Quoted: Malkia Cyril on Children of Color and Media Imagery

If someone did a study of the subject matter of prime time television shows, I guarantee that the crime drama would come out on top. If young people of color are, as the study suggests, disproportionately watching television over dinner, they are probably watching a crime show. In shows about crime, courts, and the law- I wonder what races most of the criminals are? I wonder how it impacts children to watch police be the hero over and over again? I wonder… alas, I have seen no such recent study, so I can only speak from my experience. I am a “crime time” junkie, and I see are Black and Latinos over-represented as criminals in this so-called “post-racial” environment. Also, most crime dramas are rendered from the perspective of the police, narrowing the frame further. The over-arching message is that over-incarceration is the result of crime not inequity, and that crime is a fact of life that requires the brutal intervention of well-meaning police.

But TV isn’t the only problem. According to the study, young people of color spend more time than white kids listening to music too. Given the corporate takeover of the music industry over the last 30 years, the messages of crime time dramas are echoed in mainstream hip hop. Add to that the decline of journalism in general, and specifically the elimination of news on music stations resulting from the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and the inference is clear.

Young people of color are bombarded with images of their inhumanity, denied basic access to information, and excluded from the educational opportunity computer and Internet access brings. I think this lowers self esteem and raises their tolerance for inhuman conditions. But we also have power. Did you know that “ethnic consumers” (what telecommunications companies call people of color who buy their products) are the major buying power in the telecom market? By 2009, 1 out of every 3 dollars spent on telecommunications services came from U.S. “ethnic” communities. It’s up to us all, not just the few media justice groups among us- to fight back.

- From the Center for Media Justice, June 15