Studies of Americans’ unconscious beliefs shows that most people — white and black — think black people are dangerous and both average folks and police are quicker to shoot black than white people.
Where does the cognitive belief that black people are dangerous come from?
Partly, it comes from the media. A new study by Color of Change found that, while 51% of the people arrested for violent crime in New York City are black, 75% of the news reports about such arrests highlighted black alleged perpetrators.
Meanwhile, when people of color are arrested, they are more likely to be portrayed in ways that make them seem threatening than white people. This happened this week:
See also, portrayals of Mark Duggan and Mike Brown.
Each time we see a black person on TV who is linked with a violent crime or portrayed as a criminal, the neurons in our brain that link blackness with criminality fire. The same for people of other races. The more often a link is triggered, the stronger it becomes. Disproportionate reporting like the kind captured in this study make the neural links in our brain — it’s actual physical structure — reflect the racism inherent in the reporting itself.
These associations, unfortunately, are pre-conscious. Those neurons fire faster than we can suppress them with our conscious mind. So, even if we believe in our heart-of-hearts that these connections are unfair or untrue, our unconscious is busy making the associations anyway. Biased reporting, in other words, changes the minds of viewers, literally.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
macatawami — April 9, 2015
Lisa, I think there is certainly some bias in how the media presents white/black crime suspects, but the Iowa burglaries are a bad example. The presentation in that case is more likely due to laziness on the part of the newspaper than anything else. For the (white) University of Iowa students, their team PR photos are freely available and likely one of the first images that pops up in a web search. On the other hand, it takes a bit more effort to get a mugshot, but that might be the only photo available for someone who doesn't have PR photos sitting online.
It's certainly possible this is an example of racial bias, but I think it's far more likely that it's just a small-town news outlet using whichever pictures are easiest to acquire. I'd bet that if the black suspects had been university of Iowa athletes and the white suspects had been more anonymous people, the photo situation would have been reversed.
Indeed, searching for images related to the word "arrest" on that site reveals that the site uses mugshot photos for virtually all crime suspects, no matter what their race: http://goo.gl/1SRYLN
John George — April 9, 2015
The methodology of the study conducted by Color of Change seems well designed. I thought because it is an advocacy group it might have been rigged but I found no evidence of that. I don't know what is the reason for the disproportionate coverage and doubt it can be explained by simple racism; however, on one level that doesn't matter. Lisa's primer on neuronal connections is over simplified but not really incorrect. These stations should evaluate why they are disproportionately featuring black crime and unless there is a legitimate news reason, which seems doubtful (more likely the reason has to do with assumptions about marketing drivers and viewership), they should adjust their coverage to achieve better balance or they should continue to be called out.
Bill R — April 9, 2015
There is a silly fantasy among Americans that the media--the news--is managed by "journalists" that are engaged in some kind of life mission to keep us fully informed and tell us the truth about what's going on. Now really.
The media exists to sell us beer and pantyhose. They do so by hooking us on fear, extremes and controversy.
Now you know; lets move on..
Spy Game – Bridget Magnus and the World as Seen from 4'11" — April 10, 2015
[…] abuse victims stay because of their pets; Cyndi Lauper, voice of reason; news with a side order of racism; huh, somebody noticed that the Baby Boomers who swore Social Security would be bankrupt by the […]
Racial Bias and Media Coverage of Violent Crime » Antropologia Masterra — April 11, 2015
[…] Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages) […]
Cj Elswick — April 15, 2015
Not to take away from your argument which is a valid one at the least. It should be noted that these reports were also taken in Iowa where their wrestling program is high respected and cherished by most in the area. Media bias would happen the same way if athletes of another highly respected sport in an area were arrested. Its more than a racial favoritism here its similar to when a celebrity or someone part of a larger respected entity makes a mistake its simply a mistake in their young lives. When its anyone who else who doesn't reach a middle to high ranking status group its a crime and they are a criminal. So interesting, love this blog simple enough for layman's terms and advanced enough to intrigue those who study sociology! Simply phenomenal!
ViktorNN — April 20, 2015
It's funny, I look at media reporting of crime and I see the exact opposite phenomenon.
For example, what if the media reported that there would be practically no murder in New York City if there were no blacks or hispanics there?
