Tag Archives: media

Beyond superficial debate: How can we change the way the media frames racial issues?

by guest contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

Why was Don Imus vilified and fired for calling a group of young, black athletes “nappy headed hoes,” but able to return to the airwaves months later provoking barely a stir? Why is Michael Richards’ racist tirade in a Los Angeles nightclub all but forgotten? Why have these incidents, and others like the Duke University case, failed to generate any long-lasting, helpful dialogue on race in America? The Washington Post attempts to answer these questions in a thoughtful, though conservative-leaning, article entitled “Reduced to the Small Screen: Incident, Reaction, Forget, Repeat–Formulaic Entertainment Replaces Serious Discussion on Race.”

And with each episode in the long-running Saga of Race in America, a string of characters lines up to react to the latest eruption. The media records them as they take up positions in the Great Race Debate. The media stokes the discussion as self-proclaimed black leaders scream outrage while opponents — often white, sometimes black — scream counter-outrage. The “colorblind” wonder why we all just can’t get along. And the rest of us watch from ringside, rooting for one camp or another, sometimes in silence.

Then inevitably, the media turns away. The outrage fades. The talking heads go silent. The curtain falls, and the debate recedes to wherever it goes until the next eruption.

Which raises the question: Has the debate over race become a melodrama? A bad television soap opera? A theatrical stage play with complex issues boiled down to a script? Entertaining words thrown around simply to satisfy the 24-hour news cycle, the blogosphere?

Are we doomed to debate racism over and over — stuck in purgatory, a cycle of skirmishes, of shock and awe, with nothing gained, nothing learned?

Or is there a way to change the ritual, to go deeper into our national consciousness and get off this merry-go-round?

I have asked myself that question often and I believe the answer is complex. The Washington Post article does a good job of tackling many of the reasons the race debate has become so superficial. Two factors that I believe play a key role in defining talk of race are 1) the way most Americans consume media and 2) the limited number of voices invited to participate in the mainstream racial discussion.

I’m a media junkie. I consume a variety of media, both mainstream (local and national TV news; local and national newspapers; political, news and cultural magazines) and alternative (blogs; progressive radio, and even though it makes my blood pressure rise, right wing radio). It helps that, as a public relations professional, I am paid to pay attention to the media.

Most people I encounter on a daily basis don’t have the time or inclination to do what I do. Most people I encounter get their information from limited sources, including a mainstream media owned by a narrow group of people–a mainstream media that is no longer The Fourth Estate, but a series of corporations operating with profit as their main mission. It is a media that courts controversy and, more than ever, believes “if it bleeds, it leads.” It is a media that traffics in stereotypes and narrows race to black and white. It is a media that doesn’t have time for nuanced and in-depth discussion about anything–not war, not healthcare, not poverty and not race. So, it is no wonder that the authors of the Washington Post article write: Continue reading

The Boston Globe highlights bloggers of color

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Check out this great Boston Globe article about bloggers of color who are fighting racial stereotypes and getting their voices heard in the mainstream media. The reporter spoke with me, Manish from Ultrabrown, and Baratunde from Jack and Jill Politics, and name-checked a whole bunch of other blogs: Angry Asian Man, The Angry Black Woman, Guanabee, The Unapologetic Mexican, Latino Pundit, Ultrabrown, Zuky, Sepia Mutiny, The Field Negro, Too Sense, and Resist Racism. Congrats everyone! :)

Here are some excerpts:

These intellectual challenges to mainstream and other viewpoints are some of the opinions Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander-American, and black bloggers are exposing on a growing number of sites focused on social, political, and cultural issues…

These sites – many of which launched in the past year, although a few are older – have become places where people of color gather to refine ideas or form thoughts about race relations, racial inequities, and the role pop culture has in exacerbating stereotypes. The writers often bring attention to subjects not yet covered by mainstream media. Some of these blogs first sounded the alarm about blacks receiving harsher jail sentences in the court system, an issue spotlighted in the Jena Six, Genarlow Wilson, and other cases. Vij was among the bloggers writing about the racial offensiveness of the accented South Asian character Apu in “The Simpsons” just before the big-screen version of the television show came out this year…

As bloggers make these corrections, they’ve become fresh voices in the very places that they feel ignore them. The subjects they write about sometimes become mainstream media stories. Vij and bloggers at Jack and Jill Politics and Racialicious, a compendium of links and original content about race issues, have appeared on CNN, the BBC, and NPR, and in The New York Times. These young people offer alternative opinions at a time when stories about race often result in sound bites from Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson…

Posts from Jack and Jill Politics and Ultrabrown occasionally appear on Racialicious, a blog that offers links to thought-provoking news stories or blog items about race and posts on various subjects from its 25 guest contributors and three regular contributors. The New York City-based creator of Racialicious, Carmen Van Kerckhove, launched the blog in 2004 as Mixed Media Watch. Her goal, as a biracial woman of Belgian and Chinese decent, was to spotlight how the media portrays mixed-race people and interracial couples. Last year Van Kerkhove relaunched Mixed Media Watch as Racialicious, because of her readers’ strong responses to posts analyzing race and pop culture. Now in addition to posts about racism in the video game industry or recent examples of the use of the noose for racial intimidation, Racialicious includes items analyzing TV shows such as “Prison Break” and “Heroes.”

