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.