Spokesman’s response to reporter shows problem with how black males are represented in the media, professor says

Sawyer, Donald

Professor Donald Sawyer

Donald Sawyer, a sociology instructor in the College of Arts and Sciences, said Tuesday’s News 8 story about a New Haven Police Department spokesman’s response to a reporter inquiring about the case of a double shooting in the city shows a problem with how black males are represented in the media.

“I don’t see any real problem with the New Haven Police Department representative’s statement,” said Sawyer, who runs a weekly program at Wilbur Cross High School for black and Latino men who want to learn how to use hip-hop to write about their lives.

“One of the issues with race is that we don’t have honest discussions about the impact of race and people do not truly understand racism,” he said.  “Many see it as individual acts. However, racism is institutionalized and impacts larger social structures.

“When a few black men act out violently to oppression, with media assistance, the implications for other black men is expansive,” Sawyer said. “As a result, black males are assumed violent and untrustworthy, simply based on their existence. I remember a quote I once heard that stated, ‘Hurt people, hurt people.’  When a sealed can is under pressure without a way to release energy, it will explode. Our youth are hurting and are not given the resources to deal with their pain…The violence that we see is not the result of black youth being inherently violent. The violence is a symptom of larger social ills facing underserved and oppressed communities.”

Sawyer earned his doctorate in sociology from Syracuse University after successfully defending his dissertation, “I Ain’t Do Nothing: The Social and Academic Experiences of Black Males in a Dismantled Middle School.” He holds master’s degrees from Syracuse and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hartwick College. Learn more about Sawyer.

To schedule an interview with Sawyer, please contact John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, at 203-206-4449 (cell) or 203-582-5359 (office).

Categories: College of Arts and Sciences, Hot Topics

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