The media has had an amazing impact on the society around it. Newspapers, television, internet, and the radio are some of the forms of media that are in use, in Canada. Unfortunately, the media has managed to influence people’s perceptions and behavior in a negative manner. Stereotyping is one way through which the media can create negative perceptions by pointing out certain characteristics about a certain group of people. It is no wonder the Canadian media have been involved in issues of ethnic stereotyping of certain groups in Canada. The Canadian blacks have been the worst affected with the rampant prejudice amongst the media fraternity. As a result, certain groups have come up to fight in order for them to get equal treatment after having experienced so much bias from the media.
Canada has well over 200 ethnic communities as shown by the national census that was conducted in 2006. In fact, the research showed that close to 5 million people were part of the visible minority group which forms close to 16.2% of the entire population in Canada. The blacks formed approximately 15.5% of the minority population thus amounting to 2.5% of Canada’s total population at the time (Howe, 2005). Since time immemorial, the media have portrayed the blacks negatively despite the fact that close to 45% of them are Canadian-born.
The first example of a stereotype that has a negative effect on the Canadian blacks is their absence from important coverage in the media. In Canada, it has been observed that people of color especially the blacks tend to be absent from the media when it comes to important issues like lifestyle and business. This creates the impression that they are an insignificant part of the Canadian society. Moreover, the prejudice meted on the blacks goes ahead to show that they are not contributing towards improving Canada’s economy. It is true that some of the blacks who reside in Canada come from different ethnic origins such as Haiti, Jamaica, Somalia, Trinidad, Ethiopia, as well as other in other areas found in Africa as well as the Caribbean. Even so, there is no just reason to ignore the positive contribution black community residing in Canada as though they do not exist at all. A black Canadian journalist by the name Cecil Foster was able to attest to facing prejudice in the media industry (New, 2002). Even after having worked for different media houses like the Financial Post, CBC Television and the Toronto star, she only had about two friends she had made during her career in the media industry for the last twelve years. This shows that media prejudice started from staff members increasing the prevalence of the problem.
Secondly, the black community are often associated with negative things during the few instances that thy get media coverage. For instance, the media often reinforce the stereotype that the Jamaicans residing in Canada are criminals. As such, violent acts are often linked to this group hence causing them to face social stigma. According to New (2002), this is depicted from statements made in the media such as, “The suspect was a black male of Jamaican origin” shows that the ethnic origin of the Black community is largely to blame for their behavior. Moreover, the media reinforce the belief that the blacks are very poor. For instance, print media are known to juxtapose a variety of stories concerning the Blacks on the same page. This common technique is evident from a story that talks about black women being given aid by the government. Next to such as story may be a picture that shows a black man being arrested for engaging in crime. As if that is not enough, the story may be added that highlights incidences of lawlessness and poverty in a Third World country. Generally, this portrays Blacks as lawless, inferior, and extremely poor. Consequently, a vast majority of the Canadian population develop the attitude that the black populations are people who are incapable of governing themselves.
Additionally, the majority population develop the notion that the notion that the Blacks are a helpless people who constantly require financial assistance (New, 2002). Actually, the greatest problem is that the media often give ‘skeleton’ explanations as to the reasons why for particular situations. For instance, when the media shows pictures of black children who are famished, they do not provide adequate explanations for the reasons why the children are in such a state. Therefore, this provides room to develop a variety of preconceived notions about the blacks most of which are negative. Reporting practices that gives room for omissions greatly damage the image of the Black community especially because they give room for ethnocentric misconceptions. This eventually creates the impression that the whites together with their culture are more superior than the black culture.
Thirdly, the Blacks are deemed to be people who are unknowledgeable and passive in line with the perception created by the media (Nesbitt-Larkin, 2007). This can be seen in the media platforms be it radio, television or the internet often rely so much on official interpretations. It is to common to find officials who are white speak on behalf of Black minority. Consequently, this lends a general perception that Blacks are ignorant about the skills required to speak the English language, they are unknowledgeable as well as passive. Even worse is that this community is portrayed as being monolithic to the extent that the view offered by one white official adequately represent the opinions and thoughts of the whole community. Nesbitt-Larking (2007) argues that this situation is devastating given that the Black community is very diverse in their culture, interpretations and opinions. Unfortunately, the mainstream media do not appreciate this diversity because they are getting and doing a story in an expeditious manner. The trend is alarming since few blacks have been hired to work in Canada’s media industry. It is common to see white journalists who are mostly male in newsrooms across Canada. Sadly, it is estimated that the black reporters amount to only 2% of the total journalists in Canada’s mainstream media. As such, the impression that Blacks are passive; uneducated, unknowledgeable with poor English language skills is enhanced.
The fourth scenario that shows a scenario where the media portrays the blacks negatively because of their origin is in regard to situations in which they are reporting about immigrants. Immigrants are often labeled by journalists as either bogus or illegal refugees. Usually, these refugees are often people of color with the blacks being the majority (Tator & Henry, 2006). Periodically, media reporters can show scenes of “illegal refugees” queuing at the airport. On the other hand, when it comes to white refugees, preferably from Europe there is usually a change in the manner journalists report the stories. Interestingly, white refugees are normally interviewed at an individual level. This makes it possible for them to gain sympathy from their audience. In contrast, the blacks are shown in very large numbers. They are hardly given an opportunity to speak and they end up being portrayed as people who have dubious credentials while at the same time being unable to speak English. This shows that the media discriminate black refugees because of they come from a different ethnic origin from the white Canadians.
