her presentation. I purposely left out the images so you can compare tomorrow, once I compile these, how much the visual plays a role in the above content, which is a priceless and valuable topic we need to have represented vis discussion, day in and day out amid so much disbelief being accepted today. Easy, so easy to do, without school librarianship to challenge popular beliefs today, often leading to actions we never would have thought of/ just like the realities we are not challenged on as a result. Dr. Cooke’s presentation for these reasons and so many more!

About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s