Due to the growing media influence, racism has evolved from “black and white” in the past to the multi-cultural issue it is now. Racism is a global issue faced by many countries. It is identified as a serious issue that can cause social unrest and moral panic in society. Racism also cause hate-crimes such as murder or racial harassment.
In the last few posts, we have looked into the growing influence that media possesses and also the issues on racism that grew along. We identified stereotyping as one of the main contributing factor to racism and have provided evidence to support the theory that media promotes racism by influencing the audience’s stereotype on different groups of people. This post will provide an insight on the role of media in contributing to the growing racism trend and the various theories that are involved.
Along with the improvement in the quality of life, access to different types of media is no longer limited to the rich and powerful. Mass media now serves as a convenient and important platform for people to gain knowledge and share information with the world. However this convenience also has its disadvantages as people grew to heavily rely on media to gain new knowledge and information, so much to an extend it shape their mentalities and perceptions. As discussed in the second post, we explore how the abuse of Media Representation Theory in the media can influence the audience’s stereotype towards others. An example would be the reports on black people since the slave trade, how they portray black people and constantly associate them with terms like crime, drugs, rape and animalism (Diawara, 1993). This tend to leave a negative impression of the certain group in the audience’s mind and they are more likely to associate their future experiences based on their impression. Cultivation Theory is also being practiced in the third post, where we mentioned that racism is normalized. As the theory explains that media provide their audience a common perception and value based on what is portrayed on the TV, it could be due to the audiences constant exposure to racist context in everyday’s media contact thus they tend to get the impression that racism is normal.
As mentioned in the fourth post, we examined how the Agenda Setting Theory can have negative impact when the media is bias in being selective on reporting issues and how they tend to amplify certain issues or distort events because of various factors such as political reasons or for monetary benefit. There is also a higher tendency for headlines stories with racial dimensions as it usually creates much more commotion within the community demanding justice. An example from our own country would be the infamous ‘curry incident’ whereby the news reported that a new family from China demanded their Indian neighbors to stop cooking curry as they could not stand the smell of it. The report only state that the new family from China had to resort to involving the Mediation centre to demand that their Singaporean Indian neighbors not to cook curry when they are home, however the media didn’t report that the mediation was voluntary and that decision was agreed on between both parties and not imposed by the mediator. It is only made known when Minister for Law K Shanmugam came forward to clarify the issue. The report created a huge outrage from the local community with many Singaporeans coming out to declare their support by initiating a “Cook A Pot of Curry!” event on Facebook. This report also put the family from China in a negative light and further worsen the situation of Xenophobia in Singapore.
There is no denying that the media is to blame largely for promoting racism, there are also other contributing factors that further instill and sustain racism in the societies. One factor that was suggested that causes racism is our perceptual illusion. We tend to categorize things, and it is a form of stereotyping when we group things together. For example when 100 oranges are placed in front of you, you know there will definitely be some variation in the hues of the colors but you won’t notice it in a significant way as you will subconsciously group all the hues into the same category: ‘orange’. When a new color is introduced, a red apple for this example, that color is uncategorized under ‘orange’ therefore we notice the difference. These illusions lead to have the false impression that other races are different when compared with ourselves. Last but not least, I would like to share my opinion and express that racism is a personal thing whereby it depends on our perception of others. We have a choice to learn more and have a clearer understanding about a certain ethnic group instead of believing everything that the media report states them to be. It is essential to be aware of the threat that the negative media holds and everyone can do their part to contribute towards a more harmonious society.
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Shanmugam clarifies “curry case” http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/1147353/1/.html
Is Racism Due To Perceptual Illusions? http://www.science20.com/mark_changizi/racism_due_perceptual_illusions