The concept of my fear artefact focuses on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and how the fear inflicted in minorities (mostly blacks) by the media coverage of killings, has progressed into a demonstration of hate and fear in the United States. The killing of Trayvon Martin happened to occur after Barack Obama had became president, I do not see this as a coincidence, but as a retaliation to the power shifts taking place. Such anger of black power in society could have caused such an effect and sparked such feelings of racism in certain individuals such as racist police officers. For example, kids are talking about blacks and whites as separate forces in schools, having debates about issues they only know through the media. This is having a direct negative effect on The U.S. as the young generations are exploited as a way to allow racism to live on. An example would be the recent case of Latausha Nedd, who made a threatening video and was almost immediately arrested for remarks such as declaring ‘open season on crackers’.
I have also related current events like these to the similar historical events we have seen and remembered over time, as a way of showing viewers that the problem of racism in the U.S. never really went away, but was covered up well in contemporary society. In my opinion, BLM has done more harm than good, leaving not only civilians living in fear, but the good guys who are a part of the police force. This is a conflict that cannot be controlled, as once corrupt officers are out on the street with their guns, they can more of less do what they please. Thus, this is the narrative angle that I will be taking in my fear piece.
I aim to create meaningful and stimulating work in order to communicate a message that is a response to the complexity of current world events. Over time I have realised that the messages I want to get across to audiences are mostly issues of controversy. Film can be an innovative creator of memories themselves, and I have chosen to use archive to recreate an existing story, with the intention to tap into people’s memories of the events that are happening now, and the events that happened all those years ago. This is one of the ways in which I have tried to encourage the emotional and thought provoking response of my viewers.
I have been inspired by previous research for my food artefact which had me explore the unjust elements of the U.S. Justice System and how they unfairly treat and sentence minority groups. Looking into documents that have been released from non-profit organisations such as The Sentencing Project who promote sentencing reform in the United States I found this reference which has helped lead me towards my narrative.
“What does it mean to a community, for example, to know that three out of ten boys growing up will spend time in prison? What does it do to the fabric of the family and community to have such a substantial proportion of its young men en- meshed in the criminal justice system? What images and values are communicated to young people who see the prisoner as the most prominent pervasive role model in the community?”(M. Mauer, ‘Race to Incarcerate:2006)
After doing some more reading, I realised that one of the many answers to Mauer’s questions is fear. The negativity that social groups of colour are surrounded by has been made apparent through platforms such as media outlets, and the statistics and figures in regard to the proportion of blacks that are incarcerated in comparison to whites have suddenly become forced upon us.
The issue of race is something that captivates my thoughts, thus causing distress during times of these mishaps. The constant coverage of these violent crimes is difficult to ignore, with Instagram, Twitter and Facebook becoming infested with videos of raw footage of murder of black civilians by police officers taken by civilians.
In terms of the artistic sources that I used as inspiration, I will refer to the work of Ken Fero, a senior lecturer at Coventry University and political documentary filmmaker. Ken’s films focus on the injustice that has been taking place within the policing systems, with main focus on the deaths in custody. As well as looking at victim stories alone, he refers to resistance in his work, bringing the families of victims together in the United Friends and Family Campaign for conferences, debates and discussions in regard to the issues at hand.
He says in his interview, that this angle encouraged his work to ‘become a political project for justice’ (http://www.tmponline.org, 2012). His controversial work has inspired me to explore similar themes that I have much interest in such as how the Black Lives Matter movement has had more of a negative effect on society than positive. Such controversy has resulted in his films not being shown on television, and being banned from Channel 4 (‘Injustice’: 2001), with them telling him he has to tone it down a bit if he wants to make another film for them. To me, I think this is awesome as he made a film about what he thought was right, but his work has been hidden from society by more powerful figures.
This relates to the way in which the Black Lives Matter movement has all of a sudden appeared into news headlines. Why is it only in recent years we have been hearing and seeing such events happening? In the process of research and editing archive footage in relation to the issue, I have been able to link theory to current relations, with further comparison to similar historical events with my main focus being the Civil Rights Movement. I feel as though the use of this contrast in my piece will communicate the message that racial disparity is still very much present in modern day society. Later on in this essay I will highlight how the BLM Movement has brought back traditional attitudes such as Marxism. Furthermore, communicating the focus of current and upcoming political events in society through my media is something that I hope to achieve during the production of the fear artefact, and in my future work to come.
The first step to developing my idea was to think of how to get my narrative across strongly to the viewers. I started this by looking at a timeline of police brutality events that led to the violent protests we have been seeing all over the news. America has been represented as a warzone for years now, this is the angle I was going to take, making comparisons of peaceful protests of the 1950’s and 60’s, to the ruthless behaviours we have witnessed through frequent coverage. The killing of police officers following the death of Alton Sterling will be a major aspect of my artefact, as it accentuates the fact that fear doesn’t only lie in the civilians, but the police officers.
I was then able to begin searching for my archive content in order to start putting my own timeline of events together. CNN and FOX News were my main sources of content, as I found that they had the most coverage about each of the deaths that took place. Once I started putting together my visual content, I began thinking about how I can manipulate the use of archived sound in order to create a more intense and touching piece.
We believe most of what we see and hear on the news, the period of constant coverage of police brutality deaths came out of nowhere, but we have only recently been exposed to these issues. The BLM slogan has been fed to us in order to make it seem like change will come, when really it probably won’t, and things will just get worse. This is an example of how distribution of the topic it is pre examined and an example of how a decision is made by those in power as to whether or not we will have any knowledge of the events taking place.
