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Imagine scrolling through social media – Facebook, for example – when you stumble upon a news article about the history of Chris Brown’s abusive actions towards women. This peaks your curiosity and interest, and you decide to take a look at it. From the moment you began reading, the article had already shaped your views and opinions about the singer. Without knowing the complete information, you created a rush judgement based on the information given to you. In other words, since the article labeled Chris Brown as an “abuser” to women, you also consider him one as well. [Prompts for making connections #1] That is the power of the media.
With the advancement of technology, mass media has spread throughout the world. Some say that with media, it has benefited us in many ways; but has it really? Although I acknowledge that media is certainly a great development, it also comes with negative aspects; those aspects are gated towards them imposing false perceptions of black Americans. In the Hate U Give, the media impacts the portrayal of black individuals, like Khalil, by reinforcing stereotypes and biases and also portraying them as dangerous criminals.
The media is a powerful weapon that plays a significant role in shaping one’s beliefs and opinions. In modern society, we incorporate some form of media in our everyday lives. Most of the knowledge we obtain about the happenings of the world is through it; in other words, we are constantly educated by media, with or without plausible knowledge. With that said, when the news labels a person of color as “dangerous” and a “drug dealer,” those with less interaction with black people and have less experience and knowledge of the real world would embrace the information given and be easily influenced. [Prompt for generating missing text #1] For instance, in chapter 7 in The Hate U Give, when Starr was behaving strangely in the eyes of her two friends, Hailey and Maya asked if the Khalil they heard on the news was the same one who Starr is associated with, and if that was the reason for her unusual behavior. Hailey disparagingly mentions Khalil as “the drug dealer,” and Starr realizes that was all the world’s perception of Khalil. This gives insight on how individuals simply accept the information given to them by the media with or without plausible knowledge.
With the media continuously presenting false representations of black Americans, discrimination, stereotypes, and prejudice arise from it enabling police to shoot indiscriminately, and creating a division among societies. In the documentary 13TH, Jelani Cobb, an American writer, mentions a kind of mythology of black criminality, implying that people “would say that the Negro was out of control, that there’s a threat of violence to white women.” He then later stated how the image of black figures, like Uncle Remus, was replaced by “Negro male evil that had to be vanished.” This was how many people perceived African American males to be. In addition to that, The Birth of a Nation, a profoundly important blockbuster film, portrayed the image of the African American male as cannibalistic, animalistic, and a rapist. This film was a profound cultural event that influenced the beliefs and viewpoints of many people to be stereotypical towards blacks. [Prompts for generating missing text #1] In correlation with this, The Hate U Give also implies how individuals stereotype blacks as a danger to society. In chapter 3, Angie Thomas, the author of The Hate U Give, incorporates Starr’s pit bull, Brickz, in the story. She states that Brickz was a baby most of the time, despite being known to be aggressive. Since pit bulls are deemed to be aggressive and dangerous, Brickz was stereotyped to be the same way. This was very similar to how Khalil was perceived to be before his death.
Not only will whites fall on the hands of media, black Americans will also be affected as well. When people of color are exposed to the prejudice assumptions of the white society, they tend to behave cautiously as to not live up to their stereotypes, much like Starr in her white dominated, elite school Williamson. In The Hate U Give, whenever Starr arrives at her school, she changes her persona and becomes “Williamson Starr,” to fit in with its white predominant world. She switches her way of speaking and holds her tongue so people would not perceive her as the “angry black girl.” Starr’s technique in switching her personas is a way where she can protect herself from the white society’s assumptions on black people.
On the other hand, as the media persistently portray blacks as dangerous individuals, the false perceptions of them would continue to proliferate. In the worst case scenario, people of color will begin to take those stereotypes and internalize them. When doing so, they sustain and strengthen the false representations through their behavior. In the documentary 13TH, it showed many clips of black people getting arrested. The interviewee, Malkia Cyril – an executive director and center for media justice – stated her claim about the portrayals of black people on the news. She said that they are overrepresented as criminals more times than is accurate. Then another interviewee, Baz Dreisinger – an educator and author of Incarceration of Nations – expressed her opinions saying, “I’m a big believer in the power of media full of these clichés that basically present mostly black and brown folks who seem like animals in cages.” She then goes to state that people could just turn off the T.V. and be grateful for prisons because without them, criminals would still be at bay. Black people are constantly incarcerated for false accusations and/or minor offenses and these have everlasting effects. Once they are released from jail, they are still labeled as criminals and are deprived of rights. This hinders them from becoming productive citizens in society. [Prompts for generating missing text #1] As a result, many of them are lured to do illegal activities to make a living.
Some individuals may interpret the media as a beneficial thing for it is a foundation where people can address concerns or to speak up for a cause. An example of this in The Hate U Give is when Starr used Tumblr and created a blog called The Khalil I Know which included photos and facts of Khalil. Her motive for this was to show who Khalil really was which was very different from what was portrayed in the media. [Prompts for making connections #3] Although it is a fact that media is important, we cannot deny that it can also be detrimental. It’s a source where stereotypes and biases of black people can spread and affect their lives. For instance, in The Hate U Give, when Starr’s family turns on the T.V. to watch the coverage of the riots and protests, a police appears on screen informing the world that One-Fifteen would not be arrested. The fact that the news made it sound as though Khalil was responsible for his own death, referring to him as a drug dealer and a gangbanger, and also claiming there was a gun in his car angered Starr. This example shows how the media and police want to justify One-Fifteen’s actions by continuing to attack Khalil.
The ongoing false representations of black Americans by the mass media can greatly devastate black communities and ruin lives. The media’s unwillingness to present more equitable viewpoints on people of color create discrimination – which allows police to shoot indiscriminately – prejudice, oppression, and a division among societies. The mass media is truly powerful and can shape one’s perspective, so it should be aware of its role and take that as an advantage to administer social change and to allow equality for all.
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