Doesn’t it make sense that movies would reflect the reality of having a majority white population?

Q: Can you explain a little bit more about the issue of representation in media? I’ve been trying to explain to white friends why a population that is a minority shouldn’t be represented in such a small way, but am having a hard time explaining when pushed. In other words, the question I get is: Doesn’t it make sense that movies would reflect the reality of having a majority white population?¬†Feels very “oy” but I can’t think of a good response.

A: So, I’m not sure I completely understand the question but here are some thoughts.

Yes, movies¬†reflect a white population. The thing is the percentage of non-Hispanic white people in the U.S. population has reached an all-time low: 63%. The NY Daily News reported in 2013 that “Nearly half of American children younger than 5 are minorities, and the number of minorities under 18 is expected to surpass the number of white children by 2019. The total minority population has grown 21 times faster than the white population.” Continue reading

How can white media write about the oppression of black and brown communities?

Q: “How can white media write about the oppression of black and brown communities without further exploiting those communities? I am not asking for a critique of language or a discussion on how the way frames might reflect an inherent bias or even an unconscious, underlying racism–those discussions have been had. I am concerned that I might be taking my white privilege for granted every time I write about the black/brown struggle for liberation. I’m worried that I am turning the human beings in my stories into consumable commodities, into soundbites and headlines, thus dehumanizing the people who are fighting for their lives.”

White media professionals have the obligation to give voices to communities of color to tell their stories. Often times in media, you’re right- the soundbites and headlines do steamroll the full story. Most notably recently is the image of Toya Graham, physically beating her son during the Baltimore protests. The media quickly made her a hero, and that image went viral almost instanteously. Graham’s actions were lauded as the best example of a parent during an exceptionally tense moment in the Baltimore direct actions by the majority of the (white) media. But only later did they give Graham the opportunity to tell her story, her fear of her son becoming the next Freddie Grey… or allow other parents within that community express their reactions to the direct actions of their teenagers. Instead, Graham was simply lauded for what the media read as her dissaproval of her son participating in rioting actions. It was presented as an approval or her aggressive reaction–while simultaneously shaming a communities’ aggressive reaction to police violence.

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