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How Race is Portrayed in the Media

by on April 18, 2014

One of the main points I took away from yesterday’s class was the discussion surrounding how race is portrayed in the media.  I believe it is important to realize the certain labels that are assigned to individuals by the media, whether or not it is intentional.

USA Today wrote an interesting article about the Trayvon Martin case, specifically about how the media went after the best story as opposed to the truth.  One of the passages said: ‘When it emerged that Zimmerman’s mother was Peruvian, some news outlets took to referring to him with the rarely used phrase “white Hispanic,” which is kind of like calling President Obama “white black.”‘

I find it interesting that once a person has some sort background that isn’t white, the media takes the chance to make it known that this individual isn’t just white.  Is there a specific reason behind explicitly stating someone’s race if they aren’t completely white?  This somewhat reminds me of the one drop rule in the sense that once someone isn’t 100% white, their background needs to be made known.


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  1. I completely agree with your post. I think this stems from the racism that is still integrated in our society. The stereotype that “to be Black in America” is the equivalent of “being a criminal,” is sickening. I would argue, that this idea can be applied to any non-white body. It’s almost more about seeming and appearing than actually being. People tend to judge based on perceived identity. George Zimmerman appears to be White. Our president appears to be Black.

    I found it interesting that Zimmerman was referred to as a “White Hispanic.” I believe that this was intentional. By adding “White” next to his “hispanic” identity, it almost reinforced his innocence, and fueled the White/Black tension this case sparked.

  2. I also agree with this post about how race is portrayed in the media and that it is better to be aware of the certain labels that are assigned to people than to be oblivious to these stereotypes. The only way, in my opinion, to move away from stereotypes in the media is to inform people that they exist.

    With the idea that the media takes any opportunity they can get to point out someone’s race, if they are not completely white, I think the reasoning behind this could partially be a way to get more attention and reach a bigger demographic of people by allowing a wider spectrum of people to relate to the individual in the story on a personal level.

  3. scuzzarellam permalink

    The whole “white hispanic” detail makes me think of the way that our country treated our census back in the 1800s. “Quadroons” were listed, as were “octaroons.” The rule was basically that one drop of African blood was enough for you to be listed as a “negro” on the census.

    It seems today our news sources want to treat criminals with the same kind of “one-drop rule.”

    Yet I have seen it applied in a variety of ways beyond race. Bisexual people or people who have maybe had one interaction with someone of the same sex in any capacity are immediately labeled gay. During the Boston Bombing case, so many Americans immediately harped on the dichotomy of the bombers race and religion. He didn’t look like the Muslims that Americans were familiar with.

    Americans have a hard time interpreting when things are “different” to their way of life. The news media is trying to sort us in to neat little boxes.

  4. This also ties into how we label the “illegal immigrants” coming into the country. Some of the readings look over why this is wrong, because it criminalizes a group of people trying to make a better situation for their family.

    I find it funny coming from a nation made up of immigrants; one argument is call the “illegal immigrants” undocumented citizens because that’s what they really are and not drug cartels that are poisoning America. Back in 2009, Homeland Security published an Unauthorized Immigration Report and can be viewed through this link to a Hiffington Post article about it:

    The New York Times have no problems with calling undocumented citizens “illegal,” well yes they did come to America through illegal means but that doesn’t give publications the right to demonize these groups that are trying to better their lives.

    Maybe more coverage should shift over to the process of getting a passport in Mexico, focusing on another aspect of the problem rather than labeling innocent people as criminals.

  5. I think this blog post is really interesting, and a topic of great discussion. Today, the color of our skin seems to be an illusion where we feel its necessary to categorize people into such clear-cut, basic categories…when really, its a gray area: there are intricate groups of people that’s deeper than skin color.

    People such as myself (after a day at the beach) look “Mediterranean” or having “olive skin”, when in actuality I am 100% Caucasian. My mother and father are white, as well as my grandparents and great-grandparents; I checked off Caucasian on all my college applications….but as soon as there’s any indication that you’re not entirely white, people will take that assumption and run with it.

    Relating this to the Zimmerman case, it seems like unless you are completely Caucasian, (and even then how do you define “completely Caucasian?”) It’s considered a positive or negative aspect to your character even when it doesn’t affect your particular situation in any way. Whether you view a person’s race in a positive or negative light, either way it’s a distinction as if it matters.

    Something we must come to terms with, as the next generation of Americans is that “white people” are no longer the majority. Being considered “of color” should no longer something to be seen as a superior or diminishing aspect to have, I don’t understand why people feel its necessary to explicitly state someone’s race if they aren’t completely white.

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