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‘Racial’ and Ethnic Inequality in Western Europe and North America


Racism is one of the contemporary trends being experienced in journalism and news. Media has been found to play a major role in the production of ethnic as well as racial inequality in the various structures of the contemporary societies. North America and Western Europe are among the contemporary societies where this effect of inequality has been felt. This leads to the development of an analytical approach known as new racism, where media is major contributor. The effect of media in this particular issue is portrayed through the various activities involved in journalism among them being news making and readers’ interpretations as well as their relation to North America and Western Europe societies. Cervantes (2002 p.13)

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The Media Structures Involved

Ethnic and racial inequality form part of the issues involved in new racism practiced by media in North America as well as Western Europe. Media in these contemporary societies mainly hits on minority groups where it presents stereotypical images as well as words when referring to them. The texts and programs produced by contemporary media have political, economical as well as social implication on the way racism is carried out.

For example, overall topics are normally focused on local meanings showing logic and suggestions that are analyzed in such a way that they cause inequalities in the society as they stress on people’s differential factors. The ways in which sentences are formed and presented as well as how news reports are organized contribute to racial inequality production in North America and Western Europe societies. Rhetorical devices where metaphors and speech acts are used in form of threats or promises also form the various ways in which media deliver messages that cause racial inequality in contemporary societies. Goldberg (2002 pp.45-48)

Racial inequality production

Media contributes to racial inequality production by giving differential information concerning the various classes in existence. There are two major areas that are mainly affected by media and in turn cause racial inequality in North America and Western Europe. One and the most important of the two is social component where media causes racial inequality through discriminatory practices, organizations, analysis of a micro and macro level as well as various legal arrangements in social institutions.

The second component that is used by media in the production of racial inequality is cognitive dimension which is comprised of beliefs held by North America and Western Europe societies including attitudes, values, ideologies, knowledge and norms. Media makes use of cognitive dimension by delivering influential information where some races are considered inferior than others in terms of competency, modernity as well as intelligence.

In North America and Western Europe, media has been found to influence whites who are also refereed to as in-group society, to discriminate minority ethnic groups who are mainly immigrants on racial grounds. Therefore, media serves as means by which the two dimensions that is social and cognitive are connected in the production of racial inequality. This is because; it controls people’s access to various forms of information from all social structures.

However, media does not cause this influence alone but with the support of elite groups that are very powerful in the contemporary societies as well as institutions among them being, cooperate managers and politicians. Ethnic affairs is the area that is mostly influenced by the media in North America and Western Europe societies which is caused by a number of reasons including the fact that most whites who depend on mass media have very few encounters with minority groups and do not have a chance to conduct their own research in order to test whether what comes from the media is correct or not.

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Another reason is that most whites do not have a variety of alternative sources from which they can get information concerning minority groups and therefore they have to believe what come from media without objection. More so, it happens that most of the information that contain negative attitudes concerning minorities tend to favor whites and they find themselves with a minimal chance of objecting them. On the other hand, ethnic issues presented by media provide the members of the society with positive information about the whites which is accompanied by polarized identification of minorities as “Them” while whites refer to themselves as “Us”.

This is primarily because most of the media staff is normally dominated by the whites who disregard immigrants since they are of a different race from theirs as well as ethnicity. Media in these contemporary societies put more emphasis on racial inequality by providing whites with information concerning threats that result from associations with immigrants. Since the minority groups do not have power to publicly defend themselves from those accusations due to their low representation in the media, they settle on the negative information which makes them to remain marginalized as the inferior race. Mosher (1998 p.63)

Racial inequality is a rare discussion topic in North America as well as Western Europe media and the few representatives of inferior races do not have media access through which they are supposed to air contrary information objecting what had been previously provided by the media dominated by whites. Therefore, when media which is a very influential source of public information combines its discriminatory operations with its influence in the lives of whites, it makes minority groups to become very weak. This gives media a good opportunity to exercise its power in the wrong direction where it favors powerful races while disregarding the minority ones. Mosher (1998 pp.64-66)

Production of Racial Inequality through News making

Media’s role in the production of racial inequality among North American and Western European societies begins with news making that takes place as a daily routine. In this case, media bases its news making operations on press releases, information brochures, press conferences, briefings and documentation of which minority groups have limited accessibility. More so, minority groups are rarely asked for their opinions concerning various issues that affect them and when they happen to give their views, they are normally discarded.

