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15th November 2019

Why are black men still the victims of racist media representation?

Leilani Neil discusses the media’s obsession with perpetuating racist stereotypes of black men…

It goes without saying that the media reports on what they believe the people want to see, so why is it that black men are still portrayed in a negative light despite their achievements?

In September rapper Dave won a Mercury award for his album, Psychodrama. This is an achievement given to few black artists in the UK, showing the importance of the award not only for Dave but for Grime as a genre. Receiving the award, he said: “This is your story, and even though you can’t be here, I know you’re watching this bro, and I’m so grateful, thank you so much.”

Dave acknowledging his brother gave fuel to the media that week. ITV tweeted about the Mercury prize winner with the headline, “Dave hugs his mother and thanks his criminal brother”.

After significant backlash the tweet was later deleted. But the fact that a prominent media channel focused on Dave’s “criminal brother” in the headline clearly seeks to dismiss the main subject of the article, which was the prize he won. There was no scandal to tell as here we have a young black male with a chart topping album which touches on mental health, various issues in the black community and his gratitude to his family. Yet the focus shifted completely to pedalling disparaging, dangerous narratives about black men, particularly against those who dare to speak their truth.

The portrayal of black people in the media has not only been an issue in the world of music but has also been shown to be an issue in the world of sports. Raheem Sterling, who plays football for both Manchester City and England, has had “troubles” with his portrayal in the media, as he is continually being painted as “flashy and blingy” as he dares to buy things with his own money. Sterling has often asserted that this portrayal of him is totally contrary to who he actually is and has also faced incredulous amounts of scrutiny and backlash from a tattoo of a rifle on his right leg.

Last year the founder of Mothers Against Guns, Lucy Cope, told The Sun that: “The tattoo is disgusting, Raheem should hand his head in shame. It’s totally unacceptable.” She then went on to demand that he get the tattoo removed or covered with another design. She stated that he should not “glamorise guns” and should be dropped from the England team if he does not meet these demands. This resulted in Sterling having to justify himself and his body, explaining that he chose a gun tattoo to commemorate his father who passed away due to gun violence.

The fact there was a rally against Sterling, calling for him to be dropped, simply highlights the negative press young black males face in the UK for simply being black. The focus should be on celebrating these men’s successes, not portraying them in the most negative light possible.

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