Negative Media Portrayals Drive Perception of Immigration Policy

Throughout the semester we as a class have talked a lot about how representation is such an important concept in our society. How media outlets choose to portray groups of people has a huge and lasting effect on how we as a society view those particular communities. Newspapers, TV, and even social media tend to only propagate certain portrayals of minority communities; these portrayals are usually very negative, noninclusive, and structurally harmful. Images and stories gathered by these media outlets are typically trying to spread an agenda and promote propaganda. The result of these stories is the negatively skewed view of communities as a whole. Fortunately–and unfortunately–the media plays a pivotal role in how we receive information.

The article “Negative Media Portrayals Drive Perception of Immigration Policy, Study Finds” written by the University of Kansas explains an instance where media representation has hurt a particular community. A recent study suggested that negative media coverage has led many immigrants to hold fatalistic views of themselves. “Media messages were often powerful reminders to immigrants that they do not belong and that they are unwanted–or partially belong and only wanted for the labor they contribute” Cecilia Menjívar, a KU Foundation Distinguished Professor of Sociology states in her article. For the journal American Behavioral Scientist, her article examined how media coverage and the political debate on immigration from 1999 to 2012 influenced the identities and lives of Latino immigrant workers living in Phoenix, Arizona. She conducted interviews with immigrants from Central America and Mexico, as well as did textual analysis of newspaper articles.

Media coverage that decides to pick and choose qualities they deem to be ‘positive’ has proven to be damaging to immigrant communities as well. “By highlighting characteristics that make them deserving, they can inadvertently create images of the non-deserving” she says. Immediately when I read this statement I thought about the ‘model minority’, which is a term that was talked about in a previous anthropology class. This is an archetype for the ideal type minority that has traits that our society deem as ideal. This term is commonly given to immigrants from Asian countries because of their “work ethic”,attitude, and the type of upward mobility they gain after moving to America.

Menjívar’s statement really brought home the idea that what is said really matters. Thoughts and ideas (and how they are portrayed) can stay with communities forever, and can create harmful effects. For instance, we can examine how president Donald Trump talks about immigrants residing and immigrating into our country and the effects his statements have. Since he has ran for office there have been numerous amounts of racist riots and hate crimes all over the country. And since then, so many immigrants have feared for their livelihood and wellbeing.

We have to be careful how we represent those who do not have the power to represent themselves. Not only do negative images and unfair stories affect how a society views a community, it also affects how those communities view themselves.