How we (still) use race to identify people…

22 Jun

I’ve been thinking a lot about the two recent shootings in Toronto and the role of race in how media gets reported.

Turns out I’m not the only one – earlier this week the morning DJs (Mark and Jem) on G 98.7FM brought it up and a few people called in.  True, the Eaton Centre shooting affected more people than the one on College Street this week, but how race is reported when crimes occur is an interesting topic of conversation from a diversity perspective. Race is a factor – not the only one, but a factor nonetheless in how media is reported. The question is, why? And why is it still happening in Toronto in2012?

Although the print media didn’t reveal the race of the Eaton Centre shooting suspect, the radio news apparently did.  The College Street suspect, on the other hand, was not racially identified.

The Eaton Centre shooting seems to also have been more widely covered by the news. Granted, more people were affected at the Eaton Centre, it’s a mall, and it is a popular tourist destination. But they both happened in public spaces.

If you pay attention to how suspects are identified in the news, you may notice that we are much more likely to hear about their skin colour if the suspect is not white.  It can’t be a numbers thing, since people of colour make up close to half of the city’s population (47% in the 2006 census).  It is therefore not about making it easier to narrow down the search.

So what gives?

Seems like regardless of numbers, people of colour are still the “Other”, and skin colour is still used as a marker of difference – when the person is not white. The result, in the case of crimes, is that “suspect” and “person of colour” are likely more closely linked in our subconscious…and voila, we have further ingrained stereotypes.

And it’s not just the media: skin colour is also a not-so-uncommon descriptor in personal life as well –  but again, usually only if the person isn’t white.  Pay attention for the next little while, and see.

Hmm….maybe we haven’t come as far as we’d like to think.

 

See more.

copyright 2012 Annemarie Shrouder
author, speaker and facilitator on issues of diversity and inclusion
www.beeing.ca

 

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