A Filmmaker's Attempt To Peel Off the Labels

"You sit idly by and watch your media distort your images," says Janks Morton in his documentary about African Americans' misperceptions. (By Pouya Dianat -- The Washington Post)
By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 4, 2007

Quick. Pop quiz. And no cheating. No Googling. No calling the NAACP.

Are there more black men in college or in jail?

Janks Morton, a new movie director, is willing to bet you got the wrong answer. You who have been fed negative images of black men for so many years.

Although he thinks the very nature of the question is an "abomination," he wonders: Would that same question be asked so often of any other race in America? The very premise of the question, he says, leads to faulty science. But the question is insidious, like the images that have seeped into the public psyche so deep that many black people themselves don't get the answer right.

To prove his point, Morton poses the question while sitting at a table in Busboys and Poets restaurant seven hours before his movie, "What Black Men Think," premieres in the District.

He turns to three black men at a table behind him.

"Quick question: Are there more black men in college or in jail?"

Man in green shirt: "Jail."

Man in brown shirt: "Jail."

Man in blue shirt. "Jail."

Morton thanks them, then calls over the waiter: "Hey, R.J.! Are there more black men in college or in jail?"

The waiter ponders the question, turning it as if he were inspecting a utensil. "I believe . . . in jail."

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