Whenever a black person gets arrested or killed and it makes headlines — as was the case for 18-year-old Michael Brown — some media outlets make the mistake of perpetuating racist stereotypes before the truth has even been sorted out. Swayed by an institutionalized fear of black youth, news stories all too easily fall back on racially coded words like "thugs" and "hoodlums."
While the Ferguson Police Department in Missouri was able to hire an all-white public relations agency to mitigate outrage, the families of young men and women like Brown rarely, if ever, get that same opportunity to craft their images and messages for the press, as shown in the viral hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.
A new video from Funny or Die tackles this glaring lack of consciousness from the mainstream media and other organizations by imagining a special PR agency for black people, specifically when they're "gunned down or put on public trial."
That's where the fictional Real You PR comes to save the day, helping to choose the "best possible photo of you for the evening news broadcast."
"When you're murdered by the police, there's a criminal investigation. But more important is the public investigation, when your whole life is boiled down to one photo," the video's actors point out. "Let's make sure it's the one of you playing frisbee."
Funny or Die's take presents a satirical yet poignant takedown of the media's historical tendency to pick photos of black victims or alleged perpetrators that portray them as somehow less than innocent, despite plenty of other options to choose from. Rather than it being a cry for respectability politics — which calls for a sanitized and superhuman appearance tied to racialized stigma against blacks in the media — it's a request to grant minorities the same humanity as their white peers when facing public scrutiny.
Image Credit: Funny or Die
Whether it's the New York Times describing victim Michael Brown as "no angel" or other outlets calling otherwise peaceful protesters "violent" because they're marching and rallying in a call for justice, the video addresses a problem that needs to be fixed sooner tather than later. A reflection of the lack of diversity on news staffs and key institutions, including police departments, this type of bias is just another lasting effect of racial prejudice. That includes the disproportionate targeting of blacks, in Ferguson and elsewhere, by law enforcement officials.
Maybe everyone would benefit if a company like Real You PR actually existed. It's unlikely that day will ever come. Until then, perhaps journalists can do their jobs without peddling racism for cheap, sensationalized headlines and news stories capitalizing on a disparate justice system.
(h/t Huffington Post)