The Misappropriation of ‘Racism’: Sun Media and Racism
Some people still believe that the national news is unbiased, an eye in the sky reporting the cold, hard facts as they appear. This was the golden ideal of media: unbiased reporting.
More and more, we realize that ‘how things appear’ is not objective but subject to the lens that the viewer brings to the topic. How you view ‘the facts’ and how they fit into your larger worldview will be different than how I do the same. Beyond this, there is also media manipulation: reporting ‘select’ facts which show half the truth or, even, very little of the truth. This is done with purpose for political, monetary, and ideological reasons.
This realization has led to ‘right-wing’ or ‘left-wing’ media designations, an attempt to categorize the ‘worst offenders’ – which is really just a ploy for those ‘middle ground’ news agencies to redefine as objective and balanced. In the United States, the right wing media is represented by TV stations such as Fox News; here in Canada our equivalent is the Sun Media Corp which has TV and newspaper holdings. Their reporting is meant to be inflammatory under the guise of telling the ‘hard truths’ that others gloss over. Sun News TV has the slogan, “hard news, straight talk”. In reality, these news outlets give voice to the racist, sexist, oppressive elements of our society.
Examples abound. Geraldo Rivera on Fox News proclaims Trayvon Martin was killed because he wore a hoodie, making him look like a thug. Take off the hoodie and save lives. Rush Limbaugh proclaims Obama was elected because he is Black and if he weren’t Black he would be just “a tour guide in Honolulu“. In Canada, commentators such as Ryerson prof Pam Palmater have taken Sun Media to task for their hate speech and pathologization of Indigenous People in Canada.
All of this is to lead in to today’s example of racism and hatred, especially unique because it is hidden under the guise of anti-racsism: a new ‘opinion column’ titled, “Roots of gang crime: Absentee black fathers ensure future generations of gang bangers“. The first sentences of the article set the stage:
“We’re having another spasm of gang and gun violence in Toronto, but of course politicians don’t want to address the biggest cause of it.
That’s the breakdown of the black nuclear family and the reality of absentee black fathers, many of whom impregnate as many willing women as they can.”
Got it? Gang violence is a Black problem brought on by absentee Black fathers who are sexual animals, impregnating those Black women who are far too eager to spread their legs, in order to propagate future gang bangers like jackrabbits.
Th author, Lorrie Goldstein, argues that all of this is race related and racist – we White folk are letting Black animals kill other Black people without doing a thing about it. His anti-racist solution? We need to throw more Black daddies in jail, send a stronger message that we peace loving White folk will NOT TOLERATE Black violence in our peaceful cities (oh, and also the church has the answers…).
Where can I begin? Black Canadians are pathologized as violent and in need of White intervention. The article ignores that by sending more Black men to jail, we create more ‘absentee fathers’. It ignores that Black men are already jailed at a much higher rate, creating the original absentee crisis’. It ignores that the “War on Drugs” and increased incarceration focuses on racialized bodies while allowing White white collar criminals to go free. It ignores how poverty, lack of access to rights of citizenship, racism, etc… are some of the many roots of gang violence. It ignores how society is pushing Black children towards prison. The author is right, this has everything to with race and is racist but his article is the problem, the ideas he shares with millions of Canadians are the problem.
It also puts emphasis on the breakdown of the nuclear family for society’s ills. Blame the Blacks for breaking up the family. Blame the gays for ruining the institute of marriage. Ignore how White families are far from nuclear and how White couples divorce at an absurdly high rate. But yes, protect the family. It’s a common right-wing, Christian fundamentalist line – to protect society, we must protect the family.
Andrea Smith briefly and succinctly breaks down the implications of having the family as the building block of society:
Christian Right politics work through the private family (which is coded as white, patriarchal [led by the man], and middle class) to create a “Christian America [or Canada]…investment in the private family makes it difficult for people to invest in more public forms of social connection [to build community]. In addition, investment in the suburban private family serves to mask the public disinvestment in urban areas…the social decay in urban areas that results from this disinvestment is then construed as the result of deviance from the Christian family ideal rather than the result of political and economic forces (p. 72).
Belief in a tradition, nuclear family as central leads to a rise in suburbia (individual home, individual yards, SUVS to drive by yourself to and from work, etc…) which leads to disinvestment in downtowns and urban areas (think most major NA cities) as well as disinvestment from public programs – which leads to poverty, crime, gangs, etc… which is then blamed on those who don’t conform to the suburban family lifestyle. Damning.
It’s not new. Chief Justice Warren Burger (quoted by Christian writer Charles Colson) stated in the 1970′s that women in the workforce were resulting in too much freedom for children and the breakup of the family, which in turn caused crime. Women should be at home performing their proper feminine, God given roles. Post 9/11, Colson blamed terrorism on same-sex marriage for breaking the natural moral order and inviting terrorism onto U.S. soil. Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation claimed in 2001 that breakdowns in the patriarchal family eroded state sovereignty and created crime and social unrest (see Andrea Smith, Ch1 of book below).
The solution is always prisons. As Andrea Smith documents in her book, Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely Alliances,
“The history of prison reveals that this institution which has emerged as the dominant mode of punishment has been unable to solve the problem of crime, but rather has become a site for violence, assaults on human rights, and the perpetuation of racism…”
The more people we incarcerate, the more violence we encourage and participate in. Statistics show, as we put more people in jail – crime rises. Yet, the solution is always more prisons for more Black people. Anglican John Dearing believed in 1994 that use of the death penalty for minor crimes enhanced the Christian mission, bringing people to justice and God’s grace. What it really means is that more Indigenous peoples, more Black peoples, more poor and racialized peoples end up in jail and subject to state and society approved violence. It is the way White people work to remove the ‘undesirable’ elements of their society, working to whiten it.
All of this is to ground the Sun’s current article. Beyond pathologizing Black men as violent, Black women as sexually loose, and Black children as future gang bangers, the very way the problem and solution are framed is done within a racist framework. All hidden under justice and anti-racism. Sara Ahmed documents how love gets appropriated by the fundamentalist Right to centre Whitenesss; here, anti-racism is getting appropriated the same way. It erases a history of White violence, that continues today, by writing Black on Black violence as ‘their issue’, by writing it through the lens of the family, and by advocating continued racialized carceral violence.
I am with Pam Palmater on this, Sun Media and related ‘right-wing’ media is spreading hate speech that should not be tolerated. Free speech has its limits and we need to stand up and resist the increase and visibility of ‘right-wing’ pundits and news agencies. We need to speak back, to write stories that both showcase the lies but also present a reality that showcases the agency of racialized peoples, that shows how they resist and struggle against a society that think articles such as this one are informed, valuable opinions.