Media Changed Crime and Attitudes | Racism in the Media — August 15, 2015
[…] or dangerous as a drive-by, especially when you consider the type of people involved. On the Society Pages, according to a study by Color of Change, they found that, “… 51% of the people […]
Reading List | Racism in the Media — August 15, 2015
[…] Dr. Wade analyzes media bias on a scientific standpoint, pointing out that the audience tends to connect blackness with criminal activity. The more media enforces the connection between skin color and dangerous crimes, the audience’s interpretation and stereotypes for each color will grow stronger. The reader is given a graph and a side by side comparison between a report of crimes that were similar, but the profiles of the suspects that were caught were drastically different. Readers are given a window to the scientific side of media bias. […]
Boogeyman of the Black Neighborhood | Wiseguy Industries Media — September 1, 2015
[…] their ideas on how these people act? Why films and television of course. Now this person sees the slanted media coverage showing black crimes over and over while not showing the reality that whites are more likely to commit dangerous crimes like rape and […]
The Fault in our News | Tit 4 Tat — September 17, 2015
[…] color are guilty of committing crimes, they are often more likely than whites to be presented in a non-individualized and threatening way. While media outlets are not overtly trying to portray people of color as villains (that’s up for […]
Ixoziel — November 27, 2015
That's kind of funny. A cop shoots a black guy that's high on PCP and is holding a knife, and the picture shown of the black guy is him in his high school graduation gown. The picture of the cop is him holding a club with an angry look on his face. I heard about it on the radio, "White cop shoots black male." Of course, the races of the individuals are obviously the most important thing ... when it can benefit the liberal agenda.
Have you heard about Zebulum Lael James, who shot two white women? Funny, he's not on any major news sites, and when he does appear race isn't usually mentioned.
Jamie M. Bennett — February 7, 2016
Don't believe this bs. nIggers are murdering white people on mass and the media is giving them cover.
Racial Bias and Media Coverage of Violent Crime – Unequal Treatment of Race in Media — February 14, 2016
[…] https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2015/04/09/racial-bias-and-media-coverage-of-violent-crime/ […]
Pretty Fly For a White Guy - OneRedCat — April 15, 2016
[…] The truth is that my own personal landscape is dominated by pretty white guys. They’re what I see when I go to the websites I frequent. They’re what I see on tech blogs and agency pages. The fact is that the media surfaces pictures of nicely dressed white guys because it pushes a narrative. A man in my community was recently charged with murder in the death of a local woman whom I had the pleasure of meeting on a few occasions. The featured image in his arrest was of a smiling man on his graduation day. If you’re interested in seeing how this difference manifests, I suggest reading this article about it. […]
Mediating Perceptions of Race and Criminal Justice in America – SOWING THE SEED — May 16, 2016
[…] hear incomplete, sometimes misrepresented accounts of various news stories. In general, the media seems to focus on crimes committed by minorities more than crimes committed by whites. […]
Finger Pointing and Neighboring ⋆ The Mudroom — July 22, 2016
[…] evening news and see higher frequency of stories involving black perpetrators, our brains begin to link blackness with criminality–and the more this link is triggered, the stronger the link becomes. In other words, our […]
Aliens are People Too… – Minority Report — July 26, 2016
[…] isn’t too far off, with minorities being subsequently generalized and feared as a result of media attention. Often focusing on those who are considered terrorists, extremists, etc, and never focusing on […]
How the Media Deals with Race — Lecture 9/13 – Race & Media — September 14, 2016
[…] Race & crime (black perps): https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2015/04/09/racial-bias-and-media-coverage-of-violent-crime/ […]
Project 4.8: White, Richard Dyer – uvcsjf — November 17, 2016
[…] way the media represent colour and white tends to be different as explained in an essay titled Racial Bias and Media Coverage of Violent Crime : The article starts with “Studies of Americans’ unconscious beliefs shows that most people […]
Darina Litvina — December 4, 2016
This is basically a positive feedback system; a vicious cycle where police forces have an implicit racial bias that causes them to arrest more people of colour than white people, which leads to more media coverage of people of colour being portrayed as violent and dangerous, which in turn even further perpetuates racial biases, and so on...
Armed with Knowledge — December 26, 2016
If a demographic that accounts for 50% of the city's crime is only 25% of the city's population, are you surprised to find that those who were investigated for crimes and not charged are predominantly from that demographic too? And let's face it: New York is gentrified - just like the safe little town you are reporting from, Occidental College, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, where there is a 1.8 percent black population - so if you are in an area where crimes are commited and one of the suspects in the investigation happens to be from a black area and the crime took place in a black area, does it not follow that any additional suspects will also be blacks?
The second part of your argument, with the magazines, shows two examples of arrests. One says there is an investigation pending and the other says... essentially that charges are pending because there is an investigation. How is that not exactly the same thing? Do you need boilerplate in media to assure you that no nationwide discrimination conspiracy against blacks exists? Or do you insist that there is a conspiracy against blacks because the media used school photos that could easily match the suspect instead of mug shots - when actually, if you think about it, the school photos are more likely to create a stir in the community and shame the individual. Furthermore, you are comparing student athletes to ordinary people who may even be older. Is it not just as likely that there could be a wealth and stature bias? What evidence is there that there is anything other than that?
But you apparently live on assumptions based on your world view. After all, you assume that the "hookup" is part of college life when the reality is, it belongs
ONLY to drunk, liberal women who have no religious bearing, and
incorporate promiscuity with some strange notion of "female liberation"
despite the fact that no male has the liberty which you enjoy in that
That you got a Ph.D when the neurons clearly aren't firing is the only conspiracy going on, dear.
