1.3 Problem Statement
Traditional and new forms of media take unique approaches towards the representation of African American males to audiences in the United States. The resultant impact of the variations in the representation of African American males has been the development of perceptions about African American men by opposite sides of the divide based on hard-line positions about police brutality. The challenge, therefore, lies in the depiction of character and behavioural traits of the African American male with regard to the actions of the police during brutal confrontations between law enforcement and African American males. The advent of incidences of violence such as was the recent Dallas shootings is particularly blamed on the attitudes and emotive stances that hardliner positions on the debate surrounding police brutality in the United States is concerned. The media plays a crucial role of informing the public and particularly in agenda setting. To that extent, the angle that the media pursues regarding reportage on incidences of confrontation between African American men and the police proves key to understanding the perceptions of the public about African American men. Moreover, the media’s role in agenda setting is central to the shaping of the mind-set of the public as regards the conduct and character of African American males (McCombs M. , 2002). The current state of escalating hatred and anger over police brutality brewing feelings of racial discrimination brings forth a new problem that can only be described as the ‘New Jim Crow’. To that extent, the suffering of African American men in the hands of police is to a great extent attributable to the depiction of African American men by the media. Traditional and modern forms of media present African Americans in a certain context that advances negative stereotype of aggression and violence (Hammond & Yung, 1993). Notably, African American men, by default, have become targets of rogue police officers who exercise brutal force when engaged in confrontation with African American suspects leading to violence.
1.4 Research Aims and Objectives
On a broader perspective, the goals of the study are fourfold. First, the research seeks to develop knowledge and inquiry into whether disparities exist in the media’s portrayal of African American males involved in criminal activities or otherwise. In that regard, the study evaluates traditional and modern forms of media by comparing and contrasting the depictions of African American males during news coverage of incidences of police brutality. The advent of new media that brings together aspects of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among others presents a point of comparison with news coverage by traditional forms of media such as Television News and Newspapers. The second fundamental objective that the study is concerned with revolves around the determination of whether discrepancies exist between traditional and new forms of media regarding the nature of reporting on the character and behaviour of African American males during incidences of police brutality. Further, the third objective of the study is to evaluate the impact of the media’s portrayal of African American males on the perceptions of the public with respect to the general conduct and character traits of African American males. Finally, the study aims to present recommendations necessary for adoption by the media in shaping perceptions of African American males. The specific objectives of the study are as under;
· To compare and contrast reporting by traditional and modern forms of media with respect to cases of police brutality and specifically the angle of representation of African American males in news reports.
· To evaluate news reports in traditional and new media forms for similarities and differences in portrayal of African American males when reporting on incidences of police brutality.
· To investigate the impact of portrayals of African American males in both new and traditional forms of media on the perception of the American public about African American males.
· To develop a list of recommendations that can be adopted by the media in general as regards the portrayal of African American males and by extension shape the perceptions of the American public about African American males.
1.5 Research Questions
The study seeks to answer the question on why police brutality is predominantly associated with a confrontation between the police and male suspects of African American heritage. Moreover, the study seeks to answer the question on whether or not the media has a role to play as concerns the portrayal of African American males during news reporting. It is worth of note that the media has a significant role to play in shaping the perceptions of the public and setting the agenda as regards issues of importance to the general public (Carroll & McCombs, 2003). In that regard, what images of African Americans are carried by new media and traditional media and what is the impact of such images on the perceptions of the American publics as pertains to the character and conduct of African American males. Consequently, the research seeks to answer the question of whether or not differences exist between new and traditional media forms in the manner with which news coverage on police brutality cases are presented to the American public. More importantly, the study seeks to answer the question on how perceptions created by the media about African American males has had an impact on the lives of such individuals. The specific research questions are as under;
ü What are the differences between new and traditional forms of media in news reporting pertaining to the conduct and characteristics of African American males involved in instances of police brutality?
ü Are there significant implications of the perceptions created by the media about African American men on how African American men are treated by the police?
ü What are the far reaching implications of the stereotypes created by the media about African American men in their social lives?
ü What are the factors that determine the angle or approach taken by either traditional or modern forms of media with respect to the portrayal of African American men in media?
ü What alternative progressive options exist in media towards shaping perceptions of African American males that would lead to an end of violent confrontation between police officers and African American suspects?
1.6 Significance of the Study
The study proves relevant owing to the escalating statistics of police brutality against African American males in the United States. In the year 2016 alone, 123 people have been shot by police officers as of the killing of Philando Castile as the latest shooting of African American males by police (Craven, 2016). The excerpt below from the Guardian paints a grim picture of the growing strained relations between White police officers and African American males. As such, instances of confrontations between the two will almost certainly end in the shooting of the African American male.
Black people were killed by police at more than twice the rate of white people in 2015
Despite the higher total number of white people killed, black people were more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement when adjusting for population (per one million).
7.13 Black3.48 Hispanic/Latino3.4 Native American2.91 White1.34 Asian/Pacific Islander
SOURCE: The Counted, 1 Jan – 31 Dec 2015 (Swaine, laugland, Lartey, & McCarthy, 2015).
The statistics indicate that African American males are nine times as likely to be killed by police officers as compared to White males of the same age bracket. With over 1000 African American men killed by police officers in the span of 2015 alone, the 123 number of Black men killed by police officers as of July 2016 brings to the fore concerns about the escalation of the trend that is seemingly a killing spree orchestrated by the authorities (Craven, 2016). Developing an understanding of the perceptions of African Americans among the wider scope of the public is necessary towards understanding the impact that such perceptions have had in contributing to the status quo. In retrospect, the media plays a fundamental role in shaping ideologies as pertains to how people think about trending issues and matters of interest to the public (McCombs M. , 2002). In that esteem, conducting the study proves relevant in that it presents knowledge on how the media can be used for the creation of positive stereotypes of African American males and hopefully end the spate of violence and confrontation between African American males and police officers in the United States (Anderson, Feia, & Ceulemans, 2011). The results of the study prove significant as they can be used as representative recommendations that can be essential in restructuring the media towards adopting different forms through which to portray African Americans in positive light and end the negative connotations that are associated with aggressive and violent nature of African American men (Hammond & Yung, 1993).