Word choice. Image choice. Coverage choice.
The decisions behind what we see, who we see, and how we see it, are largely shaped by those who present it to the masses.
In the age of struggle, the fight for freedom, the way the narrative plays can pander for or against the oppressed. This struggle is always constant; however, where the media chooses to cast light and shadows, is imperative, influential, and effective.
So stay woke. Here are methods media utilizes to alter our stories, our perspectives, and our psychological demeanor.
You remember the old saying: Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.
False. Words are the precursor to preconceptions, which ultimately lead to stereotypes. This, we all should know or at least see the danger in.
When the police were investigating the fatal shooting at the historical Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, all major media outlets were careful with their wording. White supremacists have long burned and bombed Black churches throughout history. Remember: in 1963 four Black children were killed when the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. This tragedy led to a call for action and ignited the civil rights movement. Knowing the deep-rooted history of this type of behavior, news outlets referred to Dylann Roof‘s behavior as a “hate crime” versus what it really was: a terrorist attack. Major media outlets referred to him as a “possible terrorist” and tried to paint him as a victim over his mental health.
However, in this situation with the Dallas Police Department and the alleged shooter, media has focused on Micah Xavier Johnson‘s alleged words of wanting to kill White people, particularly White officers, as well as calling him the “gunman.” There is no gray area for this Black man. He’s a killer, he had to be stopped, and, of course, now that he’s dead, words are being quoted from him, which he can neither confirm nor deny.
In 2015, Black people were killed at twice the rate of other races, including Whites, Hispanics, and Native Americans. Twenty-five percent of the African-Americans killed were unarmed. According to The Counted, Black people represent 12 percent of the total United States population, yet within the first six months of 2016, 24 percent of those killed by police are Black.
On average, six Black people are shot a week. How many of those stories do we hear? How many names go unsaid and don’t get a hashtag?
Six Black people a week.
However, five police officers’ lives are lost and people are calling it the worst attack against the police since 9/11. Seventy-two officers died on September 11, 2001. A life is a life, but this sensationalism in headlines drives fabricated stories, thoughts, and images into the heads of readers.
Even after both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were murdered within 24 hours of each other, senselessly, the media chose not to cover their lives in a focused, attention-grabbing manner, as they have chosen to do with these five police officers. Light has also not been shed on the fact that six Black people die each week.
I just had to state that fact one more time, because I’m wondering where is America’s sense of urgency in the protection and safety of Black lives.
When Eric David Harris and Dylan Bennet Klebold committed the Columbine High School massacre, the images the media released were class photos. Photos of them looking like “normal teenagers,” like individuals who would not be motivated to commit a crime.
Meanwhile, Trayvon Martin was shown smoking weed, showing off his grills — not as a student or a son.
The constant depictions of Black people portrayed by the media (which are rarely positive) create stereotypes for others and perpetuate hate.
These images have angered so many that it led to the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown in 2014, with people on Twitter questioning which picture of them would be used? People then posted photos of themselves in their best light (suits, graduation, etc.) versus just chillin’, partying, dressed down, etc.
In the case of Micah Xavier Johnson, they are painting him to be Black and militant, even though the Army veteran was “upset about Black lives matter” and “recent police shootings.” Media has shortened his name to Micah X. Johnson, most likely to place similarities in people’s mind of Malcolm X (again, word choice), and utilizing a photo of him in a dashiki throwing up the Black power first.
Micah X. Johnson? We were reminded by Shaun King that the media always uses first, middle, and last names when identifying shooters and calls out the media’s clandestine attempt at racism.
There’s a new kind of porn that is being popularized. It’s called trauma porn. Trauma porn is the constant viewing of trauma to specific sets and groups. In this case, Black people. We are constantly shown images of us being killed, shot at, disrespected, and neglected. Constantly viewing this over and over not only desensitizes viewers to the situation, but also is traumatic to our souls. We don’t have to watch these videos to be sensitive, educated, or in support against the plight of police brutality. Self-care is extremely important, so remember to take care of yourself and your mind.
Beauties, be careful what you consume and how you consume it. Take the time to clean up your timeline: unfollow racist individuals who spew angry words, don’t give into media propaganda that tries to convince you that your life does not matter. Focus on the facts and separate the fluff. Like Spike Lee said, “Wake up!”
VIDEO CREDIT: YouTube | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty