New Study Reveals How Fictional Crime Shows Harm Black People

Published: Tuesday 28th Jan 2020 by David

A new report by the Color of Justice has found that fictional crime shows like ‘Law & Order’ and ‘CSI‘ can often serve as PR machines for law enforcement organisations and inadvertently harm black and brown people as they do so.

Their findings below…

‘Normalizing Injustice: The Dangerous Misrepresentations That Define Television’s Scripted Crime Genre‘ found that important issues like racial discrimination within law enforcement and the judiciary system went unexplored and unchallenged in at least 26 of the shows they examined for the study.

Worrying, as this does not reflect the reality of African-Americans in their everyday lives.

‘Shadow and Act’ explains…

People of color, especially Black women, were generally not cast as victims of crimes in the series, despite being victimized in real life by violence. In fact, the report cites something showrunners, network executives and producers are to have said to their writers when writing about victims: “Viewers will change the channel if we make the crime victim Black, so you’ll have to rewrite those characters and make them white instead.”

 

Instead, the study found that the  myth that blackness is synonymous with criminality is fuelled by creators who flood their shows with images of black people engaging in criminal behaviour, and characters who represented social justice groups like Black Lives Matter were portrayed as naïve, angry and overzealous disruptors and not benevolent human rights activists.

In the 26 series studied, all but 5 were helmed by white male showrunners. At least 78 percent of the writers on all 26 shows were white, with only nine percent of Black writers counted. To break the numbers down even further, 20 out of the 26 series had either just one Black writer or none at all. The series also found that law enforcement was routinely shown to commit more wrongful actions than the characters designated as the perpetrators. Across 18 of the 26 series studied, the “Good Guy” to “Bad Guy” ratio of wrongful actions was 8 to 1. More people of color were also shown as perpetrators across the 26 series.

 

Rashad Johnson, the president of Color, had this to say about the fascinating study…

If these TV shows are overwhelmingly showing the victims to be white, and in particular avoiding showing that women of color, particularly Black women are oftentimes victims, what they are doing is they are taking away the power…of who should have their story told.

Unfortunately…these shows are constantly telling the public and painting a picture of white people being harmed by Black people in ways that are not actually existing in society. What we’re building is a false understanding of what the problem is, and then we get false solutions built on public demand for things that are not actually problems. These shows do a whole lot of damage about race, but one of those damages is to make invisible the challenges that Black people face in communities and also taking away the power and voice of Black people to be the deciders of their own fate.”

The narratives that are coming out of Hollywood–for profit–are fueling some of the incentives that we’re seeing in our country, fueling people’s understanding of what they think justice should look like. It also makes it harder for us to push back against injustice,” he continued. Police on these shows are constantly doing bad things but are either being rewarded or are able to give a speech about why they had to do it, [meaning] we are building the mental model for juries, for folks who vote for district attorneys. In order to keep us safe, things are going to be messy and some communities are going to have their rights trampled on, but it’s a means to an end. That can happen when communities are not seen as powerful.

He added…

A lot of these shows have worked to diversify their casts…what we oftentimes see are people of color in all sorts of roles and in the last couple of years, people of color in law enforcement. However the writers’ rooms haven’t actually changed. So you have justice written by white writers put through the mouths of elderly, stately Black judges, or police officers who never speak out against what’s happening in the system. As a result, it paints a very false picture.

As a person who has been a lifelong advocate, I am used to the caricature of people who do this work. I am also aware of when a game or a situation is rigged. And the shows employ and uplift those from law enforcement to be the voice in the room. If you only allow one side of the story to be told, if you only allow Bugs Bunny to tell his story, you know how everyone else is going to be framed.

The consequences of this are often deadly for black people. Following the release of 1915’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’ (a movie which saw black people presented to the world as thugs, brutes and rapists) the number of murders carried out by the Ku Klux Klan rose to horrific levels.