Finally, the media promote a negative picture about the culture of the blacks. This is seen from the news and movies that are put in various media stations. For instance, it is believed that the culture, rituals and rites is greatly responsible for who they are. This is evident from the impression created about the black women. It is believed that the women with the heritage of the blacks live in so much suffering and oppression because their male counterparts usually oppress them. The Canadians believe that the black culture allows men to the physically abuse women and deny them the right to getting an education. Very few women can be found in top leadership positions, in corporate organizations. This phenomenon is termed as a retrogressive culture that is commonly practiced among the male blacks. In fact, in the black culture women do not have a voice and are not entitled to have any opinions. This negative perspective is often created amongst the black community yet the Canadians practice almost a similar thing.
The Canadian society does not regard both the male and female gender as being equal. In fact, white women face all kinds of abuses from their male counterparts only that these incidences are hardly ever reported by the mainstream media. Instead, they will be ignored a focus will only be given if a similar incident happens to a black woman. For instance, if a black woman commits infanticide, it will be associated with her cultural background, which is deemed to be inferior and oppressive. She will not be given room to explain or even associate it to other factors like isolation or postnatal depression thus showing the lengths to which media stereotypes can go. Actually, the media stereotype is so bad that it has the capacity to quash an individual’s self-esteem completely.
The Canada Race Relations Foundation (CRRF) seeks create awareness about the causes of inequality and injustices amongst people of color especially the blacks. They also aim at showing creating awareness on how ethnic and racial prejudice manifests itself in different institutions including the media industry. The organization generally seeks to eradicate media bias by carrying out research programs, which will give them insight on effective ways to tackle the problem. Moreover, they believe that, through holding forums, conferences, and workshops, they are able to deal with the problem of ethnic and racial bias in the employment sector especially that of the media industry which requires urgent attention (Tator & Henry, 2006). CRRF appreciate that they are bound to face several obstacles in their quest for justice.
The first obstacle is that of funding because they greatly depend on donations. Initially, the organization received an endowment fund amounting to $24 million from the government. As such, they also support their activities from the funds they get from the investments they made after receiving the endowment fund. However, this is hardly enough thus, the need for donor aid if they are to carry out their operations smoothly. The other thing that may appear to be an obstacle is the fact that the media’s prejudice of the blacks is something that has been there for a long time (Tator & Henry, 2006). Therefore, it will take so much effort to deal with this deep-rooted problem since they are likely to face a lot of resistance. Even so, the organization seeks to bring about positive change in various ways.
The first step the organization has attempted to take is to understand the media processes and the manner in which their content is often constructed (Hildebrandt & Soderlund, 2005). It is thus possible for them to understand the routines and practices that have promoted cultural production in newsrooms. In this way, it has been easy to establish that the staffing of Canadian dailies is largely responsible for the negative effects the media has had on the blacks. It would be expected that media personnel would exercise responsible journalism by giving room for thoughtfulness and fairness whenever they are making news decisions. However, given that most of the journalists are white men there are bound to be blind spots where the issue of ethnic, cultural, and racial prejudice is concerned.
It is clear that the source of the problem emanates from the reality that there are few black journalists. As such, the organization seeks to bring changes in media representations by pushing for laws that will be favorable for minority groups such as the blacks. CRRF seeks to advocate for equal employment opportunities for both the whites and blacks in the media industry (Hildebrandt & Soderlund, 2005). The organization believes that this initiative will go a long way in promoting diversity in the media industry. Consequently, there will be a significant decline of negative stereotypes against the blacks.
The other initiative that can be taken by the CRRF is to educate people and create media awareness. The organization can use platforms like conferences and forums to air their views to the mainstream media and the public in general. Sensitizing people is likely to open the minds of the Canadian majority concerning the negative effects their actions are having on the black minority. Moreover, the same ideologies can be promoted through the curricula. Canada is a multicultural society and thus there is need to spread the spirit of multiculturalism in every sphere of people’s lives.
Finally, the activist organization should take more radical steps in order for their efforts to be effective. This organization had taken major steps like boycotting media that portrays any kind of prejudice against minority groups as well as lobbying in a bid to ensure that the blacks get effective representation within the media institutions (Howe, 2005). Additionally, CRRF have been more than willing to support any alternative media organizations that have a progressive agenda. Alternatively, the organization has made it their responsibility to come up with an organization whose exclusive role will be to watch the media. This organization that is expected to be an affiliation of CRRF will make it their responsibility to lodge complaints to lodge complaints of media bias to the authorities.
The issue of the Canadian media constantly creating negative stereotypes about the blacks is a long-standing problem. Media prejudice of the black ethnic community is evident right from the media personnel to the content reported by journalists. The media have negatively impacted on the Canadian blacks by creating the impression that they are unknowledgeable, criminals, uneducated and are merely passive human beings. Consequently, the blacks feel devalued, rejected, and even that their contributions to the Canadian economy have been trivialized. To find solutions to the problem the CRRF have taken the initiative to sensitize the public and media organizations. Moreover, lobbying for policies that promote diversity in the media workforce while at the same time appreciating multiculturalism is a sure way to deal with media prejudices.
Hildebrandt, K., & Soderlund, W. C. (2005). Canadian newspaper ownership in the era of convergence: Rediscovering social responsibility. Edmonton, Alta: University of Alberta Press.
Howe, P. (2005). Strengthening Canadian democracy. Montréal, Québec: Inst. for Research on Public Policy (IRPP.
Nesbitt-Larking, P. (2007). Politics, society, and the media. S.l: Broadview Pr.
New, W. H. (2002). Encyclopedia of literature in Canada. Toronto [u.a.: Univ. of Toronto Press.
Tator, C., & Henry, F. (2006). Racial profiling in Canada: Challenging the myth of "a few bad apples". Toronto [u.a.: Univ. of Toronto Press.