2
Race, ideology and journalism

Black power and television news
Jane Rhodes
Why was the civil rights struggle a popular subject for television news?
How did television journalists frame this national crisis?
Why did the emergence of Black Power politics pose a dilemma for the news media?
How did Black Power activists use television to enhance their movement?
What role did television news play in constructing national ideologies about the Black Panther Party?
How do these representations from the 1960s continue to shape our understanding of race and protest today?

Ideologies of race are historically situated, regionally and nationally specific and constantly changing to reflect political, social, cultural and demographic shifts. In the US and much of the Western world, these ideologies are based on the assumption that there are biologically defined racial groups - that you can determine people's membership in a racial category by the way they look and behave. This concept – biological determinism – has remained a tenacious assumption even as scientists have increasingly disputed the idea that humans can be divided into pure, definable races. In the US, ideas about different racial categories can be traced to sixteenth-century European exploration of the New World and contact with indigenous peoples, and the emergence of the African slave trade. Numerous scholars, including Winthrop Jordan, Reginald Horsman and Alden Vaughan have traced the histories of these early encounters between Europeans and differently raced people and have noted the construction of a racial hierarchy that argued for the moral, intellectual and physical superiority of whites (Jordan 1977; Horsman 1981; Vaughan 1995). These ideals were circulated as part of the developing rationale for the plundering of North America and the extermination of hostile natives and for the enslavement for Africans. Over

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