Erasure And Criminalization of Blacks In The Media

Erasure And Criminalization of Blacks In The Media

We've become desensitized to one-dimensional portrayals of Black youth.

Social media has a tremendous impact on our culture, in business, and on the world-at-large. Social media sites stand firmly as the most visited websites on the internet. They have revolutionized the way people communicate and socialize on the Web. Not only has social media transfigured the way that we socialize in today’s society, but the media as an entire, powerful, entity has managed to infiltrated our minds and gain a large “say-so” in how we perceive, and interact with, each other. One of the most misrepresented, disrespected, marginalized and unheard people in America are people of color, particularly Black people.

The American people are being force-fed a media diet of stereotypes and misperceptions, and the often over-criminalization of African Americans through language, images, and omissions. Media injustice leads to both the erasure and criminalization of marginalized communities. These injustices have had dire consequences for both the psyches and lived experiences of Black people in the United States since at least the 18th century. Many studies have tackled implicit racial bias that never fails to be prominent in our society. In recent years, the phrase has become a keyword used to broadly frame narrow-mindedness and racism as something so embedded that some people aren’t aware that they subconsciously harbor racist feelings, associating Black skin with negative behavior.

In 1964, Malcolm X was compelled to stand before a crowd in New York City’s Audubon Ballroom and affirm his disdain towards the proclivity of those in the media stating, “This is the press, an irresponsible press.” He said, “It will make the criminal look like he’s the victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal. If you aren’t careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Fifty years later, these words are just as true now, as they were then. What has not been fully addressed, though, is whether the press deliberately supports a white supremacist agenda, as some people believe, or has media’s complicity mutated into something less intentional but equally dangerous—perhaps even more so. Mainstream media often portray African-American youths, especially Black men and boys, as criminals, crime victims and predators. These stereotypes can create a racially charged atmosphere that results in violence, such as the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. Popular U.S. culture has become increasingly desensitized to one-dimensional portrayals of Black youth. The perpetuation of them as dangerous has been implanted into American society not only by words and images projected by journalists but also by a wide variety of other media and entertainment sources, including the Internet, movies, and video games.

This past year, WBBM-TV in Chicago deliberately quoted a 4-year-old Black child out of context, turning him from an aspiring young child who had ambitions to be a police officer, into a young gangster-to-be. When the child said “I’m going to have a gun when I grow up, I’m going to be police,” the producers omitted the latter part about wanting to be police and only left his statement about the gun. These sort of strategic incriminations targeted at young Black children give the perception that the Black community raises its youth to be aggressors, enabling them to ever be seen as victims.

Another prime example is Latarian Milton. Latarian was a 7-year-old boy with genuine psychosomatic issues who stole his grandmother’s car. Normally, the media doesn’t name or show underage suspects, to preserve their innocence. However, WPBF, the ABC affiliate in Palm Beach, Florida, decided to interview the young Black boy, not once but three times, turning the troubled kid into a trending topic. There have been similar cases where young children in the same age range with similar mental issues have committed similar crimes. The distinct differences amongst these cases, though, are the ethnicities of the children committing the crimes. Clearly, the perception of African-Americans and other people of color as inferior to whites is rooted in the nation’s legacy of racial hierarchy, a system of stratification based on the belief that skin color makes whites superior. It seems as though in order for their identity to remain private, their innocence to be preserved, and their illnesses to be both acknowledged and accepted as a justifiable cause, the child must be white. This lack of sensitivity in the media portrays white children as helpless and deserving of compassion, and Black children as nothing more than reprobates.

There are studies, such as “Not to Be Trusted”, a news-accuracy report card compiled by civil rights organization, which tackles media bias and how it indiscriminately pathologizes communities of color for mass consumption. Separately, these issues can wreak havoc and destruction on their own, but we haven’t really focused on the ways in which implicit racial bias can potentially infest newsrooms. “Implicit bias impacts the way Black communities are treated across practically all sectors of life in America, from courtrooms to doctors’ offices,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of, tells The Root in a 2015 interview. “The media is no different, whether it be the use of derogatory terms like ‘thug’ and ‘animal’ to describe protesters in Ferguson and Baltimore, or the widespread over-reporting of crime stories involving Black suspects.”

