Race and the media
Many years ago, comedian George Carlin introduced America to the “seven words you can never say on television.” But there’s an even more offensive word in the English language that if used, is more damning than if the person uttering it had molested a newborn — you guessed it, it’s the N-word.
Paula Dean lost her sponsorship, TV show and had her career irreparably damaged after admitting she used the N-word some 30 years ago. But the same media that excoriated Dean for uttering the offensive word remained silent when Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a “c—” on HBO.
During the summer of 2009, President Obama said the Cambridge police “acted stupidly” in arresting a prominent black Harvard professor after a confrontation at the man’s home. The president admitted not having all the facts when he made the statement. Nonetheless, he assumed it was the white police officer and not the black professor who acted stupidly.
Fast forward to March 23, when President Obama spoke out about the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, calling it a tragedy. The president went on to say, “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. … You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
The president’s words were indicative of his heartfelt sympathy for the slain teen and his parents. But at the same time, his words and tone also implied Trayvon Martin may have been victimized even though the investigation into the incident had just begun.
Several days later, U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman threw gasoline on the flames of controversy when she said, “Trayvon was hunted down like a rabid dog and shot in the street. He was racially profiled.” Of course, the congresswoman wasn’t at the scene, hadn’t seen a police report and predicated her comments on hearsay and tendentious media stories
Then there was U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., donning a hoodie and sunglasses in honor of Trayvon Martin on the floor of the House of Representatives, as well as the numerous “Justice for Trayvon” hoodies and T-shirts for sale on eBay. Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?”
Before airing it, NBC altered the tape of the 911 call George Zimmerman made just prior to the incident, and for months countless photos of an innocent looking 12-year-old Trayvon Martin flashed across our TV screens. Could the media find no photos taken of this young man as he grew in physical stature? And why would The New York Times refer to George Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic” in its featured article that all but convicted him, immediately after the incident?
The media has enormous influence in shaping public opinion in the way it frames news stories. With few exceptions, George Zimmerman was presumed guilty by the mainstream media. But regardless of your position on the matter, the fact is George Zimmerman was acquitted because predicated upon expert testimony and demonstrable evidence, the state failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Race has been a part of every society since the beginning of recorded history and remains an issue that civilized society must come to grips with. But until the media functions as colorblind disseminators of fact-based information, the topic will never be dealt with objectively in this country.
A recent Rasmussen survey published by the Wall Street Journal regarding racial attitudes in America was most interesting inasmuch as it found Americans considered blacks more likely to be racists than whites or Hispanics.
According to the survey, 37 percent of American adults think most black Americans are racist. Just 15 percent consider most white Americans racist, while 18 percent say the same of most Hispanic Americans.
Among black Americans, 31 percent think most blacks are racist, while 24 percent consider most whites racist and 15 percent view most Hispanics that way. Among white adults, 10 percent think most white Americans are racist; 38 percent believe most blacks are racist; and 17 percent say most Hispanics are racist.
Just 30 percent of all Americans now rate race relations in the United States as good or excellent. Fourteen percent describe them as poor. Twenty-nine percent think race relations are getting better, while 32 percent believe they are getting worse. Thirty-five percent feel they are staying about the same.
Race is a complex and highly charged topic in America. Unfortunately, it’s been injected with politics, political correctness and even worse, an undeniable bias by the media, which makes legitimate discussion of the topic virtually impossible.
Quote of the day: “The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy.” — William Hazlitt
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.