The Vilification of the American People

How people of color have been negatively impacted by the media coverage of American history.


Clay Banks / Unsplash

Hannah Bennett ’22 said “people… have stronger negative reactions when it comes to people of color at fault, because their race is made a bigger issue, and it allows people to perpetuate stereotypes about POC and crime, since it at first glance you would only know the race of POC criminals just from the titles.”

On December 14th, 2012, twenty-year-old Adam Lanza shot and killed twenty-six people — twenty of them being first-grade children; on December 25, 2020, Anthony Quinn Warner injured eight people and blew up an entire block in downtown Nashville, Tennessee with a self-detonated car bomb; on January 6, 2021, Proud Boys and rioters alike stormed and vandalized the U.S. Capitol. 

What all of these events have in common is that there is so little media coverage of them that most people do not even know the names of the assailants. In fact, I myself had to do quite a bit of digging and am still amazed that they are not plastered in our memories for the crimes they have committed. This ties into the gross racial disparity in the way the American media belittles and vilifies certain groups of people. 

 “It’s futile to think that the media will ever change and it’s because the structure of American politics makes it so that POC will always be at the bottom…everything about American systems is meant to set POC up for failure,” said Tanisha Khan ’22.

What if the assailants had not been white? Their faces would be plastered everywhere you look, people would be enraged that something like this could ever happen, and the news circuit would have a field day racially profiling and classifying the attackers as terrorists. Unfortunately, these traumatic and shameful pieces of American history are not being regarded in the way that they most certainly should be. 

Usually, when something as tragic as these events happens, especially in the United States, you can look at any news source and find a sea of headlines covering the issue. Yet, as of right now, there are far too few articles covering these injustices properly. 

“There’s just so much bias and racism in the news — it’s similar to how white people are labeled ‘mentally ill’ and people of color are labeled ‘terrorists.’ There’s so much more forgiveness for white criminals and thus their crimes are covered so much less,” Emma Covey ’22 said.

In reference to the Nashville bombing, Anthony Quinn Warner’s “race was not mentioned in the title and wasn’t the main focus of the articles…. However, if we look at what happens when people of color get into trouble, their race is almost always mentioned in the title of the articles about them, and it becomes a central focus of the media,” Hannah Bennett ’22 said.

This media tactic generates more general interest in the news and plays on peoples’ biases and negative stereotypes towards people of color. I can’t think of one case where a headline read White man commits a crime; should we ban all white people from our country? In fact, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Well he’s white. What did you expect?” and yet there are far too many instances of this being done towards black and brown people.

This prejudice is definitely seen all throughout American history, one example being the Boston Marathon Bombing on April 15th, 2013. The perpetrators, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade pressure-cooker bombs which injured several people (similar to what Warner had done). While what they did was wrong, it is quite easy to see the difference in the assumptions made about them; we don’t immediately assume a white bomber, such as Warner of the Nashville Bombing, is inherently a terrorist, and yet we assume the Tsarnevs are. They, and the entire brown community, are berated in the media.

 This ties into a much bigger issue of systemic racism within the U.S. as seen through cases like these, and dozens of school and police shootings. If the assailant is white, they tend to get treated more humanely than their POC counterparts, something that only continues to vilify POC in the minds of the American public. 

 It is astonishing how Trump supporters were allowed to reign over the Capitol with little resistance, but BLM protesters were shot at with rubber bullets, were maced, and some even went missing in their fight against racial injustice; it is ironic how this comparison directly showcases the racism America continues to uphold and protect. However, this is certainly not discussed in newspapers or on television, and especially not on certain politically biased stations. 

 “It’s futile to think that the media will ever change and it’s because the structure of American politics makes it so that POC will always be at the bottom… everything about American systems is meant to set POC up for failure,” Tanisha Khan ’22 said.