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The Media’s Portrayal of Race

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The media influences our idea of racial minorities. The media tends to present racial minorities differently than they would whites. Newscasts tend to display minorities more as the crime suspects. The language that is used by the media to display racial minorities/people of color is what the audience (people of America) uses to refer and or influences their interpretation of people of color.

African Americans who are presented in the media are inclined to be shown as poor, violent, thugs and or criminalized. On television the few black actors that are on TV often carry Eurocentric beauty features which influences people and encourages them to think that this beauty standard is beautiful, and the darker skinned people who are portrayed are portrayed poorly. Which is a problem because there should be more actual people of color on screen, the audience sees these few actors on screen portraying “black people” this is how they think black people actually are. Tracy Jan a writer for the Washington post said, “If all you knew about black families was what national news outlets reported, you are likely to think African Americans are overwhelmingly poor, reliant on welfare, absentee fathers and criminals, despite what government data show,” (Jan 2017) When the public is exposed to these stereotypes, they are more likely to have these negative assumptions of black people because that is what they are exposed to.

“Blacks represent 37 percent of criminals shown in the news, but constitute 26 percent of those arrested on criminal charges, the study said. In contrast, news media portray whites as criminals 28 percent of the time, when FBI crime reports show they make up 77 percent of crime suspects.” (Jan 2017) This proves my point that this is how the news warps things from what they really are, when more black people are being shown on the news as criminals than whites, when whites are the ones committing more of the crime that says a-lot. There is rarely stories on the news about white men committing crimes but yet why are no stories of them being shown? When the statistics show they make up majority of the crime rate. This is why we don’t profile whites as criminals because we don’t see them on the media or news being shown as criminals.

Latina women are shown on the media as “spicy” attractive curvaceous women with thick sexy accents and feisty, a perfect example of this is Sofia Vergara and Jennifer Lopez. This is an issue because men have these unreal expectations of these women because of how the media portrays them and it is degrading. Latino men are shown as drug dealers, rapists, women beaters, gang members, thugs and once again criminals an example of this would be the series called “Narcos” it is literally a show about Mexican drug lords. The news shows Latinos also as dangerous criminals, it shows us that we should fear latino immigrants because they are stealing our jobs raping our women and coming to America to commit crime and acts of violence. When in fact most immigrants come to America for a better life and to look for work and do the menial work that majority of Americans would never do.

Majority of the Latinos that are being put on the news are not the ones who have accomplished things from coming to this country but instead it’s headlines about Immigrants/Latinos who are gang members, drug dealers and murderers. In a news article posted by USA today the headline of the article said this, “Police are charging a Mexican immigrant with first-degree murder in the death of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts.” The way the headline emphasized the fact that he was a mexican immigrant, not a man but a “Mexican Immigrant”. Which was later brought to president Trump’s attention which then only added fuel to his point on immigrants and said this “You heard about today with the illegal alien coming in very sadly from Mexico,’ he told the crowd.” (BBC) He said this as if having this tragedy is only proving his point, when many of American citizens had committed murder and those don’t make news headlines but the moment one immigrant does this automatically people assume all immigrants are like this. Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said in a statement, ‘We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can to bring justice to Mollie’s killer.’ (BBC) Once again now all immigrants are now being portrayed as “predators” amongst us.

When the public believes what the news and media is saying about people of color, they are more inclined to fear them and treat them differently and make decisions based on those opinions. “Such stereotypes fuel political rhetoric and inform public policy,”( Jan 2017) The stereotypes used only make political debates seem more believable and true. If these stereotypes are what is used to inform the government and public they will then make their decisions based off these stereotypes.

An example of this, is the travel ban president Donald Trump had put on Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. His reasonings for putting this ban was, “the plans were about keeping America safe from terrorism and that it was not a ban against Muslims” (BBC) Many people had disagreed because the majority of people who lived in the six countries on the list are Muslims. Trump made this decision, the people made the final decision to have this passed because of their fear of thinking that all muslims are terrorists and that is why this is a problem. The media and news gives these people a bad reputation and by doing so they are treated differently because they look differently. When the San Bernardino shooting happened the media made it seem like it was an act of terrorism although it was not even confirmed yet, they assumed because the people were muslim that it was a terrorist act. This is a headline from a New York Times post “F.B.I. Treating San Bernardino Attack as Terrorism Case” (New York times) the terrorism label is only applied when the perpetrator is muslim and this is why people feel like muslims are a threat because the news shows them all as terrorists.

In the article “Writing Like a White Guy” the author discusses his own personal experience with racism being a person of color, of Indian descent he discusses the type of racists he encounters and says the worst are the ones who are oblivious “the one who believes race isn’t an active factor in her thinking, isn’t an influence on his interacting with the racial Other,”(Bolina 101). Society is taught a certain way they make certain assumptions, stereotypes on these people that they think are valid, true. When they think, they have these subconscious racist thoughts which can affect/influence their interaction with other races.

As I referenced earlier Trump is alienating people of color without any remorse because he believes what he’s doing is right because he is keeping America safe but in reality he’s dehumanizing people of color. “It’s only in America that such an immigrant discovers any brown-skinned body can have “camel fucker” or a “sand nigger” hurdled at him from a passing car- a bit of cognitive dissonance that’s been directed at me,”(Bolina) This is an example of hate speech, he has personally experienced hate speech being used against him from people who dislike him because of the color of his skin, because he looks a certain way and made assumptions based off of these influences in the news/media. This is why this is a problem when you see a certain race being portrayed a certain way in this case “terrorists” you don’t really understand the seriousness of the media showing people of color this way until you hear things like this come from people’s mouth, when the media does this they are encouraging people to HATE these people, and hate speech is only the tip of the iceberg of problems that any person of color has to endure, some people may take their assumptions, stereotypes and “beliefs” so far to assault someone or even murder them and that is why this is a problem.

In the article “Words as weapons” the author states the 5 criteria in which words can spark violence, and this is one of them “A speaker can have great influence over a particular audience, while certain audiences may be especially vulnerable because of economic hardship, fear, or existing grievances,”(Benesch 94). In this case the speaker is the news/media and the audience is the people of America. The reason why they have a great influence over the audience is because the news that is where we go for information, we are vulnerable because we are ignorant and naive enough to believe what they are saying is true because that is all we are being shown.

In conclusion, the type of language that is used by the media and news that portrays people of color influences society’s perception of them, and fuels political rhetoric including people in high power like the president of the united states, his perception of the people of color influences his decisions and also influences societies decisions, assumptions and beliefs.

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