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In the United States, people of color are oppressed based on skin pigment. Their access to education, employment, equal wages, opportunities, medical treatment, personal connections, and housing are disproportionate compared to their White counterparts. Not only do people of color not have the same privileges or powers; often they are perceived as being a threat by many Americans. This paper will investigate this stock story, identify what or who perpetuates these fears, and then discuss a transformative narrative addressing this issue.
My family, my husband’s family, and our extended family of aunts and uncles are all extremely conservative. The only exception is my younger sister and me; we are liberal. My husband considers himself to be an Independent. I first became aware of the far-right attitude and its underpinning of racism towards people of color in the mid-1990s. At this time, Rush Limbaugh had a successful radio show. He would also appear regularly on Fox News. I can recall offensive comments being repeated by many of my family and extended family. When asked, they would reply, “Rush said…” merely regurgitating what they heard. (Personal Conversation, Rismiller, R., Rismiller, C., Rodgers, R., Rodgers, A., Wisener, B., Wisener, B., O’Boyle, C., & O’Boyle, C.; 1990-2019). I was concerned these family members did not have their perspectives. They have never questioned the opinions of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. I wondered, who was Rush Limbaugh? Why was my family hanging on his every word and quoting it, as if it were factual? After listening to him, I questioned, why would they accept his hate-filled racist rhetoric? Was it because he referred to himself as, “America’s Truth Detector; the Doctor of Democracy; the All-Knowing, All-Sensing, All-Everything.” (Limbaugh, 2019) I checked the level of accuracy of Mr. Limbaugh’s statements. PolitiFact (2019) selected 40 statements of Mr. Limbaugh’s. His “PolitiFact Scorecard” rated 2 out of the 40 statements as being “mostly true.” Five out of the 40 statements were considered “half true;” and 33 of the 40 statements were varying degrees of false. Nothing was completely true. His loyal followers quoted him constantly. It is so disappointing to say this about my family. I believe this is a result of what McIntosh stressed, “whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege.” (1992)
By early 2000, my family watched Fox News from the time they awoke until bedtime; it became a constant sound in the background of their day. They were fans of Bill O’Reilly and the no spin zone. He “raised the idea of the ‘reasonable racist’ as he assured Fox viewers that their fear of black men is entirely reasonable, especially given their overrepresentation in prisons and jails.” (Mills, 2017, p.48) Bill O’Reilly also commented, “The root cause of poverty… is the dissolution of the African American traditional family.” No evidence supports his statements and research invalidates it. (Rodgers and Robinson, 2017) I do not believe racist hate can grow where hate does not first exist. I think that is a critical link to this issue.
The stock story has become the status quo in the United States. In Lee Ann in Bell’s typology, “Stock stories reproduce racism and white privilege; they are a set of standards, held in reserve, to explain the racial dynamics.” (2010, p. 29) By maintaining this dominant narrative, the White population can successfully oppress people of color. Both, the President of the United States and The Fox News Network predictably resort to this tactic. In Framing Ferguson, Mills explained, The Fox News Network, “present[s] much of its coverage through a prism of underlying ideologies, specifically those of white supremacy and racial capitalism.” (2017, p.40) To understand the programming of the Fox New, Jones (2012) examined Fox News and the Performance of Ideology. Jones described the programming of Fox News as “consistently dramatize ideological threats (e.g., Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, socialist, and BlackPanthers,) as well as, patriots fighting those threats (e.g., tea party rallies and Campaign rallies) through a variety of narratives, visuals, interviews, guests, soundbites, to link viewers to an ongoing struggle they can ritually participate in through their repeated viewing.” (p.182-3)It is important to understand, “People’s views are fed and shaped by the media.” (Gil de Zúñiga, Correa, Valenzuela, 2012, p.602) To understand this network’s programming, it is also necessary to identify their target audience. The individuals who trust and support Fox News, do so through a practice known as “selective exposure.” Stroud defines selective exposure as, “the process by which people deliberately select information channels that match their predispositions and beliefs.” (Stroud, 2007, p.342). The politically conservative part of the U.S. population are the targeted viewers of Fox News, based on this theory. Mills (2017) noted, “Republican voters consider the Fox News network as the most trustworthy” (p.40-41) due to their corresponding ideology. Gil de Zúñiga et al. concluded, “From a social justice perspective, liberals are more sensitive toward immigrants in need whereas conservatives have a higher motivation to punish the deviance and violations.” (2012, p.602) unifying transformative ways to discuss race helps with unmasking racial disparities and moving toward social justice.
