There is no liberal media. There is only a corporate media. The corporate media is deeply involved in maintaining and sustaining a society that is racially hierarchical and where whiteness is privileged.
Social scientists have repeatedly demonstrated how the news media misrepresents, distorts, and presents stereotypical depictions of non-whites. This bias is especially true with the coverage of crime.
For example, black people are depicted by the media as criminals at rates which are much higher than the actual amount of crime which the former commits. Conversely, crimes committed by white people are under-reported by the news media. The news media "humanizes" white criminals, presenting a narrative of a good person who somehow went wrong. By comparison, black and brown "criminals" are monsters. Thus, there is no effort to psychologize, explain, or understand what would motivate the latter to break the law. Why? The White Gaze deems deviance and bad behavior as the natural state of affairs for black people: this is especially true of black men.
The killing of an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown by the incompetent white police officer named Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri is one more example of how the news media defaults to a habit where black people need to be saints and angels in order to receive a modicum of its empathy and sympathy. The news media's desire to niggerize Michael Brown is greater than the obligation to locate his life within a broader context. This is a function of old fashioned racism, implicit bias, and a deep American cultural belief that black people are inherently pathological and dysfunctional.
America's news rooms are predominantly white, the media is dominated by white men, and the American "public" as imagined by the corporate media elite is "naturally" white. Consequently, the white racial frame operates at every level of the corporate media to naturalize whiteness as good and normal while blackness is made into something grotesque, bad, maladaptive, and deviant.
The depiction of black criminality as salacious and common is also circulated and legitimated by a massive prison industrial entertainment complex that includes TV shows such as Cops, The First 48, Orange is the New Black, Lockup, etc.
On Monday, The New York Times slurred Michael Brown's memory by defaulting to a narrative of black criminality and bad behavior in this much-discussed piece. The Times then issued a
Writing at The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates has returned from his walkabout and self-imposed contemplative exile and retreat to write about the murder of Michael Brown by the cowardly killer cop named Darren Wilson.
"Michael Brown's Unremarkable Humanity" is a short and honest essay. As good writing does, it moved me to think about my own life in relation to how Michael Brown has been "niggerized" by the news media. If a snapshot of my life, either as an adult or as a child/teenager, was condensed down to a few hundred words, in an essay lacking any connective tissue or context for who I am (or alternatively would like to believe that I am) how would the story read?
Moreover, what cultural biases and frameworks would be used by the reader and the public to interpret the meaning of my life as a working class black man?
I could pull out some gems about school, grades, and other achievements. But, my personal life inventory contains some of the following facts and details too. Someone working to niggerize or otherwise slur my life and memory would likely emphasize events from my childhood that could potentially be viewed as nebulous, problematic, or titillating.
1. My friends and I enjoyed setting fires at a local cemetery. We would then put them out. If we could not put them out we would run to a nearby pay phone and call the fire department.
2. My friends and I organized coordinated military style assaults at the local gravel pit. We would hide in the quarry and then attack the workers and their heavy equipment with smoke bombs. We could have gotten killed. Youth knows no limitations of mortality...until one of your friends dies at too early an age.
3. I have beaten up people who called me "nigger" in school and elsewhere. After one such incident, I refused to apologize to the teacher and told her to call the principal so that my parents could sue the school and have her fired.
4. As a child, I would go with one of my neighborhood buddies and steal the bikini style underwear from the clothesline of the gay couple that lived down the street. We would then taunt the gay couple and call them ugly names.
5. I would put dog poop on a stick and chase girls who I liked with it.
6. In middle school, a friend and I beat up a racist white kid who lived several blocks away. We then put him in a garbage can and rolled it down a busy street.
7. In high school, I was shot at during a dust up between one of my best friends, some of his people, and a local gang.
8. I was associated with people who would later join gangs, get killed, kill others, or in one case, become a professional criminal and mid to high level drug dealer before retiring from that hustle.
9. I was sexually intimate with girls in elementary and middle school.
10. In high school I had an emotionally inappropriate relationship with a female teacher who was 30 years older than me. We did not consummate the relationship because at the last minute, once I realized the depth of what was taking place, I panicked.
11. My friends and I would run elaborate war games and military exercises in full camouflage, with realistic looking toy guns, at the local nature preserve/park.
12. I was detained by the police during the summer between elementary and middle school.
[In the style of Michael Brown, I would be smeared as a violent, reverse racist, sex deviant, fire setting, homophobe who would likely have shot people at a mall or school if I did not get caught up with my "thug" friends and end up dead or in jail. Anyone who knows me would laugh at that conclusion; if you did not know me, or alternatively all that you knew was my race and gender as presented in a narrative spun by a third party writing for the corporate media, the conclusion would likely be very different.]
There are many, many other "interesting" facts about my younger life (never mind the present) that I could include in the above list. One of the ways that black people are niggerized by the White Gaze is that we are not given the benefit of the doubt about our humanity and behavior. The default assumption is that we are a problem; as such, there is a backward working reasoning process and path dependency that naturally ends with black folks being troubled, criminal, and problematic people.
One of the core privileges of whiteness is that as compared to people of color, white folks receive the benefit of the doubt in all things--especially if they have to do with race and the color line.
A young white man shoots up a movie theater? Something must have gone wrong psychologically. Another white teenager kills dozens of people at school? We must engage in deep soul searching to see what his family life was like!
White female teachers are having sex with their students? That is just mildly inappropriate and not really a crime anyway.
White conservatives and "ammosexuals" are running around with guns and pointing them at federal authorities? These "patriots" are just exercising their Constitutional "rights" and protecting us from "tyranny". White teenagers are killing black people in hate crimes? White parents kill their daughter's black boyfriend? Those are outliers. Why are you people so upset by them!
The niggerization of Michael Brown by the corporate news media, as well as how black people are misrepresented by the media as criminals, more generally, reflects a type of day-to-day white supremacy where there is no empathy for the Other.
Ultimately, the White Gaze is an act of projection on to others, one that distorts the humanity of people of color as seen by the owners of whiteness, where the latter functions as a type of social and political property.
The White Gaze also works as a type of introspective mirror or looking glass for white folks that distorts, makes noble, and beautifies the person looking in it. White privilege makes black and brown folks into something ugly and criminal as a way of transforming white people into a harmless, benign, and "normal" group of people.
In all, the niggerization of black men and boys by the White Gaze is a way of elevating and nurturing the White collective psyche. Michael Brown is the latest victim of what is a centuries-long American cultural trope.