Race and Ethnicity in the News: How the words “Black” and “White” Have been Used by Our Media to Fuel Divide

By Keegan Hartman

I want it to be known, before I even dive into my analysis of/from this week’s lectures, that I come from a religious household. I have always been under the impression that we are all brothers and sisters through Jesus Christ. The only thing that differentiates us apart is our life’s purpose. Otherwise, we were all created by God above and sent to this very planet to serve some sort of purpose. To me, race is just a quality that all humans possess. We all belong to some sort of race/ethnic group (or “groups”) and that is how God created us. It should not be something in which, should have merit (there should be no superiority), it should not give someone the right to think that they are “better”, and certainly should not give someone the right to stereotype and degrade others just because of the color of their skin… that’s in a perfect world. Unfortunately, all of the aforementioned apply to modern America, as there is still a mistreatment of minorities, there is still racism, there is still discrimination and, unfortunately, hate groups and white supremacy- should I go on? We’ve seen minority groups often times receive a lesser income to that of a white person. Unfortunately, we see a lot of minorities residing in the ghettos of bigger cities- predominantly African Americans and the Latino communities.

In 2020, arguably, for the first time in my life, I finally saw something I think that has been missing since post 9/11, and it is truly unfortunate that it took a couple acts of police brutality to produce it, but I finally saw America unify again. I saw Americans come to each other’s aid: black, white, Asian, Latino, etc. realizing that there was a real problem in the way African Americans have been treated at the hands of our trusted law enforcement. However, one thing that still bothers me is the way our news media tries to continue and divide the American people.

In the grand scheme of things, race, nor sexual orientation, nor gender, matter to me, but rather, if/when I befriend others, I befriend them because of their character and their heart. So when our news makes everything “black” and “white” and frames the narrative in efforts to try and racially divide our country it pisses me off. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery all did not deserve to die last year, they should still be alive. However, as consumers, what did we see for these headlines when we found out of the killings of these individuals? (See images to the left, below)

NBC News Headline Following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police custody on May 25, 2020.

This example (shown left) is from an NBC article surrounding the death of George Floyd when he was murdered at the hands of police custody on May 25th, 2020. In the headline, and subheading, you see the usages of “black man” and “white police officer”. Floyd’s murder should’ve never happened in the first place clearly, but with the deaths of African American males constantly falling at the feet of law enforcement, primarily caucasian, news outlets frame their stories this way. How come they don’t mention the other police officers who were on-call that day with Officer Derek Chauvin (Floyd’s killer) and their ethnicities? They’re just as guilty for letting the events unfold and letting Floyd’s life being taken. As a matter of fact, J. Alexander Kueng, who was one of the other three police officers reporting to the scene with Officer Chauvin, is actually African American. Likewise, also reporting to the scene that evening was Officer Tuo Thao, an officer who also served bystander to George Floyd’s death.

(Photo Courtesy of CNN’s Ray Sanchez, Gregory Lemos, and Brad Parks) From Left to Right: Officer Derek Chauvin, Tuo Thao, Thomas Lane, and J. Alexander Kueng.

It is truly unfortunate that this headline has become more and more common in today’s news. There is no room for police brutality and has been a serious issue in America for years and years, especially for minority groups. However, framing the storyline in the manner outlets did, they left out key information to exclusively peg blame on a(n) certain ethnicity/group that has been at the forefront of these controversies for years past, unfortunately: white male police officers.

References:

Madani, D. (2020, May 30). Officers involved in death of black MAN detained in Minneapolis have been fired. Retrieved March 09, 2021, from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/officers-involved-deadly-arrest-black-man-minneapolis-have-been-fired-n1215046

Sanchez, R., Lemos, G., & Parks, B. (2020, November 05). Judge orders one trial for Four ex-cops charged in George Floyd’s killing, KEEPS case in Minneapolis. Retrieved March 09, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2020/11/05/us/george-floyd-officers-trial/index.html#:~:text=Derek%20Chauvin%2C%20Tou%20Thao%2C%20Thomas,charged%20in%20George%20Floyd's%20death.

Aspiring Sports Journalist // MU' Communications Grad 2022 // Co-Host of Radio Show Breakfast of Champions on KCOU 88.1 FM