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Ignorance, Racism, Media and Today’s Society

An anonymous contributor to the Washington Post wrote an article in 2009 about “slavery and its legacy of present-day racism”, and from it found that he, “[a] foreigner, it seemed, had exposed an issue rarely faced here...of the nation's capital or elsewhere in the white media. [That] after almost two decades of living in the United States and complacently assuming that race relations were steadily improving, that so much of the 13 percent of America that is black still considers itself ignored, forgotten and unheard in the white world that surrounds it.” Media is censoring and ignoring the black population and in doing so is creating an illusion of racial equality.

Media’s portrayal of black society has huge implications for both the black community’s self identification and non black societies expectations of the black community. According to a study conducted in 2009, media consistently portrays black people as violent and aggressive, minorities as criminals and white people as the victims. (Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, et al) Alongside their overrepresentation as criminals in the news, blacks also are underrepresented as victims compared with their on-air counterparts (Dixon & Linz, 2000b). This portrayal would make anyone second guess a black person's intentions. Its forcing black people out of the invisible social circle and labeling him or her a dangerous person. “As black men...we always feel like we’re on trial, like we have to be on our best behavior. If your not you never know what’s gonna go wrong. You never know who’s gonna perceive you differently” This was stated in 2006 during a media project named , “Being a black man” in the Washington Post. “The image of a few black men now has been taken as who the black man is.The black man and manhood in our community needs to be defined. Defined by black men themselves.” Minority reporters account for less than 13% of the population working in the newsroom. How can a white reporter effectively portray black men and women if he or she has nothing but media to go off of. The black community has little to no voice in the media and therefore their story, their side never gets heard.

“There isn’t a single black person in Hollywood with any power, ...If i stood in a room with every major black star just talking, then I would hear the same things out of their mouths that are coming out of mine. Multimillionaires. The main thing you’ll hear is, ‘Whenever I take a project, I can’t get it done unless I have a white partner.’ In other words ….If Denzel Washington ...said ‘I want to do the movie of Hannibal’ They’ll say [Hollywood], ‘Yeah, well, we have to call in Al Pachino or the latest young Italian actor to play Scipio,’ the guy who defeated Hannibal many years after all his conquests...” stated by Mr. Dutton the director of David Simons movie series “The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood”. White Hollywood wants to portray a similar image as the rest of media. By giving black actors strong positions while still subconsciously giving viewers the message that white society still hold control. In doing so Hollywood is furthering media’s portrayal of black people being violent and aggressive, and piggy backing the victimized role of white people with the idea that they are stronger. “There isn’t black actor in Hollywood, on the star level or the lowest level, who doesn’t in private vehemently rail against the industry...The biggest stars. The hugest stars. Because somewhere along the line they are still reminded, ‘You know something? You’re a big star but you’re just another n*****.’ (Dutton)

‘ “ATTN: All white people report to the cotton fields at 4:00 AM.”-Thanks Obama’ This was just one of the texts received on Nov. 6th 2008 following President Obama’s elect. It was a chain message sent as a joke, one not taken lightly. Racist jokes similar followed all over the US throughout the week. “I watch with great interest announced by unnamed elected officials or comedians who in a moment of anger all of a sudden let loose with these attacks on jews or blacks or whatever it maybe. And you know that doesn’t just happen you know unless inside they’re very deep feelings.” Throughout Obama’s first campaign feelings of worry, uncertainty and pride were felt during elections, that a black man was in the running to become the president. Supporters were happy that a black man was finally in the running to gain power. Opposers were angered that a black man could gain such power. But when Obama won uncertainty reigned most powerful through everyones thoughts. Images of the assassination of MLK and John F Kennedy were very valid images in everyone’s mind. How can a black man have the power white people have controlled for hundreds of years and yet black people still be portrayed as lesser beings in media. “Racism would not allow a black president. Nor would a blackness, forged by America’s democratic double-talk, that was too ghetto and raw for the refinement of the Oval Office. Just beneath the humor lurked a resonant pain, the scars of history, an aching doubt rooted in the belief that “they” would never accept us.” Yet still today Obama is president and modern day media ignores it’s black community. “The irony of President Barack Obama is best captured in his comments on the death of Trayvon Martin, and the ensuing fray.When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together—federal, state, and local—to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened … But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.” (The Atlantic) The Trayvon martin case was poorly covered by media and caused such outrage that people started marching, they went out of their way to make this case important for media to cover. Obama’s reaction resulted in many American’s questioning the importance of this case. White society wondering why the president was including himself and his political power on this case unlike any other murder. His quote “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” questioned, is he saying it wouldn’t have been as important if this was a black on white crime. It’s a natural reaction, “It just came naturally, without thinking...If you [confront] them, they would say: ‘Hey my next door neighbor is black. My best friend is black.’ You could throw racism two inches in front of white peoples’ faces and they wouldn’t still wouldn’t see it...or they’d deny it and say you were the one causing the problems.”

Whether it’s the media, politicians, comedians or any American citizen everyone ignores that racism is prominent in media and society today. The black man needs to define himself just as much as the white man needs to let him define himself without stepping in and telling him who he is. Black society needs many more voices in media, without bias, who can tell the true story of black society. Most of all America needs to recognize and accept the prominence of modern day racism and address it rather than ignore it. Howard Zinn stated, “There is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long a time, as the United States.” In order to be able to understand America, and the mentality of the diverse cultures that reside in America one must weigh in racism and the impact it has had on the culture and social norms. Only then can America move forward towards racial equality.



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