Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Family Studies

Department

Sociology and Family Studies

First Advisor

Yaschica Williams

Second Advisor

Andrea Hunt

Third Advisor

Amber Paulk

Abstract

Drawing from Joe Feagin’s white racial frame, the study employs critical discourse and framing analysis to examine ways in which two national newsprints- the New York Times and Washington Post- reinforced the framing of race in coverage of Trayvon Martin and the Black Lives Matter movement. Results showed that the news coverage reflected an encompassing pro-white/anti-Black master-frame that presented Black Americans as: inadequate, lawless, criminal, sassy, hypersexual, threatening, and biologically different. The news stories also contributed to the media’s conceptualization of race within a paradigm of a liberty-and-justice American myth narrative. Conversely, whites were presented favorably as “protectors” and “virtuous.” Episodic coverage was dominant in reports of Trayvon Martin and Black Lives Matter that often rationalized hardships, even one’s own death. In order to understand how the white racial frame in the media transitions over time, an exploratory comparison was then implemented with historical coverage from 1955-1969 of the Civil Rights Movement and its catalyst, the Emmett Till murder. This exploration revealed dominant racial frames used during the Civil Rights Movement that were surprisingly similar to those of the Black lives Matter movement. However, there were some differences in the racial rhetoric within the white racial frame that transformed from overt to covert, and thus presented race as more violent, more radical, and more inferior during the Civil Rights Movement than the Black Lives Matter movement today. The transformation of racial frames informs the Symbolic Racism Theory by revealing that racism or racial framing in the media has not absolved, nor has it lessened, but has merely been redesigned in ways that link racism indirectly to whites’ policy preferences and white ideologies. And, while this new racist framing certainly perpetuates racism, it does so 3 without explicitly referencing race. Few differences in framing between the two news sources call into question the interconnectedness of U.S. mass media as a “propaganda model,” and U.S. political commentary as a “two-party horse race” in making salient the racial frames that ratify the general interest of the economic elite, in whom they are indebted. In addition, the white racial frame served to silence racial activism by employing sub-frames of guilty/innocent, post-racial, fear mongering, obedience, and criminalization of racial activism, with only meagre opportunity and space for Black counter-frames from everyday Black citizens to decriminalize race. The study calls into question the modern mythicizing of Civil Rights Movement as the “model nonviolent movement,” as well as the modern idolizing of its leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. as problematic to the maintenance of the modern Black Lives Matter movement. Emergent findings, implications for navigating racial frames around the confines of the media, and future research are discussed.

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