Media bias not only negatively impacts Black America’s relationship with law enforcement and the judicial system, but also extends to how African Americans are perceived in society at large. Couple the findings of Harvard’s ‘Project Implicit’, which determined that approximately 88 percent of white Americans have an implicit racial bias against Black people, with a racially homogeneous media industry, and the toxic environment that leads to media injustice is thrown into stark relief. Contributing to embedding these stereotypes is that even as U.S. Census data show a growing number of nonwhites in America, fewer people of color are in decision-making positions at daily newspapers, television and radio stations, and online news organizations. “Television newsrooms are nearly 80 percent white,” according to the Radio and Television News Directors Association, “while radio newsrooms are 92 percent white,” writes Sally Lehrman, former chairwoman of the diversity committee at the Society of Professional Journalists. According to the American Society of News Editors, “The percentage of minority journalists has remained between 12 and 14 percent for more than a decade.” Due to the lack of color in newsrooms, stories about Black youths that don’t reinforce stereotypes, don’t involve celebrities and that tell narratives about everyday lives of Black people haven’t been a priority in news coverage. Publishers, editors, and producers who decide which news stories are important often don’t choose ones that humanize or contextualize lives of Black youths. In journalism, decision makers are largely white.

This lays the groundwork for an intrinsically racist media structure that, according to The Atlantic’s Riva Gold, means “news organizations are losing their ability to empower, represent, and—especially in cases where language ability is crucial—even to report on minority populations in their communities.” The way that journalism is on the open market means that stories are for sale, and what sells is stereotypes. Market-produced coverage will tend to misrepresent youth. Eileen Espejo, director of media and health policy at Children Now in Oakland, says producers across the media spectrum should seek ways to avoid stereotypes. “We don’t want there to be a quota,” she says. “But we want you to think more creatively about the roles that people of color can play, and break out of the traditional mold.”

Cover Image Credit: A.D. Higgins Media

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The Dangers Of Ideology And The Importance Of Free Speech & Debate

Universities are currently policing thought, indoctrinating students into a radical egalitarian ideology, and crushing dissenting opinion.

It’s truly amazing to consider how quickly the culture on college campuses has changed over the last several years. Once staunch defenders of speech and academic freedom, modern universities are quickly turning into ideological echo chambers, indoctrinating students into a radical left-wing egalitarian worldview, while crushing dissenting opinion.

The disturbingly Orwellian trend to quell free expression on campuses can best be illustrated by an event that unfolded last year at James Madison University’s freshman orientation, when “student leaders” distributed a list of 35 things that incoming students should avoid saying, including phrases such as “you have a pretty face,” “love the sinner, hate the sin,” “we’re all part of the human race,” “I treat all people the same,” “people just need to pick themselves up by their bootstraps,” among other expressions.

You might find yourself laughing this off as nonsense, an isolated set of events perpetuated by a select group of fringe radicals. Unfortunately, I can assure you that this is not an isolated incident. In addition to the slew of protests that erupted at universities last year in response to conservative speakers being invited to campus, these kinds of events are indicative of a larger, and more pernicious attempt by the radical left to control the linguistic territory.

At universities across America, the campus left now demands that people accept certain preconditions for discussion. Not the kind of reasonable preconditions such as “treat people with respect,” or “don’t resort to personal attacks.” Rather, It is demanded that you accept a neo-Marxian worldview, rooted in the notion that the world is nothing more than a power struggle between two groups of people: those who oppress and those who are oppressed. They demand that people accept notions like white-male privilege as axiomatic – not to be debated – and force people to acknowledge how they've been privileged by the current socio-economic structure.

Refusing to accept these presuppositions not only bars someone from participating in the discussion. To challenge an idea, such as white privilege, is to reject the fact that racism and bigotry exist in our society. To challenge the notion that being white necessarily means you must be more privileged than a person of color is akin to blasphemy. To push against the idea that certain classes of people in America are ‘victims of systemic oppression’ is to deny the humanity and individual experiences of people of color, women, and other minority groups.

The campus left emphatically espouse the notion that “the personal is political.” Thus they believe, unequivocally, that the primary responsibility of the University should be to ensure students from “diverse cultural backgrounds” feel safe – and by safe they mean “not having their identities challenged;” and by identities they are referring to their belief systems – the lens by which they perceive the word.

From the perspective of a radical leftist, to participate in debate is not seen as merely engaging in criticism of some abstract idea. To challenge an idea is to challenge someone’s identity, and to challenge someone’s identity is to debate their humanity.

And that is one of the axiomatic rules of the campus Left – you cannot debate someone’s humanity.

Indeed, with more than a fifth of college undergrads now believing its okay to use physical force to silence a speaker who makes “offensive or hurtful statement,” the future of the First Amendment itself is currently uncertain.

What exactly is so dangerous about this movement?

