One of the best things about finishing university was writing my dissertation. I could pick whichever topic I wanted, and create a piece that meant a lot to me. I knew it was going to be something I’d look back on forever. So I wanted to write about something important. From a young age, I’ve been really interested in the media. I have also recently been drawn into the ways people are presented in the media.
One representation which has always interested and frustrated me is the portrayal of black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the British media. This is something I really wanted to explore for my dissertation. So the title I decided to go with was: Are black, Asian, and minority ethnic victims and perpetrators of knife crime represented differently to Caucasian victims and perpetrators of knife crime in the British media?
Importance and relevance
Knife crime is a hot topic in Britain. It is something that people have a lot of misconceptions about. Something I learnt while conducting this study was that knife crime is actually very rare. I looked at how the portrayal of knife crime could potentially impact the U.K., such as in tourism. Statistically, a knife attack has a higher chance of happening if you know your attacker, or have an affiliation with a gang. Many people have a negative perception of London but don’t realise that they are worried about something which will likely never happen.
I felt that this topic was so important, because it looks at a wide range of issues within the British mainstream media. Often, black, Asian and minority ethnic victims of knife crime were being portrayed horrifically. The reason behind this couldn’t really be determined but I had a pretty good idea. When a young black boy is stabbed to death, instead of outrage, there is almost a sense of ‘he had it coming’. Unfortunately, I found this to be the case when I looked into the portrayal of 15-year-old Jaden Moodie.
He was taken down by a group of young men and killed in the street. The papers described him as a ‘hot head’, someone who struggled in school, and even talked about his father’s past. This was such an unfair portrayal, and I felt as though his death was not properly dealt with. In comparison to other people who were victims of knife crime, he was treated so poorly in the press. As I began to look at similar cases, I realised how important this study was going to be.
It was crucial for me to recognise how and why the media treated certain people. It also meant a lot to me because it meant I could explain to others what was happening. A lot of times within mainstream media, fear and anger is stirred up. This makes readers and audience members feel concerned about things which, in reality, won’t effect them at all. Something I looked for when carrying out my study was the mention of ethnicity with regards to both victims and perpetrators.
I found that, if a criminal was BAME, their ethnicity was more likely to be mentioned within the article. This makes people believe that certain groups of people are more prone to violent tendencies. This also came up in much of the literature that I studied in preparation for my study. Once I realised that certain articles attempted to create fear of certain ethnic groups, I wanted others to know the same.
I wanted to be able to tell people by the end of my study about how negatively BAME people are portrayed in the media. I knew this was the case. But my study helped me prove it was actually happening.
Providing a voice
Because most of the people I chose to write about had sadly passed away, it was more important for me to nail my research. This meant that I could help speak for those who were unfairly treated, despite being horrifically murdered. Some of the cases I looked at didn’t feature either a BAME victim or perpetrator. But those articles were very different to the others. This angered me, as even BAME victims of knife crime were treated like criminals when they were discussed.
I wanted to share their stories because they couldn’t do it themselves. I also wanted to provide support for their families, who would have been distraught from the poor treatment from the press. Murder victims are always treated in a particular way in the press. They are often spoken about in terms of how they were loved, and how they were good people. My study proved that this only applied to a certain group of people.
This was so hurtful to me, as a BAME person. That’s why I almost felt it was my duty to look further into the ways the media treats certain groups of people, and subsequently pass on what I learnt to others.
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