How African American men are treated by the police

5.4.2 Study Question Two

            Are there significant implications of the perceptions created by the media about African American men on how African American men are treated by the police?

            The cases reviewed in the research report bring to the fore multiple instances of profiling of African American men based on the stereotype that if flaunted in the media particularly branding the Black man as violent, aggressive, and dangerous. Moreover, reporting on incidences of crime are centred more on populous African American neighbourhoods; hence, creating a perception of crime as a characteristic of conduct among African American people.  Sentiments by Dixon (2000) advance that the traditional media, in particular, has made it a habit to headline news that involves criminal behaviour or occurrences where Black men are involved. Moreover, prominence is given to crime stories that revolve around the engagement of African American men that any other news features including politics or human interest issues. As such, the traditional media has over the years desensitised the audiences with regards to having a sense of humanity towards African Americans. Black men in particular are suspected of ulterior motives at the slightest of suggestion that their demeanour alludes to criminality of some form. The result has been that police officers scavenge for African American criminals in their neighbourhoods with the intention of clamping down on criminal activities. However, the notion that all Black men are involved in criminal acts is misconstrued since African American men are stereotyped as to either deal in drug peddling or involves in armed robbery and gun violence.

            To answer the research question, yes indeed, African American portrayals in media especially traditional media where the negativity is magnified has had the impact of straining relations between African American men and law enforcement agencies that include police officers who are deployed in neighbourhoods where Black people live to maintain order and tranquillity. As such, police officers enter the neighbourhood under the thought or mind-set that the neighbourhood is thronging with criminals. Consequently, even the slightest of confrontations turns violent and extremely graphic to the extent that attitude of police officers about African American men is one that makes them shoot first and ask questions later (Dixon, 2000). Such a perception of a hoodie wearing, big bodied African American male have had law enforcement prepared to engage any large African American male forcibly regardless of their innocence. Examples as presented in this paper include the case of Eric Garner and Michael Brown both of whom were huge in size while Tamir Rice appeared to have worn a hoodie attributes that were pointed out in news reports as appearing dangerous to law enforcement.

5.4.3 Research Question Three

What are the far reaching implications of the stereotypes created by the media about African American men in their social lives?

In answering this question, the study finds that stories of people like Freddie Gray are depictive of the everyday challenges that African American men have to endure owing to the criminal branding that people of colour have had to contend with. In a neighbourhood where the rate of incarcerations exceeds the average rate, many young Black men have a criminal record and; hence, have difficulty gaining formal employment or financial aid to further their education. Moreover, the law in many states locks people with criminal records out of the bracket of eligibility for credit lending by banks. As a consequence, the community has had to endure a viscous cycle of crime waves where the main premise of survival in their livelihoods depends on doing something that is illegal in the eyes of the law (Maneri & Wal, 2005). Ultimately, generations of men in the majority African American communities have to struggle from meal to meal on a daily basis. Crime has ultimately become a debacle that African American community members cannot seem to rid of due to the limited alternative opportunities that are available to them for exploitation. Hence, the far reaching consequences as associated with police brutality against African American males has been that African American males convicted of crimes are unable to engage in socioeconomic development for self-improvement. Hence, once an individual has a criminal record, they are unable to get a job or earn a decent living which only leaves them with the option of crime as the only resort to etching a livelihood. Years and centuries of racial profiling of African Americans has historically disenfranchised them from achieving means of self-development; hence, disadvantaging African-Americans who resort to unorthodox means to gain a status of equality with White Americans.

5.4.4 Research Question Four

What are the factors that determine the angle or approach taken by either traditional or modern forms of media with respect to the portrayal of African American men in media?

Based on the analysis of the research findings, the determinants of media’s take on issues pertaining to African American men’s presentations lies in historical and economic factors. First, history of Black people as thoroughly discussed in Chapter 2 of the research report reveals suffering from the age of slavery through to present day modern Jim Crow situation. As such, disenfranchisement of African Americans over the years has made it impossible for African Americans to exert influence especially in the running of media houses. In that regard, African Americans do not own majority share rights in the ownership of traditional media companies such as FOX News, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among many others that primarily comprise the definition of Old Media. Consequently, the White dominated media houses serve interests of the majority White populous while neglecting the needs and rights of African American minorities. The resultant implication is the suffering of African American men who are negatively portrayed in Old Media.