For starters, the freedom of speech has wrongly been construed as just another value that we in the West hold in high regard. But it is more than a Right that we share as citizens of this nation. It is, ultimately, the mechanism by which keep our psyches and societies functioning.

See, most people just aren’t that good at thinking. I don't mean this as a sleight against anyone, but we’re all insufficient and we have limited awareness of most things because we just can’t know everything. We rely on communication with one another to facilitate the process of learning about things outside our realm of knowledge. Often we have to, first, stumble around like the blithering idiots we are, espousing our biased beliefs in a public forum, and subjecting our ideas to criticism before we can properly orient our thoughts.

When the open exchange of ideas is allowed, you get the opportunity for multiple people to put forward their biased oversimplifications and engage in debate that raises the resolution of the particular question and answer at hand. Ideas are hit with hammers, combed for contradictions, inadequacies and even falsehoods. On an individual level, this kind of scrutiny sharpens the schema you use to navigate the world because other people can tell you things you can’t know by yourself.

Maybe it’s an opinion espoused, or a behavior that manifests itself, or a misconception you hold- in any event, subjecting your beliefs to criticism is, in the short term sometimes painful because we often learn things about the world and ourselves that are uncomfortable; but, in the long term, it is the only way method we have for moving closer towards something that more closely resembles truth – and if not anything true, at least something less wrong. As a result, the lens by which you look at the world becomes clearer.

Further, it is also through a collective process of dialectic that we identify problems in our societies, formulate solutions, and come to some sort of consensus.

Thus the right to say what you believe should not just considered as "just another value." It's a conical value, without which all the other values we hold dear, that people have fought so hard, in such an unlikely manner, to preserve and produce all disappear.

Without it, there can be no progress. Without it, individuals abdicate their responsibility to engage in the sacred process of discovery and renewal. Without it, we can’t think. Without it, there can be no truth. Without it, there can be nothing but nihilistic psychopathology. The end result is a populist that is not only afraid to say what they think, but that doesn't even know what they think because they haven’t been allowed to stumble around in the dark to find some tiny fragment of light.

Therefore, when we consider placing restrictions on the freedom of speech we must do so with the most extreme caution. By setting ridiculous preconditions for discussion, the campus left not only makes the process by which we solve the problems with our society more difficult, but also, if taken to its extreme, it can lead to totalitarianism.

In the wake of dozens of campus protests last year, universities are now in a position where they have to choose between two incompatible values: truth or social justice. The former will lead us to a greater understanding, while the latter can only divide.

Cover Image Credit: Teen Vogue

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Being An English Speaker Is A Privileged Status

Multi-lingual is the way to go

English is not the official language of the United States of America. But even if it was, a country apparently founded on the idea of valuing every citizen as a free individual could do a much better job welcoming people who do not speak English.

While it is natural that one language became the most common, and that this has simplified many processes, this same simplification is not afforded to those who do not speak the language.

Language barriers can reduce one’s job opportunities, meaning that even if one has degrees and plenty of experience, many jobs are simply not available. Many employers are unfortunately unaccepting of those who do not speak English fluently, and some even discriminate against those who do not natively speak English.

Education becomes extremely complex for non-English-speakers. On the student side, while many schools offer English as a Second Language programs, which is wonderful, it should be acknowledged that these students face more work and less support than students who are native English speakers. To add to this, if parents do not speak English, communication from the school or with teachers becomes harder to access.

One of the greatest privileges of English speakers lies in healthcare. They can be sure that they will find a doctor who speaks their language and can clearly explain their medical situation in that language. The same goes for psychologists, social workers, and others in the health professions.

This becomes especially complicated for those who speak languages that are not commonly studied.

A friend of mine who teaches was mentioning recently that while there are many students and families in her district who speak Arabic, there are so few people working in psychology, social work, or other support services who speak the language that for the district to access them is not only difficult but expensive.

This too often means that schools fail to offer students and parents speaking these less-commonly studied languages sufficient aid.

So what is the answer? To adopt English as an official language would be so wrong in our country full of diverse and wonderful languages, backgrounds, and cultures. Instead of attempting to make English more and more widespread, we should focus our efforts on ensuring that people in this country who do not speak English can receive all of the same support as those who do speak English.

Some of this lies in ensuring that systems and institutions offer resources in several languages and that employers will not discriminate against those who are not native English speakers.

Much of the solution, however, is on us, especially if we are students entering a people-oriented profession. In fact, in all professions, becoming multi-lingual does not merely open doors for us but creates a society where more people have access to the services they need.

Cover Image Credit: Maialisa

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