TV journalist speaks on racial stereotypes

Michaela Write

Nancy Giles, CBS Sunday Morning contributor, stood on the stage in the Kiva, belting out the lyrics to a folk song she learned at camp as a child.

“Who will survive America? Very few people, no pigs at all! They will survive America! Very few people, no pigs at all! So power to the people…”

Giles spoke Wednesday evening as a part of the Honors College lecture series.

In her speech titled, “My Wacky Adventures in Race and Racism,” she spoke about her perspective on racial stereotypes from her childhood and throughout her career.

The audience laughed and applauded as Giles used her humor while explaining her “Wacky Adventures” to convey her strong perspective on race at an early age.

She said she was given stereotypical roles during her time as a young actress.

“The kind of parts that I was getting to audition for always seemed to fall into the same category,” Giles said. “On one end, there were crack addicts, welfare mothers, hookers and abused girlfriends with illegitimate children. On the other end I was playing drug counselors, crisis counselors, sometimes teachers, nurses or even judges and cops.”

Giles said she found it ridiculous when she realized society placed so many stereotypes on young black women.

“It was a crazy situation for me to constantly come up against these ideas of what an authentic black experience was,” she said.

Giles also spoke about the theory of being “black enough.” She said friends often criticized her speech as sounding “too white.”

“I didn’t sound like the narrow stereotype that they were familiar with and comfortable with,” Giles said. “But think about this: If sounding black means sounding like one specific pattern of speech, would Martin Luther King have been accused of sounding white?”

Anne Lucas, a 2010 Kent State graduate, said she had not heard of Giles before attending the speech, but enjoyed the presentation.

“I thought it was very engaging and very quick-paced,” Lucas said. “She used a lot of her theatrical skill very well. It was a little bit different than I expected in some ways. She shared a lot of anecdotes and a lot of her own stories.”

Contact Michaela Write at [email protected].