[Opinion] American media has perfected the art of demonizing children of color

Anisah Steele, Opinion Editor

In America, minorities are victims of dehumanization and criminalization, especially in the news. The media perpetuates a false narrative that negatively impacts the perception of colored youth. As shown on multiple occasions, children of color are depicted as thugs or gang bangers, and oftentimes have their pasts brought up in order to fit a story the media wants to portray.

However, their white counterparts are shown as troubled teens or kind souls regardless of what they have done. For example, following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting there were a multitude of stories published chronicling the life of Nikolas Cruz. The majority of which referred to his life as troubled and characterized him as a broken child. 

The media excuses the behavior of white children by depicting them as helpless and disturbed. This allows for the public to sympathize with them and view them more as a human and less like a criminal. 

Meanwhile, children of color are portrayed in a completely different light. For instance, after the murder of Trayvon Martin right-wing media outlets rushed to find a reason to justify the killing of a young black boy. Fox News commentator, Geraldo Rivera, proclaimed that, “[If] you dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug.”

The notion that children of color deserve the treatment they receive highlights the atrocious beliefs that exist within our society. No child should be treated as less than human, and their clothing is not indicative of their moral character. 

Rivera’s comments are not the only occurrence of this kind of ignorance. Following the Michael Brown shooting there were multiple stories published implying that Brown’s murder was justifiable. For example, in a Fox News editorial by Ron Hosko, Hosko claims “Michael Brown was no martyr for ‘police brutality.’ Brown was a thug and a thief. He stole a pack of $50 cigarillos from a convenience store, menaced the shopkeeper and shoved him out of the way.”

Although theft is illegal and morally wrong, it does not justify the murder of a young boy. If Brown was another skin color, he would not have faced media outlets assassinating his character. 

For example, white children like Brock Turner are able to evade harsh sentencing for horrific crimes and character assassination solely because of how white people are presented in the media. During Turner’s trial, the judge, along with various media outlets, referred to and portrayed Turner as an “all-American swimmer with a bright future.” Rather than calling Turner out for being a rapist, the media decided to introduce his accomplishments and promising future before his crime.

The way American media is currently functioning is unacceptable. Children of color deserve to be accurately represented instead of being demonized by the public. Since white children can commit horrendous crimes and still be regarded as decent people, how come children of color cannot receive the same treatment even when they do not commit a crime? 

These depictions of minorities are detrimental to the growth of America as they hinder a person’s ability to see beyond a narrative perpetuated by the media. Racism is deeply rooted in the American system but the first step in the right direction is eliminating biased media representation.