The inclusion of all ethnicities, cultures, and creeds is crucial for representation of a society to be absolute. The history of the United States cannot determined to be accurate if it overlooks the true story of a minority group or perhaps only portrays a portion of that group’s whole story. The consequences of doing so instill, at best, ignorance and indifference to the group in question. Misconceptions and baseless information would not be changed and society would continue to scatter the same stereotypes. At worse, sharing an unbalanced portrayal of a minority group can result in perpetuating condescension of whole group of people.
Although the largest minority in the United States, Hispanic Americans still receive little attention from the main stream media. And unfortunately, when Hispanics do make news, it’s usually not due to inclusiveness, but rather involves negative social issues such as immigration or crime. CNN’s “Latino in America” provided an opportunity to examine Hispanic Americans in a new light. Indeed, it was an opportunity to tell the story of Hispanics overcoming barriers, inequality, and discrimination. The focus should have been on success and about a bright future.
Unfortunately, as is usually the case regarding Hispanics in the media, depictions from the program fell on two themes. Hispanics are either portrayed as an “issue”, or as the successful “exception.” Ironically, and similar to other demographic groups, the average Hispanic American does not fall within either extreme. CNN’s presentation did not portray Hispanic Americans leading mainstream lives. Frankly, the program demonstrated the long held belief in the mainstream media – Hispanics are only interesting when they do something unique.
After the airing last night, Hispanic Americans on Twitter (#latinoinamerica) as well as the blogsophere came away with a much different perspective. Where were all the success stories in education, business, entrepreneurship, culture, civil rights, and politics? What about second, third, and fourth generation Hispanics? The story of “success” and other noteworthy accounts were notably absent.
The media is a powerful driving force of socialization. As noted, mediated descriptions impact both individual and group behavior and, more importantly, inter-group perceptions. As long as news organizations and other media outlets continue to persist in sharing partial realities, Hispanics cannot be incorporated fully as American citizens in U.S. society.
I’d appreciate your thoughts.