Race of criminals mentioned by media

Place for comments, discussions, and debate on topics raised during Bernie's TV segments.

Race of criminals mentioned by media

Unread postby timefuzer » Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:06 am

Bernie said back in the 60's the media would only mention the race of a criminal if the criminal was not white. As a Linguist I conducted a study after an encounter with a new friend who happened to be black. When telling stories about his life or what happened to him recently, he told them in this fashion.

"This white dude ran a stop sign and crashed into my car, and there was this Asian guy who ran out of the 7/11 and helped me climb out the broken window. A Mexican called 911, but a black dude stole my car stereo before they showed up."

It took me almost 2 weeks to pinpoint what was so odd about his stories, that he mentioned the race of all the people involved. What I realized was, as a white man, all the people in my narratives are white unless I specify otherwise. I have found this is the case for almost all white Americans. Our default is white, and we even feel COMPELLED to mention the race of someone in a story if that someone is not white. It's not difficult to verify this for yourself. If you're white, make up a story and tell it to a white friend sans race adjectives. Then ask them what race is the person/people in your story. They'll say they had not thought about it really. But press a little bit and you'll find that in their mind's eye the person was, by default, white.

I quizzed my black friend, a graduate of the University of North Carolina, intently about his mentioning the race of everyone in his narratives. I asked him if he was doing that because I was a white listener. If he were talking with black friends, was everyone black unless he specified otherwise. It took some serious reflection on his part for several minutes. He answered no, it did not matter that I was white, that even when talking with black friends he mentioned the race of all of the people when telling stories.

I find this speaks volumes about both cultures and how we view the world.

I am 49. I spent my childhood and teenage years living in California, Hawaii, Guam, New Mexico, and Arkansas where I graduated high school. I spent 6 years in the Navy. I grew up in very diverse, multi cultural environments. As a teenager and young adult I dated Black, Asian, and Latina girls in addition to all the white ones. My first real crush was on an Asian girl in my typing class (called keyboarding today).

Perhaps today's youth and young people are different. But for my generation of white folks (and older), our default is white, and that's what I think was happening with media in the 1960's. Racist? Prejudiced? Bigoted? You make the call.
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Race of criminals mentioned by media



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