10 Ways White People Get Racism Wrong (Part II of Talking About Racism with White Kids) – Baby Dust Diaries — February 21, 2017
[…] This shows up in how we report crime. Headlines with black suspects are more likely to dehumanize the suspect with words like “thug” and the images used are often mugshots. While white suspects have the privilege of having their humanity reinforced in the headline and having non-mugshot pictures used. Look at this example from Sociological Images. […]
Abhinav Jain — April 9, 2017
fuck aLL BLACKIES
Prabhakar Mani — April 9, 2017
saare kaale madharchod hote hai
Prabhakar Mani — April 9, 2017
kalua bhosdi laan chaatega
Rohit Kumar — April 9, 2017
meri choot mai sona hai?
Shipra Chanchal — April 9, 2017
re buurchodi mera logi. Haaye haaye mai kinnarlok ki raani
Prabhakar Mani — April 9, 2017
haa chaatenge bdia s kb dogi
kundan kumar sah — April 9, 2017
dhananjay singh sukanya wale — April 9, 2017
chup re bhaurawachod log
Rikesh kumar abhay wale — April 9, 2017
re andhari ke damad
Rajnish chappal wala — April 9, 2017
dekho beta hm thode leftist thinking k hai. Shipra tum apna nature sudharo. Rohit burr sungoge mera toh usme hmara kya opportunity hai. DhananJAY KYA BAAT KIYE HO DIL KHUSH HOGYA I'LL WRITE TO THE VC
Crime in the News and Its Racial Bias | BROTHA WOLF — July 10, 2017
[…] (Its research is based on its observations of news coverage centered in Omaha, Nebraska. However, similar studies have been conducted on other news stations across the […]
OPMG | Weapons of mass entertainment — December 26, 2017
[…] A study conducted by Color of Change in the U.S. found that although 51% of violent criminals arrested in New York City are African American, 75% of the news reports concerning violence highlighted African American alleged perpetrators. What these statistics show is that news networks perpetuate racial stereotypes by highlighting crimes committed by ethnic minorities, which could be perceived as an attempt to alter how society may feel about a certain group. This is a disturbing thought, considering the repercussions the demonisation of an entire ethnic group may have on individuals belonging to that group. […]
Question: ESSAY – focusing on how the media, especially the news media, create and/or perpetuate the idea o… – A1 — December 28, 2018
[…] Racial Bias and Media Coverage of Violent Crime […]
Den amerikanske rasismen - Saksynt — June 2, 2020
[…] generelle trenden er at svarte amerikanere figurerer oftere i nyhetssaker om voldelig kriminalitet enn deres andel av kriminaliteten skulle tilsi. Ikke bare det, men når svarte omtales i nyhetssaker, er det oftest i forbindelse med kriminelle […]
Angel — July 3, 2021
dr kola kolawole of hamilton convicted of numerous images of child pornography on his computer. three months prior to his arrest on this conviction, he was arrested in hamilton ontario for soliciting two girls, ages 13 and 15 and was required to register there as a sex offender.
Mat — August 30, 2021
One big fact you left out.
Blacks only make up 25% of the population in NYC, so the fact that they are committing 51% of the violent crime is pathetic. Also did not mention that blacks are responsible for 67% of all crimes in NYC, per FBI data.
Racial bias, what a joke. Tell me how many daily videos I can pull up of a group of black men attacking ONE white guy, vs the opposite. Try 100 to NONE, but you won't see all those video because they are being buried by the media.
Realist — September 5, 2021
The news media used a young photo of Trayvon Martin even though his most recent photo was him holding a gun with a pot plant and money behind him (let's not forget he was bashing a man's head on the concrete when he was shot). Michael Brown was a thug who was assaulting a cop (remember the snitches get stitches graffiti that was sprayed everywhere?)
terry carolyn scott — March 27, 2022
To begin with, I think that this article is wrong in stating that blacks are picked on when they commit crimes.....The truth of the matter is that there is not enough press given to the extent that blacks are in fact the reasons that our crime rates are so horrible....There are reasons that our prisons are heavily populated with blacks.....there are reasons that they are basically disrespected....Most of the stories that we hear are slanted against the police...Just look at the majority of crimes commited.....It is not white people....When the blacks become decent people, maybe, people who are decent will give them some respect....
Raphael — April 4, 2022
Everyone in this country knows what the media does not want it to know, that Blacks make up to 13% of the population, yet they are 40% + of the prison population, this is the Bureau of Justice Statistic (BJS). No other human group has this high percentage of incarceration in proportion to their population.
Acknowledging this fact and not covering it up, is the only way to confront and solve this social problem. By the way, it is the African-American community that are the main crime victims of this criminality.