The media in relation to ethnic minorities

 

The first of these is the so- called Rushdie Affair of 1989. Salman Rushdie had published a novel called The Satanic Verses, which had created much controversy. Iranian Muslim leader, the Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa- a death warrant- against Salman Rushdie. Muslims all over the world expressed support for the fatwa by staging public burnings of the book. No doubt many more began a quest to find and kill Rushdie. Events such as these brought Muslims into the media’s spotlight and adversely affected their treatment in the UK.

“Media representations of Muslims reflected a choice of language that implied that Muslims inhabit a criminal culture”. (Alia p 300) Across the globe, latent stereotypes of Islam and the Orient were reinvigorated so that Muslim communities came to represent a threatening enemy. The Bradford disturbances of June 1995, involving (among others) Muslim Pakistani youths, again placed British Muslims in the public eye, then came 11 September 2001 and the Bali bombings, those and related events undoubtedly exacerbated racism, victimisation and criminalisation of Muslims of South Asian and ‘Middle-Eastern’ appearance.

An example of this hate crime is the ‘sparked veil attack’, a Muslim woman was a victim of racial abuse and her veil was torn from her face. Women who wear the hijab (veil) do so to deflect the male sexual gaze and to represent their modesty and commitment to their faith; it is both a sign of respect and a form of protection. At the same time, the hijab can arouse aggression, harassment and hostility from those in the non-Muslim community. Particularly since 9/11, many Muslim women have been targets of hate crime by the Islamophobic who express their prejudices on the victim.

Violence can be construed in many different ways, it is the narrative of the violence, in films and television it is completely different to the reality in say documentaries or shows like Cops, but it is the individual who will interpret this violence by seeing their own position in comparison to the narrative characters. The footage of Rodney King being beaten by police officers, this case can be interpreted differently by different races; black people may see it as a racist attack, whereas the white audiences may not see him as the victim, but the perpetrator who brought the beating upon himself by doing criminal activities.

“It is well established that people from ethnic minority groups are more at risk of being the victim of crime than white people. ” (Marsh, Ian, Crime justice and the Media, 2009 p113). In 2002/2003 adults from an Asian or mixed race background were more likely than those from other ethnic groups to be victims of crime in England and Wales almost half (46%) of adults of mixed race had been victims within the previous 12 months, compared to 30% of Asians and 25% of the White and Black populations (British crime survey 2004).

It has been suggested that the portrayal of victims by the press is subject to certain prejudices- issues of race, class, sexuality, occupation and even attractiveness may affect the type, length and style of media coverage. Indeed, Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police Chief Constable, accused the media of institutional racism in a statement in 2006. Taking two crimes as examples, Ian Blair highlighted the inconsistencies in the coverage of the murders of a white lawyer Tom ap Rhys Pryce and the Asian builders merchant Baliir Matharu.

Both men were killed on the same day in brutal circumstances. Mr Matharu was mown down by a car after challenging two thieves who had broken into his van- he was dragged 40 metres. Mr Rhys Price was stabbed to death and mugged on his way home from a tube station. Whilst both were cowardly and heinous crimes the story of Mr Price attracted much more media coverage. Sir Ian Blair went as far as to suggest ‘I actually believe that the media is guilty of institutional racism in the way they report deaths’.

The Guardian itself analysed the content of the national press coverage of the two stories over a two week period. This produced a result of 6,061 words for Mr Rhys Price and 1,385 words for Mr Matharu. Further the guardian stated, ‘if only tabloid newspapers are analysed, the difference becomes clearer. The murder of Mr Rhys Price was mentioned in 98 stories while Mr Matharu’s death was covered in just 14’. (27 January 2006)

Where media coverage is low for ethnic minorities as victims, the proportion of media coverage of minorities being the perpetrators is high, for example the Munir Hussain case, of attacking an intruder, had great attention from the media, whereas a similar case for a middle aged white man attacking an intruder was only covered in the local media. This essay up until mow had focused on the misrepresentation of ethnic minorities by other races, but there is also misrepresentation within own races. There have been many films which were written and directed by African Americans such as Boys in the Hood, How High, and Friday.

The characters in the film stereotype the African Americans who live in the ‘black neighbourhood’ areas of New York. They are seen as criminals, dealing drugs, consuming drugs, robbery and violence are all wrapped with humour to lighten the criminal action and giving the audience the sense of indifference in their characters. “Following on the heels of an ideological shift from pursuing nonviolent means to social equality during the civil rights movement to the militancy of Black Nationalism, the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s energetically undermined as many of the ‘Don’ts and be Carefuls’.

” (Beaulieu, Elizabeth Writing African American Women 2006 p337) Independent movies starting with Melvin Van Peebles’ Sweet Sweetback’s Bandasssss Song (1971), portrayed urban corruption, their heroes often the very pimps and drug dealers the code had prohibited from positive portrayals, their villains often the very law enforcement groups the code had protected from negative portrayals.

The representation of Black people in film has long been a prime area of concern in studies, misrepresentation is still an issue, but the media have come a considerable way from the days when the stereotyping of minority ethnicities, usually in deprecating terms, was the rule. Black and Asian characters that challenge stereotypes have appeared with increased frequency, also in the work of White filmmakers.

This tendency in cultural representation is interlinked with a new political emphasis on Britain’s multi-ethnic identity and it is particularly striking where it occurs in films as for instance, Ken Loach’s Ae Fond Kiss (2004) 28 Days Later (2003) and Children of Men (2006). In films like Loach’s, the ethnicity of non-white characters and of course their actors, remains a thematic issue. In other instances the casting of characters with non-white actors appears to be ‘colour blind’ in the sense that an actor’s skin pigmentation seems irrelevant to the role he or she performs or to the films overall ‘message’.

Even then, however, one might claim that a character’s ethnicity may be decoded as significant, quite independent from the decisions that led to an actor’s selection for a role in the first place. In conclusion, it is well established that public knowledge of crime and justice is largely derived from the media and that the media play a key role in the public’s perception of criminals, victims and those who work within the criminal justice system.

And it is widely accepted that the general public have a distorted and exaggerated view of the extent and the nature of crime, so the question ‘why’ arises, to put the general argument for this question simplistically is fear, fear being generated by the media to be cautious of the criminal activities taking place and it is also a tool to attract a greater audience. There has been many cases were minorities are misrepresented as perpetrators, however in Britain we have been advantaged to the arguably unbiased BBC, where fair media coverage is a main aspect.

Though there have been concerns that the media cover too much of minorities as perpetrators and too less of them as victims, recently there have been more coverage of minorities as victims, for example, the kidnapping of a boy whilst he was on holiday in Pakistan, the general public as well as the media are continuously learning from the past faults and the fact that Britain being one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, the past errors of misrepresentation in the media may soon be a part of history.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Alia, Valerie Media and Ethnic Minorities Edinburgh University Press 2005 Beaulieu, A.Elizabeth Writing African American Women Greenwood Press 2006 Cashmore, Ernest Encyclopaedia of race and ethnic studies Routledge 2003 Critcher, Chas Moral Panics and the Media Open University Press 2003 Eckstein, Lars Multi Ethnic Britain 2000+ Editions Rodopi B.

V 2008 Greer, Chris Crime and Media: a reader Routledge 2008 Jewkes, Yvonne Media and Crime Sage, London 2004 Larson G. Stepanie Media and Minorities Rowman & Littlefield 2005 Lipschultz, H. Jeremy Crime and Local Television News Routledge 2002 Marsh, Ian Crime, Justice and the Media Routledge 2008 Poole, Elizabeth Reporting Islam: media representations I B Tauris & Co Ltd 2002.