These shows…and all those who are profiting from it, have made a choice. The report’s goal is to both expose that and to hopefully give more power to people on the inside because we know there are people on the inside who want want to do the right thing to push for the right thing and push for change. [We want] to give them more power and more data to do that well. And then the goal…over time is that we are going to run campaigns. We are going to push back against these depictions and folks won’t be able to say that they didn’t know, that there wasn’t any information out there, that they aren’t making a choice, that they aren’t choosing profit over the real depictions of people’s lives and that it could have real harm.

For years we have been in writers’ rooms working with storytellers and producers and we’re going to continue to do that. For folks who want to work with us and want to invite us in and want to engage with us and…bring real people into the writers’ rooms from district attorneys to community leaders to people working on the front lines, we want to make sure we are there to do that. We’re going to be hosting salons and other things and we hope to engage with more people in the industry.

Learn more here.

 

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  1. Cûûmila Cebolla January 28, 2020

    So now they’re complaining about black women not being chosen as victims in the series? The moment they include a black victim they will complain about black people being the victims in series. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t 💀

    • Maraj Kisses January 28, 2020

      Not quite. The reason they’re complaining is because underrepresenting the crimes black women face makes it easier for the people who commit those crimes in real life to get away with it because people underestimate the problem. Before movies like Boys Don’t Cry and the Gwen Arujo story it was easy for criminals who attacked gay men to get away with it because the juries, like all of us, had been swayed by negative portrayals of gay men. Accurately depicting the plight of gay in media men raised awareness for the problem in society which had a knock on affect on how people saw gay people. You should learn to open your heart before you open your mouth.

      • Tony January 28, 2020

        No shade but part of the reason some gay guys throw shade at reports like this is because they don’t face the level of discrimination and abuse that black people do. This report is no different to any report GLAAD would put out but it’s been mocked by people who claim they face prejudice. Real fact is that a lot of gay men benefit from and uphold the system they say they’re against and are only interested in civil rights when it benefits them. On the other hand, most if not all of the civil rights WE ALL enjoy in this country came as a result of the same black activism racists and airhead queens scorn today.

      • Cûûmila Cebolla January 28, 2020

        And given by your sn you should stop supporting pedo enablers/supporters

    • Kix January 28, 2020

      These are TV shows whose creators and networks only care about ratings. It explicitly said in the article that the change the rave of the victims from Black to white in order to keep White audiences happy but this ultimately has negative consequences snd miscarriages of justice for real Black victims. You really do sound dumb. This has nothing to do with people making arbitrary complants for inconsequential reasons.

  2. Kevon January 28, 2020

    Ong the damm race s*** have no ending

    • Kix January 28, 2020

      So who are you mad at exactly? Race is a part of our society whether you like it or not. Funny how no one was tired of talking about race until Black people started fighting back and stansing up for ourselves.

      • Cûûmila Cebolla January 28, 2020

        No one outside the states gives a SH*T about your problems; White or black. You BOTH are entitled pricks. 🤷‍♂️

    • Kix January 28, 2020

      Cumbucket this is an American blog. We are not on a foreign Blog talking about American topics so I don’t understand this vitriol.

  3. Gurlbye January 28, 2020

    Cue the bewildered comments from the “whY iS EvErytHinG AbOuT RacE” brigade. AKA privileged white and non-black people of color who don’t have the range/experience or empathy to talk on these matters.

    • Black is Beautiful January 28, 2020

      Say it again sister!

    • Cûûmila Cebolla January 28, 2020

      The US is not the only country in the world and not every culture is OBSESSED with race as you guys are.

      It’s taking up 99% of your daily topics and discussions, while most of you aren’t even able to find North America let alone Africa on the world map if your lives depended on it.

      Talking about cultural appropriation when most of the cultures you are defending don’t even care themselves.

      I get it. America is a racist shît hole and I agree, but there are way bigger problems than yours.
      There are children dying by hunger and wars every day and there you guys are with food to eat and a roof over your heads complaining about your lives acting like you ain’t entitled compared to the innocent children your great country is killing every year. Where’s YOUR compassion for that?

      • Kix January 28, 2020

        If you don’t like what we Americans talk about in our media and you think we are so stupid and self- centered then why are you here? Seriously. We don’t care about you or where you come from. We are literally minding our own business. Maybe you foriegners should do the same and stay the hell away from our blogs.

