Recently I’ve seen many people share a post on Facebook of an interview that aired on the news in Tulsa, Oklahoma. People have found it hilarious. In fact, the YouTube video has been viewed almost a million times and made into other jokes.
This post, however, is not funny. It demonstrates a problem with the media that has yet to be fixed: the portrayal of people, places, or incidents that play into preexisting, negative stereotypes.
I can very vaguely understand where one is coming from when they laugh at the video. Yes, she is almost acting out the scenario in a somewhat comedic fashion, but the amount of views, shares, and laughs that have come from this interview aren’t focused on her storytelling, but instead by the stereotype she reinforces.
By airing this interviewee’s depiction of what happened at the apartment fire, the media reinforces negative stereotypes about African-Americans that the media should be working to alleviate. The media’s job isn’t to portray everyone in a positive light, nor should it, but by making her vernacular, her language, her appearance and her visible class the focal point of the story rather than the facts of the incident, KVUE does exactly what it shouldn’t.
This can be seen in scenario after scenario. Take, for instance, Antoine Dodson, who went viral after saying “hide yo kids, hide yo wife, ‘cause they raping everybody out here.” His interview became memes, a remixed song, and his words remain mocked.
In both instances, news outlets chose to air interviews that paint black members of society as people who portray damaging depictions of Black America. Maybe this woman was putting on a show however, the media has responsibility in their work. It should inform and educate, and while doing so, it should not play into or reinforce any stereotypes or preconceived notions about culture, race or religion that many people have.
This is an example of such, and in turn, I am not at all proud of this journalistic decision.