Evoking Racial Stereotypes

The use of technology is becoming more prevalent each and everyday. It’s uses range from teaching to making dinner reservations, but perhaps most importantly, it is used to communicate and inform. One of the most widely used forms of technology is television. Moreover, it is rare to find a household in America that does not own at least one working television. As of 2014, 87% of Americans receive their news from watching their TV. So what kind of effects do TV news stations have in our society?

While the convenience of television is undoubtedly evident, it’s the harm that tends to go unnoticed. Racial tension continues to rise across the nation due to misrepresentation of race in TV news headlines concerning nationwide events, and reactions of the misrepresentations.

TV news stations tend to over represent crimes committed by African Americans. Between the years 2010 and 2013, New York TV news stations claimed that 80% of suspected thieves were African American, yet only 55% of thefts were committed by an African American. Moreover, 72% reported assault suspects were black, but they were only responsible for 49% of those assaults.

The over representation of African Americans involved in crime creates a negative connotation with the African American population. Even if the name or race of a suspect in a crime is not mentioned, people tend to assume that the culprit is African American.

Headlines deliberately created by news stations add to the expanding gap between the white and African American society. The media portrays black victims and white suspects in two paradoxical lights. Phrases in headlines that accompany black victims include: “History of Narcotics Abuse”, “Suspended Three Times from School”, “Victim was a Gang Member”, and “Shooting Victim had Many Run-Ins with the Law.” On the other hand, white suspects are portrayed with more positive connotations. Headlines for them include: “Was a Devoted Mormon”, “Soft-Spoken, Polite, a Gentleman”, “Straight A Student”, and “Outstanding Blue Hills Student.”

The tone and diction of these headlines, and ones similar to them, give some sort of justification to the white suspect’s actions, while criminalizing the black victims. Society picks up on the messages conveyed through these headlines. They entice sympathy for the white suspect, while arguing that the black victims, essentially, had it coming.

In addition to negative representation through words, black victims are typically portrayed negatively through the images that the news stations choose to display. In many instances the victims are depicted as “thugs”. However, what the media doesn’t show are the pictures of the victims in their graduation attire, with their families, or in their service uniforms. This inspired the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.

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This movement challenged the question as to how the media would choose to portray the potential victims. It argues that there is more than one side to every human, and more to their story than what the media portrays.IfIWereGunnedDown-7

Funny or Die used this as the foundation for their satirical sketch, highlighting the issue of the negative portrayal through images in the media.This skit ensures that regardless of the type of trouble one finds himself in with the police, the right picture will end up on the news.

Artist EJ Brown took this as an opportunity to emphasize these negative perceptions, but turn them into something positive. He takes a mug-like photograph of African American men, however they are dressed in their graduation cap and gown, with plaques that contain their name and major.  

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All in all, racial stereotypes are a real and thriving issue in our nation. Whether or not the causes are recognized right away is questionable. However, TV news plays a large part in perpetuating these stereotypes across a wide variety of an audience; it will not cease to do so until all races are portrayed in an equal manner.

In a survey of three James Madison University students, all concluded that TV news is partially to blame for the ongoing racial stereotypes. They also agreed that reasonably, there is no solution to this problem.

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