Over-representing the people of color by the media, depicting them as criminals justifies their removal.
The stories not being reported by the media or the masses are the realities found behind the many White victimization crimes. Instead, in the current climate of the United States, the media reports “fake news” and “alternative facts” to conceal what occurred. These fabrications have real consequences when White people accuse Black males of ghastly offenses they did not commit. While the term “fake news” is a relatively new phrase, false statements against people of color are not.
Carolyn Bryant Donham is the woman who accused 14-year-old Emmett Till of sexually harassing her in a Mississippi store in 1955, which lead to young Till’s gruesome murder, confessed in 2007, “I lied.” The “Central Park Five” are the five black and brown teenagers who stood falsely accused of stabbing, assaulting, and raping a 28-year-old white woman in New York City’s Central Park. Following the forced confessions by the police, the teens were sentenced five to 15 years in prison. Donald Trump, then a well-known real estate developer, encouraged the death penalty in this case. These are only a few examples.
The facts of these crimes did eventually surface but, years and sometimes decades passed as Black men were wrongly punished and imprisoned. “Nearly 90 percent of rapes involve a victim and offender of the same race.” (Rainn, 2017) The US Department of Justice (USDJ) collects statistics on violent crimes, including based on race. The USDJ reports, “3 out of 4 prisoners serving time for rape and sexual assault are white.” (USDJ, 1997, p. 21) Specifically, “57% of perpetrators of sexual violence are White, and 27% are Black.” (Rainn, 2017). The users of illegal drugs are also well concealed. “Whites experienced drug problems on an average of 19 out of the 30 days while Blacks experienced drug problems on an average of 9 days out of 30.” (Rosenberg, Groves, & Blankenship 2016, p.138) The criminalized disparities between White and Black individuals using drugs accounts for, “The overwhelming increase in incarceration,
attributed to the drug war, has disproportionately impacted Black communities. Black
[people] were incarcerated 5–7 times more often than White [people] and accounted for
almost half of all prisoners incarcerated with a sentence of more than one year for a drug-
related offense.” (Rosenberg, Et al., 2016, p.132) In the Netflix original documentary, 13th, DuVernay explains, “1 in 3 black males will go to prison in his lifetime. Black males account for 6.2% of the US population and yet makeup 40.2% of the prison population.” (2016) DuVernay later clarified, only, “1 in 17 White men will go to prison in their lifetime.” (2016) Likewise, Cory Greene, explained, “if a story can be created it in the context where people are afraid, if you make people afraid, you can always justify putting people into a garbage can.” (DuVernay, 2016)
At this time in our history, America’s cities had a problem of drug abuse, so to criminalizes, drugs would be a war on communities of color. Lee Atwater, a campaign strategist to Ronald Reagan, recorded explaining the “Southern Strategy,” “Blacks get hurt worse than Whites.” Bryan Stevenson stated, “replacing the name of a person of color, with the crime they … that’s a rapist, that’s a murderer, that’s a sex offender, and that’s a gang leader; offers a new lens to accept the idea they are guilty and they should go to prison.” (DuVernay, 2016) “On the campaign trail in 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump described, “a nightmarish world for black Americans, rife with poverty, homelessness, and crime, and asked for their votes by saying, “What do you have to lose?” Outrageous, yes, but not surprising. If your impression of black families comes mostly from what you see in the news, then you might think black families have it worse today than when they were enslaved.” (Rodgers and Robinson, 2017)
What we learned by convincing Americas people of color present great threat, conservative Americans willingly exchanged “compassion for paranoia; their thoughtful opinions for manufactured outrage; and their empathy for hateful rhetoric.” (Hogan, 2015) Fox News and the President offer us the choice to either be the good guy, or the bad guy. “the true patriots,” or the liberal haters of this country.” (Hogan, 2015) The media reports on poverty by grossly exaggerating and depicting it as a Black issue. “They choose to feature black families in their coverage 59 percent of the time, even though only 27 percent of families living below the poverty line are black.” Equally, as hyperbolic, the coverage of welfare benefits, “60 percent of families portrayed were black, even though only 42 percent of families receiving welfare are black.” (Rodgers Et. al., 2017) There are real-life consequences by purposely misleading people. “Prior research has shown that when the news media constantly associates black people with crime, it increases racial stereotypes among viewers.” (Rodgers Et. al., 2017) If a person challenges Fox News, the response is a personal attack. The most important rule, “of sustaining propaganda is producing an evil adversary who opposes the in-group.” It helps make the “enemy” known. (Hogan, 2015) Trump has employed this strategy “us-versus-them” profoundly. The “us” group has the traits of, “honesty, righteousness, hard work, right religion.” The “them” the opposing group, are evil, untruthful, lazy, and barbaric.” This programming would be far less successful if, the tactics were revealed and the concealed story was known.