      • Cûûmila Cebolla January 28, 2020

        I will go wherever the fûck I want to. Stupid ass Americans thinking the world revolves around them and everyone will do as they please when they can’t even find their own country on a map 💀😂

      • Kix January 28, 2020

        Your anti-American and anti-black American xenophobia is out of control. Get it together. It’s not Americans fault that we are hyper-visible and amazing.

      • Yo January 28, 2020

        This is a british blog site, not American. Beside everyone is free to express their opinion.

      • Kix January 28, 2020

        Ok idk it was a British blog because it only talks about American pop culture. Why doesn’t it talk about British celebrities and shows? Oh I forgot, its because you guys are boring. So as ling as ypu talk about our American pop culture you’ll just have to deal with us talking about ourselves.

  4. Kix January 28, 2020

    These are TV shows whose creators and networks only care about ratings. It explicitly said in the article that the change the rave of the victims from Black to white in order to keep White audiences happy but this ultimately has negative consequences snd miscarriages of justice for real Black victims. You really do sound dumb. This has nothing to do with people making arbitrary complants for inconsequential reasons.

    • Cûûmila Cebolla January 28, 2020

      Create your own crime shows then, just like y’all have BET. Write a letter to Tyler Perry 🤷‍♂️

      • Cûûmila Cebolla January 28, 2020

        And I don’t see why I should feel any empathy when you don’t show any empathy to kids starving to death in third world countries. 🤷‍♂️

    • Kix January 28, 2020

      You aren’t even from America so I don’t care if you have empathy for Black people here or not. Your existence is entirely inconsequential to me and I would expect that feeling should be mutual. But don’t tell Black people that we should not care about how our media protrays us or the lack of portrayal that has consequences on our lives. We can care about whatever impacts us and you can do the same. If starving children is your passion then help them but don’t use them as non-sequitur to Black people fighting our oppression

  5. Kix January 28, 2020

    If you don’t like what we Americans talk about in our media and you think we are so stupid and self- centered then why are you here? Seriously. We don’t care about you or where you come from. We are literally minding our own business. Maybe you foriegners should do the same and stay the hell away from our blogs.

    • Cûûmila Cebolla January 28, 2020

      Are you too stupid to quote? You must be a beyhive 🤣

      I will go wherever the fûck I want to. Stupid ass Americans thinking the world revolves around them and everyone will do as they please when they can’t even find their own country on a map 💀😂

      • Kix January 28, 2020

        I’m pretty sure every American that isn’t brain dead can find our country on a map. Isn’t there a blog you can go to that doesn’t have Americans on it? Maybe you would be happier there.

      • Cûûmila Cebolla January 28, 2020

        Racism is everywhere, but British-born actress Jodie Turner-Smith and her husband, Joshua Jackson, are contemplating raising their child outside of the U.S. because of white supremacy.

        “The racial dynamics over here are fraught,” Turner-Smith told People.com. “White supremacy is overt. It’s the reason I don’t want to raise my kids here. I don’t want my kids to grow up doing active shooter drills at school.”

        The ‘Queen & Slim’ star, 33, is expecting her first child with Jackson, 41. She said she has felt hostile reactions from the Black community over being an interracial couple.

        “There was this wave of people who were upset that I was possibly married to a white man,” she said. “In America interracial dating or marriage is not something that is as accepted. Certain people feel strongly against it, in both communities. I felt it from the Black community. It is so complicated. I don’t want to give it too much energy.”

        She said she was initially excited to move to America and meet other Black people, but it felt like a “huge culture shock” because she claims she was “rejected by the Black community.”

        Turner-Smith and other British actors were criticized by the Black community for taking acting roles away from American-born Black actors.

        ——————

        I guess black lives matter only when you’re American. The hypocrisy 💀💀💀

      • Kix January 28, 2020

        Good I hope she stays is Britain and be an actress over there.

      • Kix January 28, 2020

        We don’t have to care about you or accept you. Deal with it.

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