This is because according to media staff in North America and Western Europe, the views of minority groups are less newsworthy since they contain information where they defend themselves from the extensive prejudices from the domineering white society. Therefore, the situation where minority racial and ethnic groups are denied the right to air their opinions results to unequal provision of services to them as the whites are normally favored in almost all areas. Gabriel (1994 p.51)

News Structure

News structure is also part of news making where different forms are used in the delivery of information by media. News on issues regarding ethnicity has scarce sources which leaves media as the major source from which initial facts are received. At the same time, first definitions of ethnic issues come from top authorities who are usually comprised of white elites. Therefore, it is this powerful group that controls news structure in North America as well as Western Europe. Topics are among the news structure elements and topics on ethnic minorities including immigrants are usually restricted to unattractive events.

Examples of these unattractive events include the arrival of illegal immigrants and formulation of policies that are supposed to give political responses concerning their immigration. Other topics are social and reception problems like unemployment that show the incapability of ethnic minorities whereas areas where they have excelled are never featured. Cultural characterization showing the manner in which racial minorities are different from the powerful whites is also given much extensive publicity which increases the gap between the two groups. Another is negative characterization, associating deviant minority groups with deviant behavior which implies that all members of this group are criminals and are supposed to be eliminated from the society. Gabriel (1994 p.52)

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Some of these events that are usually associated with ethnic minorities contain positive and neutral topics like cultural immigration and housing but media tends to manipulate them in such a way that they give a negative implication to the public which is mostly comprised of whites. For instance, immigration is normally expressed as a form of threat to the well being of North America and Western European societies.

Also, news concerning crimes especially the violent ones as well as those involving drugs are normally associated with ethnic minorities even in cases where they have no connection to the said criminal activities. Although media receives positive information from which they can develop positive topics, they do not emphasize on them since their main intention is to create a completely negative picture of ethnic minorities. Therefore, all topics on situations where immigrants leave and their contributions to these countries’ economies are given minimal consideration. This is not fair to ethnic and racial minorities as the public is denied positive information which would have been an appropriate way of changing the negative attitude held against them.

Since topics form a very essential part of texts as well as news, they tend to have a great influence to receivers. Negative topics cause negative first impressions to receivers which is the situation that occurs to whites who are normally provided with negative topics on issues regarding ethnic minorities. On the other hand topics that contain the positive actions of whites are made to dominate news which results to a great gap between ethnic minorities who are taken to be comprised of “criminals” and whites who are considered to be comprised of “good” people. Gabriel (1994 pp.53-54)

Quotes are another element of news structure and they are used to put emphasis on particular issues that editors feel should be noted by readers and/or listeners. The construction of news reports is based on topics provided by influential sources and it therefore follows that most quotes are normally cited from them. The authors of news reports are also given more consideration in the entire citation of quotes.

The determination of the individuals and groups to be quoted is also dependent on accessibility to journalist as well as their control. Since ethnic and racial minorities are not able to access the journalists because they are less powerful to control them, they end up getting quoted in criminal related issues other than “good” actions. Whites are normally quoted more in news reports where they are featured in their good actions which at times are directed to show how powerful they are over ethnic and racial minorities.

During the quotation of sources, the media selects those that contain information where negative general attitudes concerning ethnic minorities are confirmed. In most cases, minority ethnic groups are not given chances to air their views alone but in the presence of whites who are then supposed to confirm what has been conveyed and most probably in a negative manner. This changes the direction and intention of the messages conveyed by ethnic and racial minorities which results negative quotes which was not the case when they were first delivered by minority spokespersons. Ore (2007 p.84)

Another news structure element that influences the production of racial inequality in North America and Western Europe is local meanings of news from the media. Local meanings are different from overall meanings provided by news topics as they focus more on the actual content in individual sentences and words. Therefore, when analysis of news concerning ethnic minorities is being conducted, the negative comments about them are emphasized which is mainly aimed at showing how “bad” they are.

Special words are used in news reports for example where welfare mothers are supposed to be representative of ethnic minorities’ problems having in mind that whites make up the largest percentage of news reports readers. Local meanings also influence racial inequality production by the effect it has on peoples’ attitudes which in turn influences their choice of words they want to believe.

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For instance, in North America, terrorists are normally used on Arabs even when their current actions are not related with terrorism. Instances where Arabs are mentioned, white readers pick on the negative words since their intention is to link the ethnic and racial minority with terrorism as the media has already made them believe that Arabs cannot be anything better than terrorists. Another example is that of Latin men who are always linked with drug trafficking and news reports contain words that refer to all drug trafficking activities to be associated with them resulting to negative local meanings concerning Latin men. Local meanings are also derived from individual sentence analysis where ethnic minorities’ actions are presented.

Most sentences show representations of minorities in passive roles where whites decide on what they should do which is aimed at implying that ethnic minorities cannot decide things for themselves but are always dependent on whites. A large percent of information concerning ethnic minorities are presupposed or merely implied in order to present negative local meanings which in turn brings racial inequality between the groups that are made to conflict indirectly by media messages.

