Rushville Republican

Columns

July 23, 2013

Racism influenced by media content

With the election of Barack Obama to the presidency, many people think we can safely assume that we have overcome the worst problems associated with civil rights and/or equal rights of African Americans and other minority groups. Allegedly, the United States has created a place where anyone, with determination, can succeed.

How do we come to believe this equality is true? We see it on televised news reports and we read it in printed news articles. Media content convinces us through “effective frequency,” the number of times a person needs exposure to a message in order to remember, and to act upon, the message.

The recent trial of George Zimmerman created a lot of thoughtful dialog on the racial tensions still existent in the United States. When deemed not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., Zimmerman further becomes the media poster child for the discussion to continue. The frequency of the racially related messages connected to the news event is high, both pro and con.

Just as mediated-messages can have us believe we are all equal, ideas to reflect the opposite continue. In the Zimmerman/Martin reports, media content played-up the racial differences (history to skin color) of the victim and the shooter in order to glamorize the news reports and to ensure more reports will spin off the original.

Depending upon where you get your news, reports want us to sympathize with the unarmed Trayvon Martin who was walking along minding his own business until allegedly being stalked by George Zimmerman. Likewise, because Martin became confrontational and had a troubled past, news reports can portray him as the kind of thug/gangster we think about when we hear of random black-on-black shootings in cities like Chicago. Zimmerman is portrayed as a good man who is dedicated to keeping crime out of his neighborhood and who has mentored black kids in the past. He is also portrayed as a man of hate who stereotypes young black men to be punks or criminals.

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