Dear Next President,
I wish to see a change in this country. From the outside we seem highly problematic and although, we do have our difficulties, I believe in us. As a nation, we have overcome so many obstacles that have stood in our way, and we have all held hands during the most tumultuous tragedies that have struck our countries. We are supposed to be a nation that stands on equality, love and peace. For the most part, we are making great strides; however, some of these strides are backwards. It is in movies, on television, on social media, in our front yards. This is not just an issue that affects foreign countries, that affects far away places, it’s right here. A popular, and very critical issue that is prominent in the news, revolves around police brutality against black people. However, it’s a long standing problem that is often overlooked, and is a Misrepresentation of People Of Color In The Media.
Around 60% of Americans are exposed to the news in one way or another multiple times a day. Many people believe in television and the media (Getting Facts Right Key To Americans' Trust In Media). Imagine what happens when they see a young Black or Latino portrayed as a thug on the news, television or in the movies. It creates unnecessary fear, distrust and hate. When people of color are negatively portrayed in the media, this perpetuates negative, demeaning stereotypes which in turn ends up creating a strong bias against people of color. Nearly 25% of African Americans that were killed were unarmed, and in the year of 2015, 5.5% of executive-level television producers were people of color. It is a known fact that whoever owns mainstream outlets, controls who we see and how we see them. To further prove this, a paper was published in the Journal of Communication, it showed that television crime newscasts displayed more counts of African American crimes than any other racial groups.
In the media, there are many counts of inconsistency. Often whites are observed as committing a crime and either sentenced to probation or little to no jail time. The opposite holds true for blacks. Blacks commit the same crime and receive harsher sentences. For example, rape is unacceptable regardless of the circumstance. Brock Turner, 20 years old, was convicted of three counts of sexual assault, and sentenced to six months in prison. He only served three months before being released. In the media, the initial image shown of him to the world, was a very flattering picture displaying him in a black suit, smiling. Brian Banks was accused of rape at the age of 16, not only was he tried as an adult, but he was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Soon after the fact, Banks lost his opportunity of receiving a college scholarship and playing for the NFL. At a later time, it was discovered that he was innocent. To allow a more accurate comparison, Corey Batey who was a black Vanderbilt University student who also played sports, raped an unconscious girl and received 15-25 years in prison. That is a staggering difference. Two statements were released to the media, one from Batey’s father and the other from Turner’s judge, respectively. “His life will never be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.” There was an uproar concerning his comment due to the fact that he wouldn’t admit blame for his crime. Turner’s Judge stated that he “considered how much of an impact a state prison would have on an offender of Turner’s age, “I think you have to take the whole picture in terms of what impact imprisonment has on a specific individual’s life…”
In the year 2005, 33.8% of the 13,745 black youth, 50.1% of the 27,361 Latino youth and 9.6% of the 13, 976 were arrested for serious felonies and tried as adults (Blacks, Latino Youths Disproportionately sentenced in adult courts). If you take notice, more often than not, an adolescent Black or Latino will be referred to as a young man; while a white male of the same age will be referred to as a “kid”. It is that easy for the media to shape or soften a person’s image. Who would a person show more sympathy to, a person who relates to you, who walks and talks as you do, who lives like you, or, a person who looks nothing like you, who you can’t understand? Furthermore, would you feel more sympathy towards, a 16 year old being called a young kid, or a 16 year old being referred to as a grown man? As many experienced journalists and important media figures know, the way you describe someone will hugely impact their image to the world. To bring up another point from the second paragraph, crimes committed by Africans Americans tend to be displayed on the news more than those committed by whites. Additionally, many studies have shown that people of color are more often displayed as violent or dangerous, reinforcing known stereotypes even further. This leads to the few that are corrupt in the line of duty, to attempt to justify their brutal, unnecessary actions.
It is important to display a diverse and accurate range of characters and people in the media. There is a great imbalance of minorities that are shown in mainstream areas as compared to the amount of whites. Displaying multifarious individuals, affords the opportunity for communities to thrive. I would ask that this issue be explored further and I hope that it will generate positive discussion that will impact the nation in a promising way.