7 Harmful Practices Mainstream Media Exhibit When Talking About Race

Individualizing Racism
What It Means: Concentrating attention on thoughts or acts of personal prejudice.

This reinforces the common misconception that racism is simply a personal problem that should be resolved by shaming, punishing or re-educating the individual offender. This belief often leads to long, inconclusive debates about what’s in the offender’s  “heart,” and whether or not they intended to be hurtful or discriminatory, and perpetuates false notions of individual agency in our national consciousness.

Perhaps the most common characteristic of the mainstream media’s treatment of stories on race and racism is the disproportionate share of attention that episodes of individual-level racism receive, while ignoring a deeper analysis of systemic racial injustice.

While the rate of this infraction can vary greatly depending upon the subject matter and by media outlet – such imbalances reinforce for readers the misconceived message that racism is primarily a phenomenon of overt, intentional acts carried out by prejudiced individuals. Racial transgressions, such as Paula Deen’s, are typically presented as simple, individual defects that need correcting or shaming.

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