Does the Media Justify Racism?

By: A’Breya Young

On October 6th, the acting secretary of homeland security, Chad Wolf, released an annual assessment of violent threats in the nation. There were some alarming elements in this assessment, as Wolf addressed his concerns regarding the issue of White Supremacists’ use of violent and destructive tactics that they use to change racial ideologies in the United States. Additionally, in light of recent events, a Charlottesville police chief discussed how law enforcement agencies are aligning themselves with White Supremacy organizations, as protests for ending racial injustice continue. Now, are movements such as BLM the root of influencing white extremists to insight hate against minorities? Could the media’s coverage of minorities sustain the prevalence of racism in the “land of the free”? 

Mass Media

Racial, social, and economic “wildfires” continue to spread across the U.S. The public recognition in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery demonstrates how America’s historical legacy of condemning diversity and equal rights are still embedded in the nation. As the media consistently exposes racial injustices in America, it also gas lights anyone who is following along.

Many social scientists conduct studies to analyze the effects of the portrayal of minorities in the media. These studies reveal high rates of people of color being displayed as violent and dangerous in the news. Andrew Rojecki, a professor of Communications, Media, and Public Affairs, conducted a similar study to discover the role of mass media in the image of poverty. The professor concluded  that, “the imagery of television news suggests poverty is concentrated among blacks; so much so, that merely showing a black person on the screen appears to be a code for the involvement of poor people.” Undoubtedly, if the media can affect how society views African American’s economic status, the separate coverage of protest can affect how society views the characters of minorities. 

One Perspective 

The media appears to mostly show the looting and post-cringe-worthy interviews to represent what Black Lives Matter protests are like. Covering only the violent parts of protest may increase viewership, however, it causes public support to fall, drastically. Since the beginning of June to late September, adults who support the BLM movement have dropped from 67% to 55%. The media influences society to believe that all BLM protests are violent, when in actuality, 94% of protests are peaceful. Public influencers, such as government officials, feed into creating false perceptions by calling black protesters thugs. 

      According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a thug is, “ a violent or brutish criminal or bully.” The meaning of this term came as a surprise to me because nowhere in the definition did it bring up race; however, the usage of the word, “thug”, is racially motivated. It doesn’t stop here. After looking up the definition of the word thug, I decided to look at the images, finding many pictures of African-Americans, Hispanics, and non-white people. 

The public’s usage of the word continues to come up when addressing the looting taking place in the Black Lives Matter protests, which feeds into why the actions of White Supremacy organizations are slightly justified. 

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