Todd Incident Reveals Media's Race Beliefs

>> Tuesday, October 28, 2008

If we have learned one thing from this election cycle it is that race has not gone away. the racial fault lines of our country have simply been covered over with a thin veneer of media and societal denial. Race is an important topic for discussion in this country and it needs to be addressed. One of the areas of particular importance is in the media. the coverage different events receive based on the color of the protagonist or antagonist in the story.

From The Debate Link

As the echo of Ashley Todd's false claim of being assaulted by a Black Obama supporter fades into the political background, I found in interesting to observe how the incident was racialized. There did not seem to be any doubt amongst the commentariat that this was an effort to spark a racial response in the electorate. But Ms. Todd's actions were not seen as a signifier or example of White character as a whole. Her accusation was not something "they" (White people) do. It was a "callback" to a bygone era, or it was an aberration from general White practice.

Contrast that to how, for example, the fictive claims in the Duke Lacrosse case, or Tawana Brawley, were treated. They were racialized as well, but unlike Ms. Todd they were used to make broad, sweeping statements about what "they" (Black people) do with regards to putative racism -- namely, just make stuff up. It was not seen as exceptional, or aberrational. It was a valid measuring stick from which to look at all claims of racialized White-on-Black violence.

The instinct, I feel, in Ms. Todd's case was the proper one. Take note of how race is being used by the perpetrator of the fraud to create a certain reaction, and condemn those who exploit that sentiment without proper verification. But don't impute the event wholesale onto the entire race. White folks do not want Ms. Todd's frame-up to become the standard by which we are measured. But fair is fair -- if we want the benefit of the doubt, we have to give it when faced with parallel situations on the other side of the racial divide.

Pay close attention to the discussion going on in countdown. Fast froward to the 2:05 mark to hear the historical argument straight from Eugene Robinson.

One of the reasons that this became so linked to the historical acts is that it fit the narrative too perfectly. It was readily apparent to anyone who read to kill a mockingbird in high school. Of course in real life there were precious few people willing to stand on the side of african americans accused of such crimes. Instead there would be lynchings, mob "justice".

When David makes the comparison between this case and the Duke Lacrosse case he is revealing one of the major racial faults in the country. White people really dont see racism as such a societal problem anymore while african americans do. A Gallup survey from July found

About two-thirds of white Americans (63%) say they are very or somewhat satisfied with the way society treats blacks, while more than one-third of black Americans (35%) say the same.

Gallup dug deeper into race relations in August with a poll that found 51% of whites ,59% of Hispanics, and the vast majority of blacks 78% view racism as widespread against blacks in the United States. These numbers, as striking as they are barely scratch the surface. Looking at four issues in particular the divide is clear,

On all four issues, blacks are more likely than whites and Hispanics to see racial discrimination as a major factor. In fact, a majority of blacks say racial discrimination is a major reason each problem is occurring.

Among Blacks the percentages of those who thought racism was a major problem was 64% for education, 71% for income levels, 57% for life expectancy, 80% in prison rates. If you throw in the people who thought it was a minor factor you get 89% education, 92 income level, 85 life expectancy and 91 percent of blacks who think racism is a problem in prison rates. Compare this to whites where only 32% 35% 25% and 44% found racism to be a major problem. Aggregated the number of whites who perceive racism as a problem climbs to 68 76 62 and 77 for the four categories. The numbers are clear, whites dont think racism is as big an issue as blacks. There was of course big split in partisan id with dems perceiving more racism indys less and republicans the least. this corresponds with the higher levels of african americans in the dem party.

The reason that these numbers matter is that the people who control the media and determine story lines cover things generally from a white perspective. The white narrative is the dominant one in the media. The media is aware that black people perceive high levels of racism and this conflicts with their own views that there is much less racism and that where it does exist it is less of a problem. Thus they will tend to discount black claims of racism just as the villagers did in the boy who cried wolf.

I agree with David that we should not generalize from one incident and apply that broad brush to the larger racial groups. Race is a nuanced an volatile issue. the media's handling of it is a disaster in that it generally discounts black and liberal views on the racial issues in this country. Black people perceive racism in this country and instead of simply dismissing the claims and assuming the voting rights act took care of it the issue should be addressed head on and the concerns evaluated. that is the only way to move forward.


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