The perception of black people over the years has received little to no change. Too often we turn on the television to get updated on current events and see a black person being interviewed in an underdeveloped neighborhood. More often than not, the interview is a witness’s account of a crime or series of crimes that may have happened in the surrounding area and/or neighborhood. We sit and we ask ourselves, ‘Why did they choose this person?’ but we soon come to realize that all of this is done intentionally. These negative perceptions harm the black community.
In the news, we may not notice but crime and anti-racism have been completely separated from one another. Anti-racism speech refers to those who attempt to use a given platform to speak out against racism. When we typically see someone speaking out against racism it is often tied to a specific racial event (i.e. George Floyd) but rarely are peaceful rallies and gatherings ever broadcasted onto our favorite news channels such as MSNBC where in 2019, the amount of black viewers nearly doubled that of FOX News. It is when and only when—life has been taken or someone has been hurt, that we truly decide to acknowledge that racism exists. This helps to maintain cultural values by separating racist speech and crime from mainstream media and minimizing what can be said about these topics on air. This results in little to no room for anti-racism speech on a mainstream media platform.
The reinforcement of modern racism is something that I believe we should all research. It helps to open your eyes and understand why many other races have this weird ideology that black people have to conform to white standards. It used to be widely believed and promoted that black people were an inferior race and that segregation was in everyone’s best interest. Today, we no longer have segregation but the underlying racism is still vastly promoted through our entertainment. More often now we talk about how white people are given advantages in life that are not gifted to black people. To prove this we could look into what’s commonly known as systemic racism where even in the same situations as a white person, black people will still be at a disadvantage. The news then could take this and turn it into black-on-white hate speech and/or a sympathy story for black people. Although most of us would appreciate the sympathy story, we don’t realize that it in turn is still giving the perception that we are inferior which helps to maintain the structural inequality. What I mean by this is that yes, we would certainly appreciate feeling heard and acknowledged; but it is possible that these stories allow for them to portray the different lifestyles in which the average white person is successful and safe, while the average black person can still be earning below their worth well into their adulthood regardless of their upbringing.
With the display of different lifestyles, such as presenting the idea that black people are often in underdeveloped areas, we also have to examine our image when it comes to crime. We see it when we hear of another mass murder or even a more minuscule offense such as vandalism. We have seen and heard the stories of white men murdering those within their household family and the photo that the news displays is more often than not a fun and non-threatening family photo. We see the mugshots of black men when we have something not remotely comparable such as vehicle theft.
I feel as though the news organizations and people in the news that we’ve come to trust have had such a dramatic impact on not only how black people are perceived by others but also how we perceive ourselves. Politicians have come to establish black people as the more needy race by creating what we now call “the black vote.” Black people could use the help of the United States government, but there have been little to no changes among politicians once they have received a majority of the black vote. Once there are no actual policies put into place we remain idle and awaiting change. This just allows for the cycle to continue as we are given an endless amount of empty promises by those we trusted and chose to vote for.
To adjust the light shed on black people we must attempt to shift the narrative and there are many different avenues you could approach and attack to do that. It is possible that we could start by attempting to uproot systemic racism. I believe that increasing voter participation by removing structural barriers such as preventing felons from voting for a period of time. We could also lower the poverty rate by increasing the minimum wage. These are just ideas that are there to help black people. Actually enacting policy changes when you receive the majority of the black vote would go such a long way. This alone could dramatically change the perception of black people and thus cause us to be treated with the same amount of respect as everyone else, regardless of someone’s previous opinions.