Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Race and Media

As horrible things happen in this world, I try to process them and my feelings about them, lest I get bogged down in the sorrow and hopelessness that I feel often for society. Originally, I was going to write about depression and suicide, but I'm going to save that. I've been stewing on something for a while that's been bugging me, and some articles I read on my lunch break made me think more on it.

If you haven't heard about the recent shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown, it's another instance of police violence against a young African-American. While this violence is disturbing, that's not my focus here. It's how things are going down in the media. In this article, we look at how he was portrayed by the media, throwing a peace sign that's depicted by the press as a gang sign. Racial profile much? It's spurred an interesting movement in social media with the hashtag "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown," encouraging young people of color to post two photos to guess which one the media would show in a similar circumstance. It's a fascinating project, and reminds me how quickly the media is to sensationalize things. This bright young man was gunned down just before his first day as a college student, yet he, the victim is being depicted as a thug. What the actual fuck, media?

It made me think about the recent death of a local teen here in Maine. Immediately, the headlines struck a sour note with me: "Winthrop girl with 'everything going for her' dies suddenly." She wasn't gunned down-- it was a result of a pulmonary embolism which is horrible enough-- but as I looked at her blonde hair, light eyes, and white skin, I wondered "why is this a top news story when people--even children--  die every day?" I'm not speaking poorly of the dead; I didn't know this girl or her family and to lose a loved one, regardless of circumstances, is terrible. But it still made me think.

If she had been a black girl under the same circumstances, would it be news?

Maine is a pretty whitewashed state, racially. We have a pocket population of ethnic Somalis in the Lewiston area, but aside from that, where I live in Central Maine, the population is pretty damn white. There were two African American kids in my school growing up, and one died my junior year in a car accident. So if the young lady who met her end to soon was African American (or a darker Hispanic, or Asian, or Middle Eastern, etc.), would there have been as much press? Would there have been immediate movement for fund raisers to help the family? Would traffic have backed up on major roads outside of the funeral? I seriously doubt it.

Issues of race are still prevalent in the United States in 2014, and it's terribly depressing.

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