The converse holds in the case of New Media. As such, New Media liberates minorities from gagging, censorship and editing that is rampant in White owned Conventional Medial outlets. As such, social media sites that include Facebook and Twitter that have been extensively investigated in this research report present avenues for self-expression that is devoid of White populist influence. To that extent, a more accurate representation of African American men in New Media is evident in comparison to the inaccuracies that are characteristic of representations in Old Media. Moreover, New Media platforms offer people personalised space where people can share their ideas freely. Before the advent of the internet and social media sites, information was sanctioned based on editing and censorship done by media houses. However, in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, civilians can use phone cameras to record happenings as they unfold and immediately upload the same on the internet for people to view and make informed judgments on their own. Conspicuously, many of the cases covered in this research paper under Chapter 4’s research results include instances where witnesses took recordings of the police actions of brutality as they unfolded. To that extent, the New Media is liberating in that it allows people to focus on what they find important which explains the success that #Black Lives Matter movement has managed to achieve in rallying people behind the cause using social media (Freelon, The Measure of a Movement: Quantifying Black Lives Matter’s Social Media Power, 2016).

5.4.5 Research Question Five

What alternative progressive options exist in media towards shaping perceptions of African American males that would lead to an end of violent confrontation between police officers and African American suspects?

The question on whether racism exists in the United States is one that at best is rhetorical. Equally, the question on whether police brutality is an issue in American society is also one that is obviously true. In that respect, the final research question seeks to answer the query on how far or to what extent does racism ad police brutality inform the fabric of American society. How can the tensions between African American males and predominantly White male police officers be addressed? More importantly, what solutions lie in the portrayal of African American men by the media in positive juxtapositions as opposed to the negative portrayals that persist? The solution to addressing the challenge that is racial profiling of African American males by White police officers lies in representation. More so, the representation of African American men by the media has a key role to play in changing the mind set of not only the police, but also White Americans and Black Americans at large as key components in the divide that is the debacle of police brutality. ;According to Okoronkwo (2008) the issue of racial profiling of Black people by White police officers has historical roots in the struggle for emancipation of Africans from the chains of slavery. As such, the king of racism where police officers use their power and privilege to discriminate justice against African Americans is a betrayal of their sworn oath to protect and serve all citizens without fear or favour regardless of the colour of their skin.

Nonetheless, it is an undeniable fact that crime rates among American youth of African American race is skyrocketing, hence, the moral panic that is seen in the media especially traditional media is to some extent justified. However, the nature of exaggerated fear of African American males has with it escalated tensions and made the public or audiences warier and afraid of African American men.; The sensational nature of traditional media reporting on African American crime has entrenched a belief among audiences that Black men are at the very least dangerous if not hard core criminals. The fear created by the media;s representation of African Americans has led to public perception of African American men as people who are violent and provocative to say the least. The ramifications of the study reveals that the media has to change the negative portrayals of Black men so as to prep the public in accepting African American men as human beings before making prejudgments that they are suspects of crime (Okoronkwo, 2008).

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To that extent, law enforcement, the legislature, and the general public must work together with members of the media to churn the way forward as regards the portrayal of African American men. Responsible reporting in media should give African American men fair representation. Equally, and by extension, African American people must work towards changing the perceptions and stereotypes that are a popular notion and that negatively shape the thoughts of the American public about Black communities. All parties must; hence, get involved in championing different efforts or initiatives geared towards using the media as an avenue for positive representation of African American men. More so, African American men in crime thronged neighbourhoods should make decisive steps towards reform. Engaging young Black men in economic generating activities that provide them with a means to survival will give such people an alternative to criminal behaviour. In general, the media and the society both have a role to play, where the former must focus more on the positive aspects of Black American men while the latter means that African American men should abandon criminality so as to convince the public of positive stereotypes that are representative of African American men.