MINORITIES IN MEDIA

William Gentry, first year writing UNC Asheville student

Introduction

As I walked into the Peace Gardens--started by Dewayne Barton, (Dinan, 2018) here in Asheville, North Carolina--I noticed the many interesting sculptures that represented so much and told many stories. Out of all the sculptures, one of them really caught my eye. This was the “Black Jesus” sculpture.  After seeing the sculpture, it led me to begin wondering about the possibilities of Jesus being a different race other than white. While exploring multiple sources on Jesus and his race I realized that most websites depicted him as a white man. Although Jesus was depicted as a white man in the majority of websites I researched, I did not find any full proof that Jesus could not be another race. For example, the African-American Jesus sculpture at the Peace Gardens shows Jesus as a black man. This then led me to think about how this sculpture represented minorities and how many people in the world get overlooked for things like their skin color and sexuality. While thinking of both of these issues I thought of the media industry and how they dealt with both problems. The media’s representation of people of color and women is not only an issue nationally but also right here in our home of Asheville.  

All forms of media have a huge impact in today’s society and plays a big role in peoples’ lives. Having such a major influence on the world can bring unestablished power. Having unestablished power can lead to individual problems that then begin to impact the world. For example, “Today, individuals form impressions of themselves and of others, particularly those whom they have not met in person, largely based on… and other mass media show, making the media some of the most powerful arbiters of racial, ethnic, and gender identity and inequity” (Merskin, 2011).

An example of forming impressions on others based on any form of mass media (Merskin, 2011) would be people developing impressions on certain minorities based on the form of media they witnessed. Certain scenes from shows and movies can stick with a viewer in a distinct way, especially younger children. Also noticing what the characters are doing in the scene will affect the individual’s views on that person and also could develop a stereotype. Especially if this is a reoccurring trait represented over and over again.


Race Inequalities

Controversy between people of color and the media/film industry has increased over the years. While the majority African-Americans, but all people of color often feel that they are not given the same equal opportunities that the white race has in movies and television. According to a recent survey done early February 10th through the 12th of 2018 by “YouGov”, “out of 1,220 American adults only thirty-nine percent of the respondents believed that African-Americans had enough film roles” (Lopez, 2018). This means sixty-one percent of the adults believe that African-Americans do not have enough film roles. Although this survey only includes random people, it still sends a strong message and shows what a majority of people truly think. While race has been just one of the most centered issues, sexism is the other big issue in the media representation industry.


Sexism

Many women often feel that they are looked over and feel they do not get the same opportunities as men. This issue is a big one in the media and film industries as many women are starting to notice the problem. Not playing major roles, limited speaking roles, and being used for their body are just a few of the issues involving sexism in this particular area of work. Researcher Stacy Smith ran an investigation looking at over eight hundred movies from years 2007-2015 and calculated all the speaking characters in those movies that said at least only one word (Smith, 2017). Out of the eight hundred movies, 35,205 were speaking characters and according to Stacy Smith less than one third of those characters were women (Smith, 2017). This shows that men get the majority of the important roles in these movies.


The Urban Trail

While researching the racial and sexism issues in the media I then decided to research more into Asheville to see if any of these issues took place here in Asheville. As it turns out, yes, they do. Throughout downtown Asheville there is what’s called the Urban Trail. The Urban Trail consist of thirty different sculptures that “calls to mind a historical moment and, for the most part, the achievements of remarkable individuals connected to our small town” (Explore Asheville, 2018) here in Asheville. Although a couple of these tributes are dedicated to the African-American race like “The Block” which “celebrates the spirit of Asheville’s African-American community” (Explore Asheville, 2018); none of them single out any individual of that race. The Urban Trail has multiple stations dedicated for white males in the past for example, “Sydney Porter, Nicholas Woodfin, Thomas Wolfe, and more” (Explore Asheville, 2018). Unlike the media, the Urban Trail recognizes many females throughout its tour like Elizabeth Blackwell and the Shopping Daze ladies (Explore Asheville, 2018). Although the trail represents many females it does not have any females of color throughout the whole trail.


Online Asheville

While going through multiple websites for the city of Asheville, many of them show examples of the inequalities that occur in media. In the pictures shown on the websites like “Explore Asheville” are majority of white males and females. This could be because they are trying to reach out to their target audience. The media does this because they know what kind of people that would like to visit Asheville and then they try to connect with them.


Media’s Platform

The media has a great platform in which they can reach the world and the people in it in a unique way. By using television, movies, news, newspapers, etc. they can demonstrate to the people what is going on in the world. By using movies, they can reenact what is happening in the real world and can somewhat create awareness for people and warn them. Through the years, the media has been very impactful on the world numerous times. Although the media’s platform is great to make a positive impact but sometimes it’s not always used for that. Sometimes the media is used in a negative way and it can really leave an impact on some people. The media can make a real important impact on children. Seeing things through the media as a child can leave a lasting image of whatever it is, they see. Since their brains are still developing it is easy for them to believe or think something is right even if it is not. If the media uses their platform that they are given then they can continue to have a positive, major impact on the world.


Conclusion

The representation of people of color and women is not only an issue nationally, but it is right here in Asheville also. The media’s representation of women and people of color ran into issues here in the past few years as described throughout the paper. The only solution that I see to solve these issues is to just be the bigger person and look past the inequalities of another person. I also believe that the media has a great platform to show the people in the world the truth and all the negativity happening in the world. The Peace Gardens is a great way to see and learn about the hidden stories here in Asheville. These sculptures in the Peace Garden are great at representing and telling stories.

References

Asheville Urban Trail. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.exploreasheville.com/urban-trail/


Dinan, K. (2018, April 7). DeWayne Barton feeds both mouth and spirit at the Burton Street Peace Garden. Retrieved from https://mountainx.com/news/dewayne-barton-feeds-both-mouth-and-spirit-at-the-burton-street-peace-garden/


., & Media., T. (2002). Minorities and the Media. Retrieved from https://www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/minorities-and-media


Lopez, R. (2018, March 06). Media Representation of Women, Minorities Both Lacking and Inauthentic, Says Survey. Retrieved from https://variety.com/2018/film/news/yougov-survey-film-diversity-1202719655/


Smith, S. (2017, October). The data behind Hollywood's sexism. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/stacy_smith_the_data_behind_hollywood_s_sexism?language=en


Merskin, D. (2011). Media, Minorities, and Meaning. [online] Google Books. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=PSz8ZH823yMC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=%22Media%22+%22minorities%22&ots=7UOL2d-jji&sig=vTj3jUvLpz-VN5oVAtjf1z0B3-0#v=onepage&q=%22Media%22%20%22minorities%22&f=false [Accessed 27 Oct. 2018].