We had a server outage, and we're rebuilding the site. Some of the site features won't work. Thank you for your patience.
imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities

www.indymedia.org africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

The Face of Tragedy: Media Coverage is Devoid of Color

by Oliver Wang Friday, Sep. 28, 2001 at 11:03 PM

Originally published on AsianAvenue.com. Despite being one of the most diverse cities in the world, the faces shown on the news have been uniformly white.

errorWhen I was writing the original draft of this month`s column, I, like many around the country, was still shell-shocked from the events of Sept. 11. The media can be an addictive drug in times of crisis and I literally spent hours upon hours watching television, surfing the web, and reading newspapers during the first week. It`s little wonder then that I was incredibly depressed for much of that time, overinundated with images of falling bodies and buildings, crashing airplanes and stock markets, angry politicians and people.

But in the midst of all these terrible pictures and stories, I managed to pull myself out of the hazy slump I had fallen in and started paying attention to the subtle assumptions and values underlying all the coverage. The events on Sept. 11 have been described by almost every major press outlet as the "Attack on America." This is brought home imagewise, too. Look at the covers of all three of the major newsmagazines following the incident. Time: "One Nation, Indivisible" with a photo of Bush standing on the rubble of the WTC. Newsweek: "God Bless America," a shot of three firemen hoisting a limpid American flag over the same heap of rubble--a latter-day Iwo Jima photo. The message is clear: the very future and essence of America is at stake.

But whose America? While this is largely being described as America`s tragedy, who are the victims? Look at the media and you become awash in a parade of whiteness, with a few token nods to African Americans. This includes both the literal victims--those killed on the planes, in the buildings, on the ground--as well as the figurative victims, Middle America. Every magazine you open, every news special you see and the vastly disproportionate coverage has been on white Americans.

Want to see how America is coping with grief? Flash to a church in the Midwest--all white. Want to see how children are dealing? Find a poignant picture of little white girl holding a candle. How will America fight back? Look at the stern face of a determined citizen holding up an American flag--he`s white too. In Newsweek`s section called "Love and Loves," of the dozen or so photos of victims and their families, there`s one black family included, everyone else is white. Even the wall of missing persons, taken from a downtown Manhattan storefront, is mostly white. On it though, I find one of the only Asian American faces that I`ve seen anywhere so far, a photo of Yang-Der Lee, missing from the WTC, a 718 phone number scrawled at the top in case anyone`s seen him.

What`s strange is that New York is one of the most diverse cities in America--if not the world--filled to the brim with white ethnics, Asians, Latinos and blacks. Moreover, the WTC itself had offices from companies around the world. Yet, looking through the images, New York looks more WASPy than a Shriners convention. On Sept. 17, the New York Times included a striking story on those who`ve gone ignored in the coverage such as Mexican food workers and Albanian window washers. These are victims too but don`t portray the same kind of symbolic weight that a group of praying students in Des Moines, Iowa can carry.

The same applies to our heroes and leaders. The vast majority of firefighters we`ve seen have been white, which probably has less to do with media bias and more to do with the hiring trends in the NYFD. And if there was any doubt about the nation`s leadership, it`s whiter than chalk too. While Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta have shared screen time for specific news conferences, the majority of politicians featured have been white, yet another reminder of how out of step Washington is with the demographics in this country.

The only place you`ll really see any people of color in all this coverage are--of course--the Arabs. From the stone-face of Osama bin Laden, to the grainy mug shots of the alleged hijackers, to random pictures of celebrating Palestinians, people of Middle Eastern descent stand in stark contrast to the lily whiteness of everyone else. They are the "other" once more, the face of the enemy, the antithesis to the American way of life. Even when the profiles are of Arab Americans, there`s many photos capturing them in traditional Islamic garb, a visual indicator of their difference in culture and religion.

The America that has emerged in these recent weeks has been almost monolithically white and black. Latino Americans don`t map. Asian Americans don`t map, unless you`re of Punjabi Sikh descent, in which case, you`re lumped in with the Arabs who almost certainly don`t map unless you`re wrapped in a red, white and blue flag. With one fell swoop of the media`s wand, virtually a third of America, and probably close to half of New York City, is made invisible. No question, these are difficult times and everyone, media and political leadership included, are struggling to make sense of what`s happened and where we`re supposed to go now. But it`s a shocking slap in the face of all the calls to unity that the so-called "united front" that America is supposed to present doesn`t resemble America at all.

In Renee Tajima-Pena`s 1997 documentary about Asian America, My America Or Honk If You Love Buddha, she includes video footage from another dark moment of terrorism on American soil: the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. But in her case, Tajima sought to show how this tragedy could be seen as a time where Americans embraced each other across racial lines, one poignant image being a bloodied Asian women, helping carry and comfort a white baby. At the end of her film, in a voiceover, Tajima intones, "America is made up of her people, we are her people," understanding that beyond laws and organizations, a country is essentially the sum total of its citizenry. Yet, in our current crisis, if America is supposed to be more united than ever, why are so many of her people left out of the picture?
Report this post as:
Share on: Twitter, Facebook, Google+

add your comments

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 1 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Worse, de-representation Peter Morgan Saturday, Sep. 29, 2001 at 10:45 PM
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy