Latino Student Talks About Stereotypes in Media and Music
Many times, when 21-year-old Javier Gergara turns on his television, negative images of his people reflect off the screen. “If I were not from America, and didn’t understand the way America works, I would think all Latino people were drug dealers,” he said.
Javier does not identify himself as Hispanic but rather Latino because he feels it is a much broader term and more closely related to his people. “I don’t call myself Hispanic because I don’t identify with the Spanish and their imperial ways.”
Although born in America, Javier has spent at least three months out of every year in Colombia, where both of his parents are from and most of his family resides. As a teen in high school, Javier began to see and experience the prejudicial undertones of American society. He found it very insulting when a teacher once asked him if he could read in English because he was Latino. Javier believes that the media bares some responsibility for the perpetuation of stereotypes that lead to such prejudices.
“The media portrays Latinos as drug dealers, especially Colombians,” said Javier. “And even though there are drug dealers and drug trafficking, it’s like they want to focus on the negative instead of the positive.”
According to Javier, hip-hop music plays a role in the negative images of minorities as well. “Hip-hop music glorifies the prejudice and so I feel that the industry has a sort of social responsibility in the perpetuation of the stereotypes that people see.”
Surprisingly, Javier is a DJ who has been spinning records since he was 15. However, he tries to separate music from the message and as a DJ the music is much more important. He also maintains that Latino hip-hop artists such as Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo) and Fat Joe and the Terror Squad also play a role in the stereotypes of Latino people.
“Their music doesn’t help, but what they do for their communities does, and the media never focuses on those things,” said Javier.
When it came to choosing colleges and universities, Javier knew he would be a minority regardless of his decision. However, his experience as a minority at Howard University, which has been dubbed “The Mecca,” hasn’t been so bad. He feels more comfortable than he did at his former predominately white university, SUNY Oswego and he appreciates being taught by Black professors.
If he could advise the media on covering minorities, Javier would strongly recommend that the reporter learn as much as possible about the other culture before conducting the interview.
“The only way to avoid ignorance is to know things,” he said. “Ask if you don’t know, don’t just make assumptions.”