Pop culture, says Van Kerckhove, 29, “really is instrumental in shaping our view of race. It helps introduce us to and helps confirm a lot of racial stereotypes. As TV shows and movies have become more diverse in terms of the race and ethnicity of the characters and actors, I think it becomes necessary to analyze that and not to uncritically celebrate the fact that there is more diversity on TV.”

Denial and Delusion – Why Public Conversations About Race Fail Before They Begin

by Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

I am done, done, done.

I intended to work on my follow up to Internalizing Stereotypes.

Key word: intended.

However, the sequel is not happening this week.

The sequel is not happening because my mind is cluttered with two articles that came to my attention in the last half of the week.

The first was a blog post on GameDaily Biz, a site and blog dedicated to the video game industry housed on Game Daily. I peruse GameDaily Biz every few days to find news and trends to discuss in the online gaming magazine Cerise. In addition to writing first person and opinion pieces about gaming, I also write their Gaming in the Media column. So, when I came across a “Your Turn” first person post on GameDaily Biz by Chris Mottes, CEO of Deadline Games, I was intrigued to see what he had to say.

Particularly because the post was titled, “That’s Racist! The Unjust Crusade Against Video Games.”

The article begins:

Members of the media often attack video games for being racist, sexist, mean-spirited, callous, unpleasant, insensitive, or just generally nasty. As a developer, I find most of these claims not only a touch insulting but also extremely tenuous, and in the majority of cases unfounded.

Fascinating. The majority of these cases are unfounded? As a black, female console gamer, I can definitively say that many of the video games I play (and enjoy) can be considered both sexist and racist. Sexism is rampant, particularly when you consider character design, costuming, and forced gender roles in play. Most female characters are designed for maximum sex appeal, relegated to damsel in distress roles, or physically limited and/or forced to contribute to the game in a limited capacity. Major female characters in RPGs tend to be healers or magic-users, normally devastated in battle by a few hits from a stronger male character. While there are a few standout exceptions – Samus from Metroid, Joanna Dark from Perfect Dark, and the oft-debated Lara Croft – most women in video games are side characters.

To illustrate the issue of racism, let’s play a little game. Off the top of your head, name 5 black video game characters. Now, exclude any characters that were not main characters. Now exclude any that appear in a sports game or hip-hop based game. Finally, exclude any characters that embody stereotypical representations of African Americans. (Yes, that means excluding CJ from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.) How many are left in your list?

Or, let’s look at Asian Americans in video games. Again, off the top of your head, name five Asian video game characters – you can use both side characters and main characters. (For this one, we will exclude RPGs from the discussion since character ethnicity a murky subject). Now exclude fighting games. How many are left on your list?

Name five Latino game characters. Can you? I cannot – I have a vague memory of heavy accents in certain video games, but I am not able to bring up one latino character that wasn’t in a historical game like Age of Empires (which technically means I remember playing the game as an Incan and as a Spaniard). For those who can, what stands out about these characters? Continue reading

Michael Eric Dyson rocks!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I just had to throw a quote from him up here on Racialicious. This is his take on the blame hip hop direction that the Don Imus media circus has taken, from Salon’s Audiofile blog:

So the big point really isn’t to score rap for its vicious sexism — if that were the case the mainstream white media would have been on the bandwagon a long time ago. It is to partially exonerate a racist and bigoted representative of its own ranks, in part to exonerate all those other white journalists who either appeared on his show or stood by in silence while he had his way with whatever vulnerable group he chose to attack that day. The white media has to scapegoat rap now to cleanse its hands of the blood — and to wipe clean its conscience — of the suffering of citizens, like black women, it never cared enough to oppose before Imus put his foot in his mouth. Black women are a footnote — and an afterthought — to the controversy.

Thus, all the hand-wringing and feigned horror over how young black males could ever speak about their women in such hateful tones is the delayed reaction of the partially guilty — not through active discourses of assault as with Imus, but through the passive indifference to the plight of women they didn’t care enough about either to learn their condition or to cry out over it on their airwaves. As we’ve seen in the last week, when white media elites are so inclined, they can use the airwaves to tell stories of black life with far more time and resources in one week than they’re used to spending in a year. If black women matter, they can’t just matter when white men mess up.

