The media has the power of information; there is no tool with which people can be more easily shaped than that. Because media has the power of information it is also important to be able to identify when the media is being one-sided or misrepresentative of a subject.
One such example of misrepresented populations is American minorities.
News outlets online, on television or on the radio are partially responsible for the state of race relations within America.
There are many instances in which media overlooks accuracy in order to gain a larger audience. This sensationalist tactic can be detrimental to race relations because it may not allow for a minority group to be accurately represented.
Groups that are most commonly affected by this are African Americans, Latinos as well as Middle Eastern Americans.
Sacramento State student, Jose Zacarias, feels Mexican-Americans are associated with crime and negative immigration sentiments in the media.
“We are associated with negative human rights violations of drug cartels and an inadequate Mexican government,” said Zacarias. “Which solidifies the view that the Latino community in the United States does not contribute positively to the overall growth of U.S. culture but rather degrades its peace and stability.”
News outlets mainly focus on breaking news, world affairs, crime and politics when reporting. They often do not put out a well-rounded representation of a specific ethnic group.
“No one talks about the hardworking Mexican culture. The proud people that never give up, those willing to sell roses on a corner rather than stand at an intersection with a sign that simply asks for money,” Zacarias said.
Often times there is no clear distinction made between the sensationalized news and the reality of the Mexican-American community many Americans tend to subconsciously associate the Latino community with violence.
“They could change things by reporting more even news,” Zacarias said. “Like covering both the good and the bad not just constantly the bad.”
With immigration reform being a topic of intense strife within California and on a national level the representation of the Mexican-American community is being overshadowed by sensationalism and political propaganda.
“The U.S. dependence on cheap and exploitable labor that the Mexican community contributes is an area that the media should address,” said Zacarias.”Thus bringing about a change in the way the Mexican community is portrayed from a negative to a community of exploited people due to their documented status.”
Media can also distort the representation of certain religious groups as well.
The Islamophobia that is rampant throughout America is caused by the news and media outlets sharing stories that are over the top or extreme examples of the Muslim community.
Samira Habibi, a 26-year-old history major has experienced the detrimental effects of the misrepresentation of Muslims in the media.
“Many people are surprised when they find out I am Muslim since I don’t dress like one it gets some off guard. Not all Muslims, hijabi or not are like what the media says we are,” Habibi said. “We are not all part of ISIS or other radical groups.”
Most people get their information about the Muslim community through news; this can be especially skewed due to religious conflicts in the Middle East.
“I am an open minded person that does not judge other religions or people,” Habibi said. “I respect them the way I want to be respected for who I am.”
Examples of violent backlash caused by media misrepresentation of Muslim-Americans were especially prevalent after 9/11.
The media has given Americans a picture of what Muslims are like despite the fact that millions of peaceful Muslims live in America.
African-Americans also have experienced racial tension brought on by media misrepresentation of their communities.
Tyler Williams,21, a communication studies major said the misrepresentation of African-Americans in the news is dangerous because it influences public opinion and is very biased.
“The news casts black people wrongly, as apathetic and criminally-prone,” Williams said. “It almost always fails to address systematic barriers that have a high level of culpability for behaviors that somehow get attributed to ‘the way we are.’”
If media gave consumers a more well-rounded view of the cultural diversity that makes up America, some of the tension of racial stereotyping could be eased.