March 7, 2022

Lethality of the Media

History has shown us that the media can be used as a tool to perpetuate certain narratives to society and cause unimaginable harm. I explore this further in uncovering its role in maintaining white supremacy.

Lethality of the Media
Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash

On this occasion, it is explicit what narrative the media wants to permeate into society, as explained in the video this has an innumerable amount of consequences.

This is not done by accident but is purposely designed to ensure the maintenance of the status quo

Below, I’ve specifically focused on media techniques used to perpetuate narratives to ensure the maintenance of white supremacy. I specifically focused on the Colin Kapernick protest.

White Supremacy: a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of colour by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.

Dr Lisa Kingstone

I hope you enjoy the read 👨🏾‍💻.


Background

On August 26, 2016, in a National Football league (NFL)  preseason game, Colin Kaepernick, a former 49ers Quarterback, sat on the bench while his teammates were standing for the usual ceremony of the American national anthem. Kaepernick continued to do so during the season, but after speaking to a U.S. Army veteran, Kaepernick later decided to kneel instead of sitting down as a sign of respect for US military personnel. Kaepernick took the knee in protest against “a country [United States of America] that oppresses black people and people of colour.” What ensued was a mixture of support and condemnation from people within the sport and broader society, with those supporting him due to Kaepernick rightly highlighting the disproportionate killing of black men, women and children. However, condemnation was attached to Kaepernick's stance because it was perceived as disrespectful to the flag and national anthem. Kaepernick's protest resulted in the viral #TakeTheKnee movement, which saw athletes across all spheres of sport join Kaepernick in taking a knee while the anthem was playing. It also resulted in Kaepernick being the face of the Nike ‘Just do it’ 30th-anniversary campaign, which led to the further bombardment of support and abuse. However, such a stance resulted in Kaepernick no longer having an NFL career, with many commentators suggesting he was being blackballed, which proved to be the case. On February 15th, 2019, Kaepernick's collusion grievance against the league was settled with a confidential settlement, which indicated that NFL team owners conspired to ensure Kaepernick never played in the league. Currently, Kaepernick does not have a job in the NFL but is touring the United States, providing self-empowerment workshops and using his platform to discuss injustices towards black people and people of colour in America. His work also has not gone unnoticed evident by Amnesty International awarding him the Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2018.


Introduction

This blog post will examine various images, headlines, and articles published by reputable news outlets in response to Colin Kaepernick's protest and uncover strategies used to racialise the event to alienate and discredit his supporters. Kaepernick's protest and the #TakeTheKnee movement gripped the nation at a point where ideological separation within U.S. society was palpable. This was further heightened by the previous United States of America President Donald Trump's rhetoric.  In this essay, I will be uncovering the distorted perspective perpetuated within media outlets covering Kaepernick’s protest as a means to ensure the maintenance of white supremacy.

There are three main themes within the sources I will be analysing and other media sources about the topic. In the first section of this blog, I will be arguing, with the help of Stuart Hall, the media outlet's use of othering and stereotyping to discredit Kaepernick’s stance and silencing black athletes' attempts to voice injustices occurring within their community. Section two will focus on the media outlets' perpetuation of the colourblind narrative and its inherent failures. Section three will cover why media outlets erase black history when discussing current injustices occurring within the black community. Lastly, I will conclude by discussing white identity and its profound implications on broader society.


Othering

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/pbUC4IFHcldrhfCa2Sz2As5EVuVaZpmiH54hPrKJ9USCAQ9WEQps614NEUgFW2ZpAxMcW7K6RYD5_duaoClPrBS2PPRARYQtvlQFKMnV833QpvMPZAMaArOB5y8D5EoiYWOLBd0m7Tg
(The Mercury News, 2016)

The Mercury News covering of the Colin Kaepernick protest is indicative of how other media outlets conveyed the topic, erasure and filtering of relevant information and, on most occasions’ generalisation. The headline minimises the treatment Kaepernick has endured by framing it as only “rough treatment”, in turn, filtering out information about Kaepernick’s treatment as well as erasing the motivation behind his protest. Kaepernick received death threats, got blackballed, and outside that particular game, there were shirts sold “with Kaepernick’s image in the sights of a rifle scope.” Also, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, publicly requested the firing of Kaepernick in the process, referring to him as a “son of a b***h.” To downplay Kaepernick's treatment as “rough” is an understatement and exemplifies the audience the media outlet is looking to attract, white nationalistic male Americans. The article lacks clarity because it pushes away the totality of Kaepernick’s treatment. Furthermore, there is a complete erasure of the reasoning behind Kaepernick’s stance and discussions of black injustices within America. Instead, the article focuses on what Kaepernick is doing on the field and the crowd’s reaction, exemplified by the main picture.

The main image of the article simultaneously calls for the attention of ‘Bills Fans’ and ‘Proud Americans’ by the fan as well as the article, regarding the latter we can distinguish categorically who is a Buffalo Bills fan via a myriad of methods, but the former is not so definitive. As such, determining a ‘Proud American’ is hugely dependent upon the person and what constitutes an American. Thus, the article intends to create an American stereotype in the process othering those outside their fixed set of boundaries, as a result pitting races and people against each other.  As (Winant & Omi , 2015, pp. 105-106) mention, as humans, we “categorise people….To navigate in the world”, enabling us to distinguish between friend or foe, in turn, we understand the world according to our culture by referring individuals to our “general classificatory scheme” (Hall, 1977, p. 19).  Without getting into the depths and complexities of America's relations with race, it is widely known that in the United States, race has historically and still is used as a means for social stratification. Race has shaped and continues to shape America's history, economic structure and culture. With that in mind, and according to (Winant & Omi , 2015, p. 131), the “American” identity has always been defined as white and will continue to be perpetuated so. As such, the article is covertly trying to garner the attention of White America to deploy the stereotyping strategy of splitting.

According to (Hall, et al., 2013, p. 22), “stereotyping reduces, essentialises, naturalises and fixes ‘difference’”, hence allowing one to set what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable, in turn constituting what the make-up of an American is, anything which doesn’t fit within that make-up is expelled or excluded and considered different. The article displaying the poster with the words ‘We respect Our flag & anthem’ is not only fixating boundaries that the make-up of an American is a white male, via the fan holding the poster, but is othering and excluding Kaepernick as well as a vast majority of black Americans, who support him. Therefore, such symbolic exclusion is used to restore the ‘purity’ of what is deemed ‘American’, which the latter discussed to ensure the maintenance of white supremacy and power inequalities.

Othering and the stereotyping strategy of splitting is a traditional tool used to silence black athletes attempting to voice injustices occurring within their community. Evident by Abdul-Rauf being suspended in 1996 for not standing during the national anthem due to the United States' history of tyranny. Muhammad Ali was stripped of his Heavyweight crown in 1968 due to his anti-war stance. Most famously, Tommie Smith and John Carlos expulsion from the 1968 Olympics for their Black Power salute. Due to the nature of sports in America, a vast majority of teams are owned by white men. Most athletes are black, which reinforces the notion of black people still being owned by white men, creating the black athlete stereotype. The stereotype is essentially the racialisation of the black male body. ‘Uncle Tom’ in obedience and ‘Black Buck’ in physical prowess, such a stereotype results in a grievance that suggests that black athletes should be grateful for their wealth and success since it was not earned but given consequently resulting in their silence since America ‘GAVE’ them opportunity and success. However, as (Baldwin , 1993, p. 69) articulates, “once a black man refuses to accept the white world's definitions”, the power of the white world is threatened as a result “, every attempt is made to cut that black man down.” Therefore, highlighting that such stereotyping of black athletes is used to place boundaries on them to ensure their subservience and maintain white supremacy and domination.


Colourblindness

https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/RvwXmI0yWXZakd0_HMJvg3gv3Ytz8v399Hx6iO8BpWT1CXDNn6uxpYqPiz83-Y-LP4At0bCsAlSCNHy1eXJRepleJCOx_vrkHKj3mtmKqyLGyTuYWnQMjFu_lbFx7D--B40ECJZPDxY
(USA Today, 2016)

Kaepernick’s motivation behind his protests energised the Black Lives Matter movement and conversations regarding injustices people of colour face, but especially black people have faced now and historically. However, (USA Today , 2016) running of Jerry Rice’s comments highlights attempts to squash such conversations and push the colourblind narrative simultaneously. The image of Kaepernick with his afro can be portrayed as an embracement of black power, culture, identity and heritage. The image in conjunction with the headline indicates the portrayal of Kaepernick as rebellious since he does not fit within the black athlete stereotype, as well as not wanting us to all “just get along.” Hence, suggesting that the article's intended audience is the white innocent liberal individual who is naive of the “pervasive presence of race and racism -white supremacy – throughout the U.S. social structure” (Winant & Omi , 2015, p. 257) thus easily persuaded towards the idea of colourblindness.

Throughout the article, there is no mention of Kaepernick’s comments regarding U.S. historical suppression of black people and the current police brutality of people of colour. Instead, the article focuses on Jerry Rice's comments and the backlash he received, which the article perceives to be due to his poor “choice of words”, whilst not mentioning why his comments can be viewed as a criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. The article choosing to headline Jerry Rice's comments but in particular “Can We all just get along” illustrates the article's exploitation of the splintering of black America to covertly squash debates regarding racial inequalities and injustice. Jerry Rice is a former NFL player, revered amongst NFL aficionados and considered the best to grace the game, which has allowed him to amass enormous wealth and prestige, in turn, being part of that small transcendent elite that white people must genuflect to, as a result becoming too far removed socially and culturally with the rest of Black America. Thus, when Jerry Rice refers to “We” he is referring to that small transcendent black elite, not the entire black community, which the article exploits to suggest that U.S racial conditions have improved and we have less racial discrimination, violence and repression, ultimately attempting to discredit Kaepernick’s stance and claims of racial inequality by Black people. Which turns our attention to “All lives matter.

By the article having “All lives matter” as the first comment in the headline and presumably the media outlet not seeing it as an issue due to a lack of debate surrounding the term, it propagates the colourblindness narrative in the process of suppressing black voices and fundamentally ensuring the maintenance of white supremacy within the U.S. social structure.  “All lives matter” is an advocation of the colourblind view of race within America and its “successful transition to a “post-racial” society” (Winant & Omi , 2015, pp. 256-257). However, such pretence is exposed by the “enduring significance of race” (Winant & Omi , 2015, p. 257), especially in education, employment, criminal justice, health and housing. According to (Winant & Omi , 2015, p. 257) colourblindness provided the framework for anti-racist movement goals; this is exemplified by Dr King’s August 28th 1963, “I Have a Dream” speech which details his children's livelihood no longer being based upon “The colour of their skin but by the content of their character” (National Archive , 1963). As (Winant & Omi , 2015, pp. 257-258) argue for such a possibility to happen, there needed to be a destruction of the U.S. system and the creation of a new “more egalitarian racial dynamic” system for the colourblind narrative to stake its claim. However, the attempt to advocate colourblindness without challenging the system exonerates and erases “two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy” (Coates, 2014, p. 1). Persistent racial inequality, violence, disenfranchisement and profiling. Hence as (Winant & Omi , 2015, pp. 259-260) suggest, colour blindness “is a bid for racial hegemony in the United States today,” and the article is one of countless means in permeating the narrative to the masses to ensure that white supremacy remains unchallenged. The erasure of black history accelerates, in turn, neglecting centuries of injustice. “From the cradle to the grave, race continues to shape and define our prospects, opportunities, life chances, and dreams” (Winant & Omi , 2015, p. 258). Until that changes, we will never live in a colourblind society.


Erasure of history

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/wNtEgJbt9oQaufRhfT4HcGARdv2H6bztG8RPo260qU7g-LdqzCNWmj0f6JK6qCSO2dj4_Xuyo7ifxzStO8HmgH6z-t_9d0sBOUDyAOk0UGCxF7feS2ii5Z_tzwcYwPJKV2o4__MKBhc
(ESPN, 2016)

(ESPN, 2016) Downplaying historical racial suppression and mitigating it as only Kaepernick’s views highlight the media outlet's attempt in eradicating black history to safeguard the identity of white people in the process, diminishing any racial unity in existence. The image of Kaepernick staring at his white colleague contradicts the nature of his protest. The media outlet's image is a restoration of the power inequalities between black and white people, with Kaepernick portrayed as fitting within the black athlete stereotype. There is a greater emphasis of the Uncle Tom servitude, by Blaine Gabbert’s face turned away it gives him that sense of authority in combination with Kaepernick’s eyes glaring wide at him depicts him wanting or waiting for Gabbert's approval to protest, in turn, the media outlet covertly illustrating racial power inequalities.

The media outlets headline “treatment of minorities” is a generalisation and an attempt to belittle issues Kaepernick is raising. Kaepernick specifically stated that he is protesting due to the U.S. oppression of “black people and people of colour’ at present and historically. Black or African Americans are the 2nd highest racial category in America (United States Census Bureau, 2010) with a history entrenched in the very fabric of the nation, hence to headline, a swiping statement such as “treatment of minorities” showcases the media outlet minimising as well as negating historical black injustices. Furthermore, the media outlet, as well as others, regards the oppression of black people as only “his [Kaepernick’s] view” (ESPN , 2016) and “his [Kaepernick’s] belief” (Powell , 2019) which is a complete erasure of history and insinuates that this is not a global issue that many are attempting to tackle, which it is. The headline and the content indicate that the media outlet's main audience is white people, whether they are oblivious or not to America's racial history.

