Media outlets have influenced, shaped and created impressions and perceptions about Americans of African origin characterizing them unfairly. For example, during the hurricane Katrina the media contrasted ways in which they presented and framed the experiences of white and black people. Media played an imperative role in framing the perceptions of events and victims of the catastrophe. For example, the photos captions and videos, which were circulated in the internet of a young black man with bread from a grocery saying he had looted the grocery. However, when the same fate happened, and a young white man was captured in the camera with a bread and soda from a grocery he was presented as having found the bread (Brock 4).
This displays the black people as looters while the white men are presented as finding theirs. However, in both scenarios, there were no groceries open where they could have bought bread, and it was the only way through which they could have found bread. However, the media presented the white young man’s scenario as understandable, but the black man’s scenario presented as looting. Therefore, this paper seeks to explore the ways through which the media has presented and characterized the black people unfairly.
The move by the black man is rendered legally and morally wrong. In addition, the same image captions presented by the media also alienated the black man civic standing where he was presented as a young man. However, their white counterparts were described as citizens. In both cases, they present solidarity of circumstances faced by both the white and the black, but the casting and language used presents a contrast favoring the white people. The images present the white man as being favored by serendipity and hence the perception that picking up bread and soda from a grocery was lucky in finding food given the circumstances (Dyson 146). However, the black young man is perceived as interrupting the natural order of moral and legal standing of the society.
The images presented rather than capturing a neutral and fair ground slant captions of the images. The behavior of the white men is presented as understandable while that of men of color is presented as an interruption of the natural order explaining that they should be taken accountable of their actions. The media presentation and perception created describe white innocence and black guilty. This is based on cultural myths and racial narratives, which are embedded deeply in the American institutions and society. These have been framed and conjured to present the negative idea of blackness thugs and savages. The words used in presenting images, language and videos facilitate their interpretation as well as reinforcement of ideas, perceptions and stories of black identity.
The media consistently repeated the scenes of black looting presenting the vandalizing behavior, spreading the notion that black folks are in a state of social anarchy. Although there were aspects of criminality for some black men who took guns and various other appliances, it could not be used for labeling all black society as looters. There were numerous cases where the people took food substances for survival and people from all races engaged in these acts. In addition, the people took the appliances to increase their chances of survival as some could barter them with other consumption goods. Some of them also sold the appliances and other products to enable them hire transport to move to higher grounds (Brock 6). However, the media framed the black victims as lawless thugs who had ignored the social order making the lives of the people hell.
For example, in New Orleans the rich escaped the state leaving the poor people behind without help. The shops and groceries were closed indefinitely, and there is no sane person who would label someone taking food from such stores for survival. The images presented by the media in the internet described the New Orleans population as an out-of-control, criminal and the black community. The presentation by the media led various institutions lose focus of the important aspects of the factors affecting people. For example, the government responded by deploying troops of security personnel to guard the stores rather than carrying out rescue operations. However, the incidents in New Orleans have been seen as scapegoat used in covering up various other large crimes. In addition, the media also presented that the black people were fighting each other, killing policemen and raping women. However, these were baseless rumors and exaggeration of the facts on the ground (Jones para 7). The information reported by different media houses was later proved to be based cultural myths and urban legends, which were just unleashed by the hurricane Katrina.
In conclusion, the media reports and presentation during and the aftermath of the hurricane Katrina present gross unfairness in characterization of black people. Although the white people also took goods and appliances from stores and shops, they were perceived as having found survival means. However, the black men were labeled as looters from survival actions. The media also presented false information based on urban legends and cultural myths rather than factual information on the ground.
Brock, Andre. Race, the Internet, and the Hurricane: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Black Identity Online During the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Illinois: ProQuest, 2007.
Dyson, Michael Eric . "Frames_of_Reference." 2009. 29 July 2013 <engl106spring2009.files.wordpress.com//dyson_-_frames_of_reference>.
Jones , Van. "Black People "Loot" Food White people "Find" Food." 1 September 2005. 29 July 2013 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/van-jones/black-people-loot-food-wh_b_6614.html>.