Unifying transformative ways exist for understanding race, which
helps unmask the racial disparities and move toward achieving social justice.
As Citizenship and Social Justice described, “The movement for racial justice needs more White Americans to get involved. And it’s our responsibility to help each other get involved productively.” (Greenberg, 2017) I love White people, despite their ignorance towards oppressing people of color. But, “what happens when their opinions manifest systematically in school systems and jail sentencing? What happens when people use those opinions to justify acts of hate?” (Williams, 2017) Brian Jones (2014), at the Socialism 2014 Conference in Chicago confirmed, “Race is a social fiction imposed by the powerful on those they wish to control.” Understand, my love for White people is my motivating factor in wanting to help bring about a change. If the love were absent, I would be left with indifference, which would be the absence of caring. Indifference would not promote achieving social justice. I also have a love for people of color, all the people of color. The divisiveness taking place in our country is creating a vast chasm between these two groups of people.
The dominant frame isolates and elevates White people as being the most powerful and privileged. The counter-argument to this dominant narrative is, while all lives do matters, the value of Black or Brown life in our nations is still reflective of the Constitutional compromise of 3/5ths; every Black (or Brown) person holds the value is 3/5ths of that of a White person, even in the present day.
The movement Black Lives Matter was developed to, “work towards a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise. BLM “affirm our humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” (BLM, 2019) “The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black Lives striving for liberation.” (BLM, 2019) The day when all people of color are valued as if they were White, is the day social justice will be achieved. But, “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past” (Faulkner, 1961).
There are so many forms of racial oppression that must be addressed if there is any hope at obtaining social justice. As discussed in this paper, “If our country hopes to close cultural
divides and create solutions that make all families strong, the media cannot continue to
perpetuate false narratives that cause so much harm, while allowing the truth of the economic and social forces that drive family dynamics to remain invisible.” (Rodgers and Robinson, 2017)
The News Media has an ethical and moral obligation to this nation to, “help the public understand the systemic barriers that impede well-being for so many families and the policies that could improve them.’ Rodgers and Robinson, 2017
What I have learned through this assignment and this course is, we need to strive for collective liberation. This means, we must consider how we can bridge the sizeable divide between conservatism and liberalism. Identifying and employing practices to advance discussions regarding race, racism, and racial justice in this country, is vital for the everchanging social and political atmosphere. These conversations imperative. In any communications strategy, we must identify those in opposition to us. When we consider discussing race, racism, and racial justice, this knowledge is acutely critical. We must always keep in mind, who is the audience (age, education level, conservative, race, etc.). We must research and be aware of the opposing opinions or counter arguments. Including keeping an aware of historical Whiteness and White Supremacy infused into every aspect of our lives. Consider, in what way does this influences people of color. Our nation is socialized by White establishments which in turn, internalize white superiority. One of our challenges as White individuals is, developing a positive White identity while acknowledging our society is built by white supremacy. “I abhor any form of superiority, but especially White superiority and all it stands for.” (Racial Equity Tools, 2013, p.1). Yet, I can no more remove my white skin, than a person of color is able to remove theirs. Being white leads to white society offering unearned privilege. The dilemma, that I and others who are White must resolve is the complexity of both being proud of my identity without avowing that my White identity is in any way superior to others or leading to oppression in people of color. (Racial Equity Tools, 2013, p.1). This will encourage less defensiveness allowing for a safe, respectful discussion. Racism means understanding that we are all individuals with our own personal experiences based on diverse and intersectional identities.
- Racial Equity Tools (2013). Developing a Positive White Identity. Retrieved from:
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