November 1, 2020

*Bonus Episode* Black Lives Matter pt. 5

In part 5 of our Black Lives Matter series we take a look at the representation of black people within media and how such representation has impacted the perspectives of white consumers as well as shaped how we treat persons of color.

2020 bore witness to the cancellation of 2 major, racially biased television shows: COPS and Live PD. Both shows were fraught with racial discrimination at the hands of law enforcement and were routinely (and rightly) criticized for their over representation of black people as violent criminals. COPS in particular boasted a 95% arrest rate by their 33rd season; meaning 95% of aired segments concluded in the arrests of persons encountered by law enforcement during filming. The show also depicted 10 times more violent crimes than the national average; with most crimes shown being committed by young black men. We look at how these shows have shaped white people’s perceptions of black people and particularly black men in an epically negative way.  It comes as no surprise that these shows have also shaped how law enforcement is perceived; often as heroes to white people and as upholders of law and order. This is what happens when police officers are the ones in charge of determining each episode’s final edits.

We also examine black representation in media in the form of large, televised award ceremonies. Most are aware of the #oscarsowhite phenomenon within the realm of movie-making, but did you know the music industry’s Grammy Awards are arguably just as skewed towards whiteness?  In 61 years of annual ceremonies, the Grammy’s top title of “Album of the Year” has only been awarded to 10 black musicians. In addition, it’s been 12 years since a black artist has been awarded the top title. How is this possible? We look at who sets the standards of excellence when determining Grammy winners and the subsequent flaws (and ironies) in these determinations.

What’s most surprising to us is when the world of law enforcement and black musical artistry collides. Such is the case with rapper Mac Phipps, who was sentenced to prison for 30 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Prosecutors in the state of Louisiana used lyrics from a few select songs written by Phipps in order to paint him as a crazed criminal, hell-bent on murder. A majority white jury found Phipps guilty and sent the talented, rising star to prison based on a few words taken out of context. How is this real life and how is it happening right under the nose of everyone around?

We conclude this episode with a call to action for our listeners. Particularly in the times of COVID-19, it’s important to support black artists and black artistry. We’ll provide you with a handful of pandemic-safe ways to help and provide a few websites and places to visit that directly support black creators.

 

References and Resources:

“Headlong: Running from Cops” Podcast, Dan Taberski.

Vilanova, John, “Not Simply The Best. The Grammy Awards, Race, And America” (2019). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 3474.

“Mac Phipps, Lyrics On Trial And a Legacy of Injustice in Louisiana”. NPR. Sidney Madden & Rodney Carmichael. October, 2020.

 

www.blackartinamerica.com

www.shoppeblack.us

www.webuyblack.com

 

 

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