Public outcry over the death of teenager Trayvon Martin over one month ago has reached critical mass, with large demonstrations occurring in New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, and other cities, according to the The Orlando Sentinel and The Los Angeles Times.
However, what nobody seems to be pointing out is how the media is falsely framing this story to exacerbate racial tensions within our society.
Before explaining how I feel the media is falsely framing this story, I want to make it clear that I am in no way trying to make conclusions about what happened the night Trayvon was murdered.
I was not present at the shooting, so I am in no position to judge what happened. Regardless of what happened, everyone can agree that the result was tragic.
What’s even more tragic is the media’s insistence on incorrectly framing the issue as solely a racial issue.
The main way in which the media is altering the “frame,” or the angle the story is being presented in, is by falsely reporting Zimmerman’s ethnicity. Almost every time Zimmerman’s name is mentioned he is identified as a “white male.”
The problem is that Zimmerman is not white. He is half white and half Hispanic and his mother is Peruvian, according to the The Seattle Times and The Daily Telegraph.
So why is Zimmerman’s race being reported as white when he isn’t?
Does a white man shooting a black man make for a more compelling story in the media than a Hispanic man shooting a black man?
If George Zimmerman had been black, would this story be making headlines?
That story wouldn’t get the viewer’s attention, so the media must sensationalize race within this story.
The second way in which the media is altering the frame of this story is by creating a sympathetic image of Trayvon. Most of the pictures being used of him, specifically the most commonly used one where he is in a red Hollister shirt, are several years old, according to the The Miami Herald, and the The Orlando Sentinel.
Many viewers are led to believe that Trayvon was 12 or 15 when he was shot when he was actually 17.
Why is the media trying to manufacture an image for Trayvon?
Would the public not be as sympathetic to a 17 year old with a mustache and baggy clothing, as Trayvon appeared in his most recent Facebook pictures?
The media is trying to form an image for Trayvon that they feel viewers will be most sympathetic too, and this is disrespectful to Trayvon’s memory.
What bothers me the most is how selective the media is in reporting on the deaths of African-American teenagers.
Two weekends ago, March 17 and 18, ten people were shot to death and over 30 additional individuals were injured from drive-by shootings in my hometown, Chicago, according to The Chicago Tribune.
The youngest fatality was Aliyah Shell, a six-year-old girl who was shot while sitting on her mother’s lap on the porch of their home, according to The Chicago Tribune.
You want to talk about an innocent victim?
Why is there no outrage over Aliyah’s death, or any of the other individuals who were gunned down in Chicago?
T. Willard Fair, president of the Urban League of Greater Miami, stated, “would you think to have 40 people shot in Chicago between Friday morning and Monday morning would be much more newsworthy and deserve much more outrage?” according to The Daily Caller.
Fair and many other African American activists have expressed anger over the lack of concern for “black-on-black” crime, while there is so much attention focused on one wrongful death in Florida because the shooter was white
There is no doubt that racism and discrimination still exist in our culture today.
However, pitting one societal group against another, in this case white versus black, is the oldest trick in the book for the media and news industry to get the viewers and attention.
The media is clearly preying on feelings of unresolved racial tension in America.
The U.S. media should want justice for EVERY innocent teenager that is killed, regardless of race.
But apparently media corporations would rather feed on society’s fear of racism.
The media should be framing this issue as guilty versus innocent.
Not white versus black.