Main Street me­dia re­fuses to talk about Black Amer­ica

South Florida Times - - OPINION -

“This is the press, an ir­re­spon­si­ble press. It will make the crim­i­nal look like he’s a vic­tim and make the vic­tim look like he’s the crim­i­nal. If you aren’t care­ful, the news­pa­per will have you hat­ing the peo­ple who are op­pressed, and lov­ing the peo­ple who are do­ing the op­press­ing,” says Mal­colm X.

The ma­jor­ity of news­rooms in Amer­ica are run by whites, and it is no sur­prise that only cer­tain kinds of black sto­ries are be­ing pub­lished. Most white peo­ple don’t un­der­stand that im­plicit racial bias is part of their DNA, and any­thing as­so­ci­ated with black skin is con­sid­ered neg­a­tive.

Sys­temic racism is prac­ticed ev­ery­day in main street news­rooms, and sub­con­sciously, it is never dis­cussed or given a sec­ond thought. Ac­cord­ing to the ra­dio and tele­vi­sion news di­rec­tors as­so­ci­a­tion, tele­vi­sion news­rooms are 80 per­cent white, and ra­dio news­rooms are 92 per­cent white. The Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of News Ed­i­tors and/or news­pa­per news­rooms are 85 per­cent white.

The di­ver­sity in th­ese news­rooms has re­mained the same for over a decade, and in the last few years, more black and His­panic mem­bers in news­rooms are los­ing their jobs. In the 1990’s, there were over 400,000 jobs in news­pa­per news­rooms, and in 2015, there were less than 200,000 po­si­tions. Ra­dio and tele­vi­sion news­rooms are also be­ing im­pacted, and many man­ual la­bor jobs are be­ing re­placed by com­put­ers and dig­i­tal pro­gram­ming.

With fewer em­ploy­ees to cover the news, news­rooms are work­ing in a bub­ble, and me­dia man­agers are look­ing for sen­sa­tional head­lines, and ex­cit­ing break­ing news.

”The Amer­i­can peo­ple are be­ing forcefed a me­dia diet of stereo­types and mis­per­cep­tions, and the of­ten over crim­i­nal­iza­tion of African Amer­i­cans through lan­guage, images, and omis­sions. Me­dia in­jus­tice leads to both the era­sure and crim­i­nal­iza­tion of marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties,” says Sa­van­nah West – writer at Odyssey.

Di­ver­sity is no longer a ma­jor is­sue in news­rooms, and mangers are look­ing for sto­ries that sell. Most mangers have be­come de­sen­si­tized to one di­men­sional por­trayal of black peo­ple in Amer­ica.

Me­dia bias has im­pacted the way law en­force­ment and the ju­di­cial sys­tem treats the en­tire black com­mu­nity. If you turn on the tele­vi­sion, the ma­jor­ity of blacks in the news are crim­i­nals or so-called thugs. Th­ese stereo­types re­main in the mind.

“Im­plicit bias im­pacts the way black com­mu­ni­ties are treated across prac­ti­cally all sec­tors of life in Amer­ica from court­rooms to doc­tors of­fices” Rashad Robin­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Color of Change.pac tells the Root. “The me­dia is no dif­fer­ent, whether it is the use of pe­jo­ra­tive terms like “thugs and an­i­mals” to de­scribe pro­tes­tors in Ferguson and Bal­ti­more, or the wide­spread over-re­port­ing of crime sto­ries in­volv­ing black sus­pects in New York City.”

With the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, pro­gres­sive news­rooms are mov­ing to the mid­dle, and black news em­ploy­ees are be­ing pe­nal­ized for be­ing black. At MSNBC, six mi­nor­ity tele­vi­sion hosts have been re­placed by con­ser­va­tive hosts, or their time on air has been cut.

Main Street Me­dia has de­cided not to dis­cuss the elim­i­na­tion of black news em­ploy­ees, and di­ver­sity is no longer sig­nif­i­cant or im­por­tant.

There is a con­certed ef­fort in 2017 for news­rooms to op­er­ate with al­ter­na­tive facts, and refuse to tell the truth that black low­pay­ing jobs are be­ing re­placed by Latino im­mi­grants who are ex­ploited. Black chil­dren are now be­ing ed­u­cated in di­lap­i­dated city schools, and news­rooms refuse to tell the story. In cities like Flint, MI where toxic lead water was pumped into a pre­dom­i­nantly black com­mu­nity, at least 12 res­i­dents died from le­gion­naire’s dis­ease in 2016.

Some­thing is fun­da­men­tally wrong when news­rooms are work­ing on the same story, even though women are be­ing ex­ploited at the com­pany down the street. Prose­cu­tors are putting more blacks and His­pan­ics in prison for petty crimes, and white col­lar crimes are not re­ported or in­ves­ti­gated, yet news­rooms claim to be do­ing their job.

It is very easy to push stereo­types and make it ap­pear that blacks are lazy crim­i­nals, but what is the truth? It ap­pears much eas­ier for news­rooms to stay in their bub­ble, hire more whites, and tell the same story each and ev­ery night.

The sub­ject of na­tional NAACP Chair­man, Leon Rus­sell’s May 19th email to the group’s mem­ber­ship reads, “Here’s to the next 100 years of re­sis­tance!” Be­fore read­ing another word I felt out­rage that an African Amer­i­can leader could even con­tem­plate such a thought. Rus­sell and his co­horts at the NAACP and else­where ac­tu­ally think black peo­ple will be in the same con­di­tion for another 100 years!

That folks is the crux of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple’s (NAACP) prob­lem: hope­less­ness based on ir­rel­e­vancy. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s lead­er­ship looks at the fu­ture and sees only the past and present re­al­i­ties go­ing forth. While the true African Amer­i­can re­al­ity is fraught with at­tempts to stave off sys­temic elim­i­na­tion by Amer­i­can white na­tion­al­ist fer­vor, NAACP of­fi­cial­dom fears rad­i­cal re­sponses for sur­vival.

Rus­sell’s email is re­ally about the of­fi­cial fir­ing of NAACP CEO and Pres­i­dent, Rev. Cornell W. Brooks, Esq., and that the or­ga­ni­za­tion seeks to launch a “sys­tem-wide re­fresh” as the Board searches na­tion­ally for a new ex­ec­u­tive. By “re­fresh” do Rus­sell and the NAACP’s un­wieldy Board mean to re­vive, or re­store, maybe re­ju­ve­nate the or­ga­ni­za­tion?

If Rus­sell and oth­ers lis­ten to peo­ple across the coun­try in ten­e­ments and hous­ing projects, peo­ple that ride buses to and from work, peo­ple un­der the tree, in bar­ber and beauty shops, the bars and soul food restau­rants, and young peo­ple on col­lege and high school cam­puses, they will learn that black folks want change, not a re­fresh of the same.

In the email’s first para­graph Rus­sell writes, “Today, we re­main fear­ful to drive our cars, walk in our gated com­mu­ni­ties. . .” Rus­sell’s not talk­ing about the peo­ple I just men­tioned above, the poor and near poor peo­ple that go to jail be­cause they can’t make bail and don’t have a lawyer, the peo­ple who strug­gle to make ends meet even with a job and food stamps and the un­em­ployed. No, he’s talk­ing about those who left, “the tal­ented tenth” -- all that re­mains are the preach­ers and un­der­tak­ers.

While search­ing for Brooks’ re­place­ment,

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