It is typical of a media that ignores black life that it also ignores the outrage black folk have felt about rappers spitting invective toward its women since the early ’90s. And it’s equally apparent that the white media has no interest in the fierce debate raging within hip-hop about its future and soul. Hundreds of “conscious” rappers who extol the virtues of black female identity — and who indict the materialism and misogyny of rap — can’t get a word in edgewise on white or black media outlets, from radio to television. There’s a blackout of conscience-driven, racially astute, politically motivated rap that contains progressive gender messages, in large part because such rap also contains poignant and prophetic indictments of white supremacy and social injustice, themes that even ostensibly liberal white media is not ready to hear, air or acknowledge. So it closes the mouths of such progressive artists, with the consequence that the women-hating harangues of hip-hop artists drown out the considerable complexity of conscious artists. It does so with the complicity of the very media machine that now wants to point fingers at only half the equation — the rap artists who pour acid on the heads of black women — while failing to self-critically indict its very participation in this unseemly affair. That is utter and naked hypocrisy.

Now that we know the Virginia Tech gunman was Asian…

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Now that we know the Virginia Tech gunman was Asian, I’m bracing myself for the inevitable racist remarks we’ll hear about him. After all, he’s a certifiable bad guy — nobody is going to watch their words. The goal will be to paint him in the worst light possible.

Also, anyone wanna bet that some dude on Fox News will manage to tie this in to illegal immigration somehow? I could see them investigating his family’s immigration status or something like that, and use it as further “proof” of the yellow/brown peril facing America.

Radar Online’s list of racial stereotypes in the movies

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Radar Online just published a great list called From Borat to Mammy: The top ten stereotypes in cinema history:

Hollywood has a long history of racial insensitivity‚ÄĒstereotypes are its stock in trade. But, as with Borat, watchdog groups are too quick to sound the alarm when things get out of hand. Unfortunately for film-goers with less-fragile constitutions, some of the most deliciously offensive characters in cinema have been relegated to the dustbin as a result. Where were the Golden Globes when Long Duk Dong dropped his L’s in Sixteen Candles? It just doesn’t seem fair. Come with us on a tour of Hollywood’s walk of shame, where we gaze, slack-jawed, upon the ten best stereotypes ever captured on film.

(Hat tip to Angry Asian Man.) So who’s on the list?

Long Duk Dong
From: Sixteen Candles, 1984
Played By: Gedde Watanabe
Groups Offended: Asians, exchange students

Speedy Gonzales
From: The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, 1981; various Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies animated shorts
Voiced By: Mel Blanc
Groups Offended: Mexicans, mice

James ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb
From: The Silence of the Lambs, 1991
Played By: Ted Levine
Groups Offended: Gays, transsexuals, lesbians, serial killers, cannibals

Dick Hallorann
From:The Shining, 1980
Played By: Scatman Crothers
Groups Offended: African-Americans, mystics, Lady Cleo, Dionne Warwick, most of the Psychic Friends Network

Jar Jar Binks
From: Star Wars: Phantom Menace, 1999; Attack of the Clones, 2002; Revenge of the Sith, 2005)
Voiced By: Ahmed Best
Groups Offended: Jamaicans, nerds

From: The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001
Played By: Kumar Pallana
Groups Offended: Indians, hipsters

Grand Vizier Jafar
From: Aladdin, 1992
Voiced By: Jonathan Freeman
Groups Offended: Arabs, street urchins

From: The Passion of the Christ, 2004
Played By: Mattia Sbragia
Groups Offended: Jews, Jews for Jesus

Mr. Yunioshi
From: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961
Played By: Mickey Rooney
Groups Offended: Asians

From: Gone With the Wind, 1939
Played By: Hattie McDaniel
Groups Offended: African Americans

PBS ‘NewsHour’ not so diverse

by Jen Chau
PBS NewsHourEver notice how experts and commentators in the media are usually white (conservative) men? Yes, not so surprising/groundbreaking. Well, PBS’ ‘NewsHour’ is being blasted by advocacy org Fairness and Accuracy in Media for just this kind of lack of diversity. After all, there are people of color who know what they are talking about too! [sigh] ūüėź

FAIR’s researchers found minorities used as sources 15 percent of the time, even though they make up 31 percent of the population. Hurricane Katrina sources, mostly victims of the flood, make up about half of those sources, he said.

In stories about the Iraq war, people who advocate a U.S. withdrawal were outnumbered by more than five-to-one, the liberal group said. Its researchers said they couldn’t find a single peace activist had appeared on “NewsHour” during the six months studied.

Those stats are crazy (but not surprising). And I love that the PBS spokesperson blames the heavy white male, Republican slant on the fact that we have a Republican White House and Congress. Too easy. Weak.