Hence, why would any media outlet want to eradicate black history? According to (Baldwin 1993), it is due to a fear of losing their identity. (Baldwin , 1993, pp. 8-9) Argues that for many white people, they have been taught or have had to believe that for “innumerable reasons black men are inferior to white men,” racial projects today still inject such a message. Hence, many white people, according to (Baldwin, 1993), are still trapped in that history, in turn, once a black man no longer acts according to their understanding, it profoundly attacks their sense of reality, culminating in the suppression of black people to restore their sense of identity, as such, eradicating black history from black people as well as white people ensures that the narrative of white superiority remains status quo and unchallenged. Also, when considering the paradoxical nature of American global standing, it highlights the nation's fear of allowing racial unity among the historically oppressed. Due to America being born from racial despotism, bloodshed and slavery, it has resulted in a process (Winant & Omi , 2015, pp. 131-132) called “panethnicising”, racial groups unifying, due to their shared experience of suffering, to change their conditions and confront their tormentors, hence, in this case, the challenging and overthrow of white supremacy. Therefore, despite America wanting to dictate culture globally, they fear the mass acceptance of ‘others’ within their country due to the fear of vengeance from those previously and currently oppressed under their hands. Hence, I argue that media outlets attempt to eradicate black history because they want to maintain and strengthen their sense of identity, which they deem as white supremacy and subdue any resistance that can challenge their sense of reality. Therefore, a more extensive discussion is required to dissect the white identity. It can give us a greater understanding of the current climate surrounding the ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan and, to an extent, wanting to be a ‘Great Power’ again within the Brexit narrative.


Conclusion

To conclude, analysing media coverage of the Kaepernick protest and the #TakeTheKnee movement has highlighted media outlets' covert attempts to restore, maintain and strengthen white supremacy. However, it has uncovered the need to have greater dialogue and research into the white identity since, from my perspective, such a distorted view of white identity has resulted in continued oppression and suppression of black people and people of colour. As mentioned, to truly live in a colourblind society requires a complete overhaul of the current system, which requires white people to understand, internalise and learn from their identity and not have it manufactured and forced upon them. Therefore, until achieved, we will continue to witness strategies to racialise events to ensure race remains the master category in determining all aspects of people's lives.


Bibliography

Baldwin , J., 1993. The fire next time. 1st Vintage International ed ed. New York: Vintage International.

Coates, T.-N., 2014. The Case for Reparations. s.l.:The Atlantic .

ESPN , 2016. Colin Kaepernick Protests Anthem Due to Treatment of Minorities. [Online]
Available at: https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/colin-kaepernick-protests-anthem-due-treatment-minorities/story?id=41691274

Hall, S., 1977. 'Pluralism, race and class in Carribbean society'. In: Race and class in post-colonial society . New York : UNESCO , pp. 150-182.

Hall, S., Evans , J. & Nixon, S., 2013. The Spectacle of the Other. In: S. Hall, J. Evans & S. Nixon, eds. Representation. s.l.:SAGE; Open University Press, pp. 224-290.

Mathew, J., 2019. Colin Kaepernick: 'Taking a knee' for the black community in US. [Online]
Available at: https://www.theweek.in/news/sports/2019/02/14/Colin-Kaepernick-Taking-a-knee-for-the-black-community-in-US.html

Media, N., 2016. Niners QB Kaepernick refuses to stand for anthem in protest [Interview] (26 August 2016).

National Archive , 1963. "I HAVE A DREAM...". [Online]
Available at: https://www.archives.gov/files/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf

Powell , M., 2019. Colin Kaepernick Is Silenced by a Settlement, but His Knee Spoke Volumes. [Online]
Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/15/sports/colin-kaepernick-nfl-human-rights.html

The Mercury News , 2016. Colin Kaepernick gets rough treatment from Buffalo Bills fans. [Online]
Available at: https://www.mercurynews.com/2016/10/16/colin-kaepernick-gets-rough-treatment-from-buffalo-bills-fans/

United States Census Bureau , 2010. Race, Combinations of Two Races, and Not Hispanic or Lation: 2010. [Online]
Available at: https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/DEC/10_SF1/QTP4

USA Today , 2016. Jerry Rice says 'All Lives Matter,' Kaepernick should 'respect the flag'. [Online]
Available at: https://eu.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/49ers/2016/08/30/jerry-rice-colin-kaepernick-all-lives-matter/89576070/

Washington, J., 2016. Still no anthem, still no regrets for Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf. [Online]
Available at: https://theundefeated.com/features/abdul-rauf-doesnt-regret-sitting-out-national-anthem/

Winant, H. & Omi , M., 2015. The Theory of Racial Formation. Third ed. s.l.:Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.