From my research, I have seen that there are hundreds and hundreds of these cases, however we only really heard about a few on big news channels such as CNN. Social media was a massive platform showing the effects of a moral panic in full swing. Following the news stories over the past few years has been a major source of research for my subject matter, this has been made much more accessible through social media and the way people have reacted to the events.
This links to Cohen’s theory of moral panic, whereby what we are told by the media are just mere warning signs of the real, much deeper and more widespread condition. Panic has turned to violence and hate, as we have witnessed the spread of hate between different races in everyday life. If we take a look back to the mid 1900’s, we can distinguish positive dictators in society such as Martin Luther King and Malcom X. However, now it seems as though the media and its various outlets are the main dictators in contemporary society, which is one of the main points in my narrative.
Media power is symbolic and persuasive, having the potential to control some extent of the mind, but not directly their actions. People’s feelings and emotions towards racism and hate amongst social groups are being manipulated through media in order to inflict fear, controlling behaviours and attitudes in societal structures. According to The Guardian’s police killings database, the police in the U.S has killed 970 people, with 231 being black and 156 being Hispanic (theguardian.com). This is an interesting statistic to look at as it is stated that 480 of these victims of police brutality were white. I find this surprising, as the media coverage of recent years has not really focused on all races, but predominantly black. These statistics have been released for all to see as a technique of media control. This is a way of keeping the division of races within the U.S. They also create fear and anger amongst targeted groups, leading to violence and protest. These figures are a way of showing how whole segments of American society are marginalised. Furthermore, BLM has supported the ideologies of oppression and prevents us from thinking critically about violence and policing in order to maintain social control.
The constant division of social groups in terms of how different races are spoken about differently across the media supports the notion of segregation between groups. Although BLM has supposedly been put in place to spread peace, Liz Phelps (a Professor of psychology and neural science) supports my view whereby I believe that a single peace group is not enough to change people’s negative perceptions of social groups besides their own, as ‘fear isn’t changed by new information as readily as with somebody within our own group’. A study has been carried out in order to prove Phelps’ hypothesis, which was a process seen in a lot of psychological work, the electric shock/association experiment. It was found that participants’ level of fear towards people of other races in comparison to their own did not drop during the shock process, but it did for those of the same racial group. In short, the Persistence of Fear study, which proves its hypothesis that we learn fear by influence of what social group, we belong to. From this part of my research, I came to the conclusion that BLM may not be benefitting social and racial cohesion in the States due to previous associations people have previously had, more so it is reinforcing these racial fears.
In regard to the production process, I have learnt that what one could potentially do with the use of archive is amazing. I was able to take a subject that I am passionate about and put together my own powerful narrative in order to portray a message, or several messages. Although I am happy with my piece, I am aware that there are improvements that could be made. For example, I could have made the overall message more clear, by playing on the words of Martin Luther King and those of Alton Sterling just before his death. Meaning that I could take the audio of MLK saying ‘I have a dream’ and perhaps overlay it with the audio of Sterling saying ‘I can’t breathe’. I feel as though this would have been a powerful way to end this piece.
I feel as though my research skills have developed a lot over the course of this module and I have been encouraged to question everything in order to gain knowledge to be in the position to be able to produce a strong narrative. In terms of further development of my fear artefact, I could do a lot with the ideas that I have. I hope to continue my research around the issue in hope that I can take it forward for my Final Media Project, which will take the form of a documentary, perhaps poetic. I will now start researching the policing system in the United Kingdom in order for content to become more accessible to me.
Couvee, K. (2012) Filming INJUSTICE: An interview with documentary maker Ken Fero. Available at: http://www.tmponline.org/2012/03/07/filming-injustice-an-interview-with-documentary-maker-ken-fero/ (Accessed: 30 November 2016).
Swaine, J., Laughland, O., Lartey, J., Davis, K., Harris, R., Popovich, N., Powell, K. and team, G.U. interactive (2016) The counted: People killed by police in the United States – interactive. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database (Accessed: 30 November 2016).
Lovgren, S. (2005) Race affects how we learn to fear others, study says. Available at: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/07/0728_050728_racefear.html (Accessed: 30 November 2016).
Powers, T. (2016) How black lives matter is bringing back traditional Marxism. Available at: http://thefederalist.com/2016/09/28/black-lives-matter-bringing-back-traditional-marxism/ (Accessed: 30 November 2016).
Mauer, M., Project, T.S. and Project, S. (1999) Race to incarcerate. New York: Distributed by W.W. Norton.
Norwood, J. (2013) Color matters: Skin tone bias and the myth of a post-racial America. Edited by Kimberly Jade Norwood. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.
Popo. (2013). [film] United Kingdom: Produced by Ken Fero.
Injustice. (2001). [film] United Kingdom: Produced by Ken Fero.
Burn. (2014). [film] United Kingsom: Produced by Ken Fero
Various (2008) Reducing Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System: A Manual for practitioners and policymakers. Available at: http://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Reducing-Racial-Disparity-in-the-Criminal-Justice-System-A-Manual-for-Practitioners-and-Policymakers.pdf (Accessed: 30 November 2016).
White, K. (2016) ‘Black lives on campuses matter: Reflecting on the rise of the new black student movement’, Soundings, , pp. 86–97.