Studies from Rutgers University might have a new explanation on why the rise of police violence against black men is apparent in the United States. This research was done by Rutger’s School of Public Health and the results are a fresh input to this controversial topic.
Rutger’s School of Public Health has discovered that the media’s portrayal of black men as dangerous people are factors that influence police forces to believe that it reflects on the persona of black men in reality. Another factor is the public’s perception of the ranges of protocols police act at the scene, as legitimate and called for.
Lead author Pamela Valera, an assistant professor comments, “Unarmed black Americans are five times more likely to be shot and killed by police than unarmed white Americans. We believe that media may play a significant role in these disproportionate deaths,” she said. “The stereotypes held, consciously or unconsciously, about the criminality and ‘dangerousness’ of black men influence the rates at which they are stopped and engaged by the police.”
In other words, Professor Valera is proposing that the media portrayal of black men to the public as “hypermasculinity, criminality, and hypersexuality” are what’s deepening the prejudice and discrimination towards them. This falsely portrayed the nature of black men raised conscious/unconscious fear in the American police force, leading to the increase of stopping and questioning them.
— Pamela Valera (@pv2155) November 28, 2018
To prove her point, she mentions the contributing factors to their research, including the scrutiny of past cases of erroneous deaths, such as Michael Brown. Michael Brown was an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri who was shot to death by Darren Wilson. In this case, researchers studied the linguistics used in three renowned newspapers (New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post) during their coverage of the story. What they found was staggering. Eureka Alert cites,
“The newspapers depicted Brown through Wilson’s testimony as a man of large physical size with uncontrollable aggression, but neglected the fact that the two men were of comparable size. For example, one account describes how Wilson compares himself holding on to Brown’s arm to “a 5-year-old trying to hold on to Hulk Hogan.”
The newspaper’s tone to describe Brown’s socioeconomic class and neighborhood were also derogative. With descriptions such as “trappings of a working-class haven” with an “edge of frustration and anger,” Brown was put in a negative spotlight through the words of someone who didn’t know him for who he was.
But why does the media portray it that way?
Professor Valera answers, “Newspapers use sensational words to get hits. However, the words they used depicted Brown as a monster,” Valera said. “Language is critical to public perception. The media should tone down emotion in its reporting.”
If that’s the case, would this account for what Trump loves to say, “fake news”? Does the false portrayal of black men in the media justify why there is police brutality towards black men? By toning down the emotion in news reporting, what does that say about the future of news reporting and more relevantly, our first amendment to free speech?
On the topic #media & #socialmedia's impact– new @rutgersSPH study links negative media portrayal of African American men with police brutality. Thanks, @EBROINTHEAM for bringing this important convo to listeners. #SocialJustice #RutgersResearch https://t.co/QjJ7lR8EJi
— Rutgers SPH (@RutgersSPH) November 29, 2018
This is a crisis Professor Valera recognizes that it won’t just settle on its own. She says, “This is just one snapshot of a larger, ongoing problem of aggression toward black men based on racial bias perpetuated by negative stereotypes in the media,” said Valera. “Since the perceptions that Wilson held of Brown are indicative of more general attitudes of black men, it is vital that police be engaged in more intensive training to become aware of the stereotypes and implicit biases they hold, especially regarding the communities with which they have constant contact.”
What do you guys think? Let us know about your thoughts.
Who is Pamela Valera?
— rulibraries (@RULibraries) November 13, 2017
Dr. Valera is an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health and is also an affiliated member of the School of Social Work at Rutgers University. Pamela Valera earned her Ph.D. in social work from the University of South Carolina as well as a postdoctoral research fellowship in human immunodeficiency virus prevention in Columbia University. She also had a one-year clinical fellowship in cancer health disparities from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
She has several years of experience being in the NIH-funded research in cancer health disparities at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Her main research focuses on developing cancer health education programs for studying cancer prevention and smoking among men in the criminal justice system.