The media’s no exception when it comes to institutional racism, especially when it comes to how they report the news. At times when crime has been overly sensationalized and heavily racialized, one can not ignore the association put forth by the news that blacks and crime go hand and hand. Sure, there are white people who commit crimes, but it’s black people who are seen as criminals.
Such is the case with a newspaper in Iowa called The Gazette where it reported two incidents of the same crime with two different groups of men in a noticeably different way:
On March 23, the Gazette‘s Lee Hermiston reported that three University of Iowa wrestlers were arrested after being caught in possession of several items that had been stolen from local homes in Marion, Iowa. The three suspects — Ross Lembeck, Seth Gross and Logan Ryan, all 19 and all white — were shown in the Gazette‘s pages in the their freshman yearbook pictures, wearing matching coats and ties…
On the same day, Hermiston reported on four African-American suspects charged with a burglary in Coralville, Iowa, but this group of suspects — Kwain E. Crawford, 36; Milton Whitehead, 50; Quentin D.W. Eatman, 24; and Curtis J. Johnson, 29 — were all pictured in their police mug shots.
A blogger managed to obtain the pictures of the two groups of men helping to illustrate the obvious. Already, this has caused a stir in cyberspace as people all over gave their two cents on the matter while others decided to use their white privileged mindset to do the talking for them.
Judging by the pics alone, it’s apparent that this was helped to imply that the white males made a mistake, albeit several of them, and that they shouldn’t be punished, at least that’s how the public will likely view them when looking at their pictures. At the same time, looking at mugshots at black males help to persuade the public’s collective opinion that black men are criminals that deserve to be punished. This could have a significant impact when the trial comes and a jury’s selected. The white guys would probably and very likely get a light punishment while the black guys get a much harsher sentence. This helps prove that the media plays a significant role in how the public and the courts see white criminals and black criminals.