The perception still pervades that Western media heighten the threat of non-whites in society, but are we all in fact misrepresented by the media, ultimately manipulated to fear one another regardless of race?
In ‘A Culture of Paranoia’, Shehrazade Zafar-Arif asks whether we’re all turning into George Zimmerman, becoming fearful of our fellow citizens as a response to the government’s fear of us, which it articulates through CCTV and programs such as PRISM.
As for the misrepresentation of Arabs and black males, I would disagree with the way it has been presented in the article. Even though black and Arab males are discriminated against, the general apprehension that accompanies their presence cannot be distilled down to media coverage alone. The media are pretty much as unfair to them as they are to everyone else. Media outlets scoop up stories from nothing, making mountains out of molehills with mindless ease. You may be black, white, yellow, red, green, fluorescent, it doesn’t matter; once the opportunistic news outlets get a hold of you, there’s a high probability they’ll misrepresent you in every way possible in order to get their story, spike their ratings, and make more money. Everything that can grab our attention, it’s fair game nowadays. We see plenty of white, latino and asian people fit the ‘nasty’ bill too, all in the name of creating headlines.
So, no, I don’t buy the ‘we’re creating the black/arab bogeyman out of nothing’ scenario. It may have been partially true up until the nineties, maybe even the noughties, during which time the news were more biased and our options limited, but now, in the age of social media, the plethora of news and media outlets available makes those stereotypes scarcer. We’re simply not bound to the corporate media monopoly anymore, which means we’re not subject to their scripted biases. The narrative has opened up, and sometimes a foul story comes from where there’s foul play.
Not to mention that reverse discrimination is offensive. Blaming white people for all the ills and misfortunes that plague other people is not only condescending but also counterproductive. I have yet to meet a self-respecting black person who has not had enough with the ‘white-guilt/black-anger’ phenomenon, behind which the worst among whites and blacks hide. Clinging to a dysfunctional status quo is not something self-respecting people do. At some point we have to move on. The last thing one needs are neurotic apologists.
Let me throw a spanner in the works and provoke the issue further. Fact of the matter is that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Cliche but valid. The people who put bombs in public spaces in the West this day and age are predominantly from the countries currently profiled. Black people do have higher crime rates associated with them (in the USA). And wackos of all sorts tend to buy guns with which they commit massacres.
Is it fair to stereotype all blacks as criminals, all Arab-looking people as terrorist wife-beaters, all gun owners as maniacs? No!
But we do so for various reasons, some of which are valid, some of which are not.
The trick is to address the valid issues, not the exaggerations. We oughtn’t stereotype, but we better analyze and discuss. We can’t ‘not categorize’ some person or group of people on account of being afraid we may be called racists. There are divisions, distinctions and differences across the racial spectrum, which are factual. We ought to address them with factual, rational argumentation. We’d be stupid not to. It’s not about who’s superior or inferior. It’s about differences and distinctions, period.
See, black people have been pigeonholed as criminals for a reason, much of which has to do with the fact that they commit more (US) crimes than other demographic groups (we can explore in further articles how they were driven to poverty and crime in the first place, much of which was forced upon them via violent persecution, some of which was self-induced via victim mentality),
just as Arabs, Iranians and Turkic people have been pigeonholed as terrorist wife beaters (we can explore how they acquired the bad rap),
and gun owners have been pigeonholed as nut-jobs (ditto),
and white people have been pigeonholed as manipulators who exploit other people.
‘White people = manipulators who exploit other people.’ What an interesting stereotype! Is there fire behind this smoke? Or is it just another racist, unfair generalization?
I can hear you thinking deep down: ‘it’s fucking true!’ … then blinking as you realize that this is an unfair generalization (not all white people are privileged manipulators!) … yet still kind of true!
Interesting little bind!
Bet you didn’t see that coming.
So, should we or should we not shy away from stereotypes? Is there fire where there’s smoke? Is it always someone else’s fault, or do we take responsibility for some of the things that happen to us? Do we realize that what goes around comes around, and that we can’t give some stereotypes a pass while endorsing others? Are we honest enough to open the debate and let words fly, or do we cry wolf in some situations and mommy in others?
Plenty of food for thought.
As an afterthought, here’s a few of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite films, Crash, the film everyone loves to trash, but which nails a few simple truths in a simple manner, namely, it always boils down to the shitty individuals, in the swamp of whom others are dragged in, and that’s the sad truth.