Column: Let’s talk about it

The misrepresentation of diversity in the media must stop

It is a known fact that many minority groups are systematically oppressed and unjustly violated not only in today’s society, but they have been since the beginning of American history. One of the causes of this institutional violence is the harmful portrayal of people of color, especially the Black and Latino communities, in the mainstream media.

With the growing influence of social media, more and more of the media is negatively recognizing the struggles of people of color. In this day and age, it is disappointingly common to find an inaccurate representation of people of color and separate treatment from their white counterparts. Oftentimes, ethnic communities are generalized and shown as economically inferior, dangerous and less educated than many white people.

According to a study done by a non-profit organization called Color of Change and Family Story in 2017, data presents that Black families represent 59 percent of the poor people in the media. However, at this point in time, Black citizens only made up 27 percent of the poor in America’s general population. Contrasting this, white families only represented 17 percent of the poor in the media, whilst they made up 66 percent of the poor in the country. This depicts African Americans in a negative light and displays to the public toxic stereotypes of this ethnic group. This already feeds into the horrible generalization of Black citizens due to decades of cruelty and lack of socio- economic opportunities.

Not only is this an issue in the American media, but it is a global issue. One example of this was displayed in an article written by “The Times, titled “Britain is the cocaine capital of Europe”. This piece proved to be problematic by the headline photo, which was a picture of a group of Black rappers. When reading further into this article, it states that the highest percentage of cocaine users are white with 93.6 percent of overall usage. “The Times” replaced the original headline after many people called them out for the racist undertones of the article, especially since the Black community only held 0.7 percent of overall cocaine usage. The stereotype that people of color come from “bad areas” and are heavily involved with drugs is well-known. To promote this idea is erroneous and harmful to the Black community. It’s irresponsible to highlight false perceptions based on crime rates that were created because of the lack of opportunities that people of color receive. High crime rates are often the direct result of higher poverty rates, and the ethnic minority groups have the highest rates of poverty in America. Even with that perspective, it is inexcusable to put that photo of Black men as a headline about cocaine usage, as it presents false information on a large media platform and criminalizes the Black community.

When speaking or researching this issue, an individual cannot find a non-biased source for a counter argument. Many people find it hilarious to see another Mexican gardener who is lazy and drinking beer on their favorite show, but it is a harmful stereotype about a ethnic group that makes up 24 million workers in the United States. The truth is that all the generalizations about minority groups create skewed perceptions to others about the community. 

In more recent news of this problem, a riot at the United States Capitol building broke out on January 6, 2021, resulting in large media coverage from many sources. It is known that currently five people are known to have died during the rioting. One of those people is Ashli Babbit, a 35 year old woman, who was shot by law enforcement. There are many articles and sources that are portraying her as a “patriot” and Trump supporters on social media platforms are calling her a “MAGA martyr”. She is depicted in “The Guardian” as a 14-year air force veteran, and people are empathizing with her death. This was not the case in the media when George Floyd was murdered at the hands of police on May 25, 2020. George Floyd was depicted as a criminal in countless articles, and many people argued that he had drugs in the system at the time of his death. What many did not know was that the “counterfeit” twenty dollar bill he used that caused his interaction with local officers, was not actually counterfeit. News sources and right wing sources made it seem as though he was heavily involved with crime, therefore villainizing him to the public, when it was untrue. With Ashli Babbit, a white woman, she comes across as a saint because she was fatally shot while trying to break down Capitol doors. However, many do not know that she does have a criminal record and according to “The New York Times,” she was carrying three restraining orders, along with charges of property destruction. It is sadly no surprise that the media would take the murder of an innocent Black man and try to find ways to justify it, or even make it seem like he was a bad person. When it comes to a right-wing, violent white woman, the media portrays a story of a martyr and a veteran. 

For decades, the media has criminalized diverse groups, and it has portrayed these groups in negative lighting. This must cease to be a reality, as it is incredibly harmful to the people who are victims to the mainstream media. The world cannot further progress with racial justice if people are educating themselves about minority issues with sources that are biased or relaying false information to the public. When a stereotype or inaccurate information is seen or heard in articles, film and radio, it must be called out and stopped.