Amherst Life Blog

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Video Shot in South Africa: Racist Acts on the Rise

In the Bluewall Cafeteria at UMass-Amherst several white students laughed when the South Africa story was covered on the wide-screen TV in the eating area:

What motivated the students to laugh? We can't really say. Ignorace, surely. Lack of an ability to place oneself in the shoes of another, surely. But it goes beyond that: the story was framed by CNN as if a little joke was misinterpreted. "The four white students were making a fake reality show! Of course!"

The camera flashed through crowds of protestors (flashed is key -- they didn't want to ask any of the black and brown people offended by the video any questions) as if to say, "look at how this little misunderstanding led to all of these people getting so hot-headed." The protests were muted, framing anger without a voice. "No reason, no thought", the CNN cuts implied, "they just want to be mad at something."

CNN coverage, as we continue to see in mainstream media, looked only at the situation from the perspective of the four white students. Instead of interviewing the women in the video, CNN read the white students' apologies. None of the thousands of South Africans enraged by the video were interviewed. No effort at looking at a continuum of racism was made. They interviewed a few white professors who said they were upset by the images instead. And now they are even questioning Mandela's life-long fight for equality -- "see he didn't really get anything done." That is what is implied: "The riots that broke out in South Africa in protest of racial abuse on Wednesday, almost 16 years to the day that Nelson Mandela walked free from prison, have revealed just how distant the former president's dream of a Rainbow Nation remains from reality." (Yahoo News Writer, Alex Perry)

These incidents are pointing at a dramatic increase in racism on university campuses (U.S. and worldwide), and the poor coverage is a direct relfection on continued, biased reporting that mainstreanm media presents.

And we don't have to go far to see that: look at the way the local papers are covering Jason Vassell's attack -- "'Victim' stabs two" is one title (do they really have the audacity to make a pun here?), and the Boston Globe seemed to go at all costs to avoid the racism inherent in the stabbing incident ( And what about the Collegian?

"With candles in hand, approximately 35 students braved the cold weather last night for a two-minute vigil to show their support for former University of Massachusetts student Jason Vassell, while raising awareness about recent hate crimes on campus.

Excuse us: two minutes? Can you reduce the power of the gathering a little more please? Braving cold weather. How about starting with the powerful ideas and issues that the speakers were adressing? How about framing the story around the ideas and the injustice that motivated the gathering?

The moral in all of this: we need to keep the pressure on ignorant, hateful, racist actions and the way mainstream media is representing/reframing them.


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