hate crimes against African-Americans. In particular I want to address media portrayals of hate crimes against African-Americans and how media interprets this phenomenon and in turn depicts it. As media is responsible for shaping much of public opinion (Baum, Potter 39), it is helpful to understand how the public is impacted by media portrayals of hate crimes against African-Americans through popular news reports, film and television portrayals, books, magazines, music and even scholarly articles. This essay wants to see if different types of media portray hate crimes against African-Americans with more or less sensitivity, with a more or less judgmental approach, with a more or less confrontational/antagonistic tone, and with more or less sympathy and empathy. This may help us to better understand why hate crimes against African-Americans occur.
In order to answer these questions, I will look in particular at films such as Malcolm X by Spike Lee, books like To Kill a Mockingbird, news articles about violence against African-Americans, hip-hop music and scholarly articles that deal with topic of hate crimes and race, such as Holt’s “Writing the Wrong.” The primary thing that I want to examine is how hate crimes and violence against African-American is portrayed in the media by various groups or persons. Spike Lee’s film, for example, is a bio-picture of a controversial and celebrated African-American leader who joined the Nation of Islam before being assassinated. He was a strong leader of African-Americans and opposed the white power of the Establishment in America. Spike Lee’s film portrays him heroically, but Spike Lee is also an African-American, so it would be interesting to see how establishment news media depicted him during his life. Also Harper Lee’s book would be interesting to examine because it is controversial — so opinions that have been expressed about it in the past will be illuminating. Likewise, an exploration of themes in hip hop music could further shed light on the issue as well as articles on police violence against African-Americans. What I want to accomplish with my essay is an overview of how media shapes our perceptions on race issues, specifically violence against African-Americans. My current view is that various media are antagonistic while other media is sympathetic with a higher philosophical take on the issue. I want to juxtapose patterns and themes and see if a deeper understanding of the phenomenon and the way media portray it can be delivered.
I will organize this study by exploring themes that arise through the investigation of these various media and how they shape the way we can think of hate crimes against African-Americans. I want to see what themes are supported by what media and contradicted by others.
I am approaching this topic with a bias that is based on exposure to these media already: I have seen films, read books, listened to music and interacted with the subject. I want to now gather what I have experienced and place it in a scholarly exposition so as to refine my own thoughts and attitudes regarding it. I am not aware of any prejudice one way or the other. What I do look for and appreciate, however, is a true expression and exchange of ideas that seek to place a philosophical interpretation on events. I do not just want to incite more hatred one way or the other by examining this issue. Instead I want to create understanding so that we as individuals can work together to overcome obstacles, to better appreciate how media impact us, and what we can do to engage with the reality of the situation.
Baum, M., Potter, P. “The relationships between mass media, public opinion, and foreign policy: Toward a theoretical synthesis.” Annual Review of Political Science, vol. 11 (2008): 39-65.
Holt, Lanier Frush. “Writing the Wrong: Can Counter-Stereotypes Offset Negative
Media Messages about African-Americans?” Journalism and Mass Communication, vol. 90, no. 1 (2013): 108-125.
Lee, Spike, dir. Malcolm X. LA: Warner Bros., 1992. Film.
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