Why Did CNN Choose to Air a Story About a Black Toddler Acting Like a ‘Ghetto Thug?’
As such, the “ghetto” “thug” toddler in the CNN video (as taken by the Omaha Police Officers Association) is a 21st century version of the white racist caricature known as “the picaninny”.
The picaninny is one of the standard characters in the white racist imagination and American popular culture. Depicted as a black child, he or she was shown in sexual ways, often as bait for alligators, neglected by absent and irresponsible African-American parents (this served as a way of indicting the black community and its families), in various states of undress, and acting like an adult who partakes in all manner of mischief.
The default question here is a simple one: was CNN “racist” to provide a space for such a derogatory and viciously ugly depiction of black Americans? That is too easy a prompt. “Racism chasing” provides empty calories and is of limited use or service to the Black Freedom Struggle in the post civil rights era. While identifying a given social act or institution’s relationship to white supremacy is important, we should ask the bigger and more salient question: “what is this an example of?”
The adultification of a black child by irresponsible parents, and CNN’s choice to offer a human zoo featuring a black picaninny for its viewers’ and readers’ entertainment (operating under the guise of concern and shock) legitimates the prison industrial complex, punitive policing, and a belief that black people are irresponsible, lazy, hyper-libidinous, immoral, criminal, and lack impulse control.