UT associate professor

UT associate professor John Traphagan and his wife, Tomoko, could not reach their family members for two days following the tsunami that hit Japan more than a week ago. Tomoko Traphagan said some of her family members live in the areas greatly affected by the disaster. “It took me until Sunday night to get confirmation that everybody was safe,” she said. She did not lose any immediate family members. Tomoko Traphagan and her family often visited the northeastern coastal areas of Japan. She said looking at the devastating pictures of the towns wiped away by the tsunami is very hard for her and her husband. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit northeastern Japan on March 11, sweeping away homes and buildings. The tsunami’s force caused countries and states bordering the Pacific Ocean to send out warnings of a possible nuclear meltdown. The death toll in Japan rose to more than 8,000 people, and many more are missing in what is said to be the worst earthquake of the century. After the disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear plants stopped producing power, and the tsunami knocked out backup generators that cooled the nuclear reactors. Pressure built after the reactors stopped working, causing radiation to leak into the atmosphere from the Daiichi plant. John Traphagan said U.S. media has been sensationalizing the plant’s failure by reiterating that the Japanese government is hiding critical facts from its citizens, including areas they should stay away from and how much radiation has been leaked. He said the media hype does not help the Japanese as they combat one of the biggest natural disasters the country has experienced in the modern era. The Japanese need immediate assistance in rebuilding the infrastructure and getting back on their feet instead, he said “It will take years for that part of Japan to recover from this,” John Traphagan said. “The destruction is enormous, and the human implications are also very serious. There are thousands who have lost everything.” John Traphagan said he spent about 12 years living in Japan doing ethnographic research, specifically on the elderly population. “They are the ones who are hit the hardest during these tragedies,” John Traphagan said. The elderly, who usually live with their children, cannot move fast enough to get to higher ground when a tsunami hits and are usually left behind, he said. Mathieu Glacet, a Chemistry and Asian cultures and languages senior, said he was supposed to leave for Japan in less than a week, but the Study Abroad Office canceled all trips to the country this semester. He said he had been planning his trip for a year and had looked forward to experiencing the culture firsthand. After seeing the destruction, Glacet said his heart was heavy for the people of Japan. Japanese Association President Nick Prum said the organization will work with other student groups to put together a donation effort. The association will set up tables throughout campus this week to raise money for the tsunami victims in Japan. Victims are currently facing electrical, fuel and food shortages, but Tomoko Traphagan said it will not take long for Japanese people to get back on their feet. “The people up north are known for their perseverance,” she said. “It’s going to be OK.”

The media creates false perceptions about black athletes in America and advances stereotypes of superhuman strength and aggressive sexuality, said a UT associate professor at a lecture on Wednesday.

Associate sociology professor Ben Carrington said many people make an assumption that Americans are living in a post-racial society, especially after electing a black president.

“We may have reached a significant milestone in the advancement of racial progression, but at the same time, it seems to be permitting us not to talk about problems that persist,” said Dave Junker, director of the Senior Fellows Symposium which sponsored the event.

Carrington said that if America is a post-racial society, it stirs even more questions for race relations. He said the overrepresentation of black athletes in the media is spinning stereotypes about the sexuality and culture of African-Americans.

“This idolization of the black athletic form produces a black athlete as post-human,” Carrington said. “Strange creatures [who] possess [the] alien-like and certainly subhuman abilities to jump higher, hang in the air longer, punch harder and run faster.”

It is almost as if these black men are leaving the realm of humankind all together, he said.

Carrington illustrated this notion by showing several examples from commercials and images that portray African-American athletes and actors as muscular men projecting an image of a “perfect man.”

In an Old Spice commercial, black actor Isaiah Mustafa is topless the entire time, showing off his muscles. A message appears at the end of the commercial that says, “Smell like a man, man.”

Carrington also used African-American golfer Tiger Woods as an example of who the media targets. After Woods’ scandal became public, the media scrutinized every aspect of his life, called him a sex addict and falsely alleged that he has a strong sexual appetite for white women, he said.

Anthropology professor Kevin Foster said most young black men prefer going into sports and becoming athletes because of the glorifying images the media produces. In reality, he said, the number of black career professionals is much higher than the number of black athletes.

“But you would not get that impression from media’s representation of race,” Foster said. “It has a huge impact on black boys.”

He also said some people who oppose the view that racial stereotyping still persists in today’s media are black athletes who enjoy prosperity because of their successful careers.

“The problem is that their perspective is limited to their experiences,” Foster said.

The relationship between the media, race and sports is a complex issue because images are manipulated and crafted by the media, said sociology graduate student Vivian Shaw. She said people consume this material without consciously acknowledging its effects.

“It is really difficult to know the extent of the influence of the images,” Shaw said.