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I am absolutely disgusted and extremely disappointed at the Washington City Paper’s choice to run an eight-page cover story titled “Deconstructing Stephanie” (4/30). I picked up the City Paper on my way to lunch, excited that the composite face of a black woman was on the cover. I overlooked the subtitle, “Hell hath no fury like a neighborhood scammed.” I was too interested in finding out what interesting deed a black woman had done to merit what I thought would be an intelligent and insightful discussion of her selfhood, implied by the title and the artwork.
Instead, I found an article that admits that “there is no Stephanie” or perhaps there are many Stephanies, and that the focus of this article and Stephanie’s “victims” is really “white guilt.” On the one hand, I applaud you for recognizing and articulating that in print. On the other hand, do you not realize that by placing the composite face of a black woman on the cover of this weekly you are using the figure of a black woman to represent all “hustlers”—and all black hustlers in particular? There are five more composite representations of a black “Stephanie” within the article. She is like a modern-day Hottentot Venus, put on display for curious (and, in this case, angry) white onlookers. What’s worse, since there is no “Stephanie,” this composite picture serves to represent all black women—or all black people or all black hustlers.
The article states, “At bottom, the Capitol Hill posse pursuing Stephanie is nothing more than a well-mannered mob—one that brandishes e-mails and statutes instead of pitchforks and torches.” I view this article as nothing more than a cheaper-to-fund Birth of a Nation. Do you not realize that you are perpetuating racist stereotypes by reporting this “truth” in this particular manner?
This article is not about “Deconstructing Stephanie”; it is about deconstructing white fear, white guilt, and so on. Granted, the author realizes that “Stephanie” is simply a catalyst in these people’s lives, a person who creates a situation in which they can and must face their own anger and fears, and states so throughout the article, but this is not enough. You must realize that framing the article around the elusive “Stephanie” perpetuates the very behavior this work exposes. “Stephanie” is not the issue here, because, as stated in the article, “Stephanie’s performance art is not unique in this city or any other—every neighborhood has a hustler…” And, I might add, hustlers of different races, creeds, and colors. This article needs to be about “Stephanie” or about white guilt. Using the pain of these black women who commit these acts without fully exploring their lives and paths as human beings dehumanizes them.
Why not write an article on white guilt and hustlers? Why not use a montage on the cover that includes the faces of the white “victims”? Or would that simply not fly in Washington?
I find the City Paper guilty of perpetuating the same stereotypes it attempts to expose, quietly, between the lines. Good try, but please try again!
College Park, Md.
via the Internet