Formulation is yet another element of news structure where news is expressed in various layouts and letter types in order to pass the intended information. Criminal activities performed by ethnic minorities are made to appear in unique headlines which are prominently placed on front pages for every reader to notice them. Editors manipulate verbs to become nouns in order to give a different meaning from the real one, for instance, “discrimination” is used in instances where a full description of the one who is being discriminated is needed. Media usually does this in order to hide negative actions carried out by whites or their organizations including police forces. Ore (2007 p.85)

A Practical Example of Media Production of Racial and ethnic Inequality

A newspaper known as “Sun” from Western European media was found to present special news on the dangers of illegal immigrants. The heading was presented in capital letters reading that the number of illegal immigrants in Western Europe had increased tremendously. This was followed by another prominent heading stating that Western Europe had been invaded by a group of illegal immigrants.

Since analysis of information provided by the media is based on the manner in which various events and main participants are presented in topics as well as content texts, the headline of this particular example tends to attract the attention of most readers specifically the whites. It also happens that this particular newspaper has a wide range of readers who are mainly British and it is most probable that they saw the article.

The capitalization and emphasis that comes with it suggests to the readers that the newspaper had carried out extensive investigations on the matter and it therefore contains concrete information that should be believed. The heading is followed by a description of how police forces carried out raids during which they managed to arrest some of them. In order to in increase on the emphasis of the illegal immigrants’ article, Sun’s editors made sure that this information covered an entire page. Three unique pictures displaying the raided restaurant were explicitly placed on the page with each picture labeled “RAIDED”. The pictures were accompanied by statistics where the rising number of total illegal immigrants is outlined. Ore (2007 p.86-87)

Readers are mostly attracted by articles that are presented as special news like the illegal immigration article which is the main reason as to why it was given this title by Sun newspaper. This newspaper’s editors made use of metaphors in the headline which influenced readers to view the situation where ethnic and racial minorities entered Western Europe as an illegal act of invasion. In this case, immigration was represented by the negative metaphor “invasion” while immigrants were also defined using the negative metaphor “illegal group”. This was aimed to imply that the immigrants are a threat to Western Europe and caution should be taken in order to have them eliminated.

The targeted area was also prominently highlighted to emphasize that the invaders were set to specifically destroy it and not any other area. It is found that the same presentation of issues concerning ethnic minorities is adopted in North America where they describe illegal actions carried out by undocumented immigrants. Apart carrying put negative activities in North America and Western Europe, immigrants are referred to as law breakers since they are accused of entering the countries illegally which is a major crime.

This makes whites to categorize all immigrants in the same group, including those with proper legal documentation which contributes to widening of the already existing gap between the two ethnicities as whites would not want to relate with a group that is characterized by criminals. Everett (2007 p.39-40)

Strengths and Weaknesses of Media’s New Racism Approach

New racism approach as used by media to cause and influence racial and ethnic inequality in North America and Western Europe has portrayed several weaknesses as well as strengths. However, most the new racism’s strengths are mostly negative since it has been able to influence racial inequality in North America as well as Western Europe. New racism manages to present the negative actions carried out by ethnic minorities in such a way that the superior group comprised of whites is made to view every member of ethnic minorities as a dangerous criminal. The main tactic of this approach is the manipulation of words and sentences to come up with general topics that attract the attention of the targeted group.

On the other hand, new racism weaknesses are found in the manner in which ethnic minorities are affected by information passed through it. This approach gets the attention of political authorities in North America and Western Europe who mobilize campaigns aimed at sending ethnic minorities away as they pose danger to their countries’ economic, political as well as social well being. The fact that it is impossible for media to cultivate peace and harmony in North America and Western Europe during the application of this approach makes it inappropriate. Everett (2007 p.41-42)


Evidence shows that, media plays a very major role in the production of racial as well as ethnic inequality since it is found to present negative issues concerning ethnic minorities who are particularly of a different race from that of majority citizens in these countries. Media makes use of its various aspects like news making and structure to cause racial inequality where it makes manipulations to news items in order to favor the whites and portray a negative picture of ethnic minorities. This influences the whites to develop a stereotypical dislike of ethnic and racial minorities since there are mostly associated with criminal activities which lead to their discrimination and unequal treatment in North America and Western Europe. Cervantes (2002 14-16)


Cervantes, M 2002, the modern/colonial/capitalist/ world-system in the twentieth century, Greenwood Publishing group, pp 13-16.

Everett, A 2007, Learning Race and Ethnicity, MIT Press, pp 39-42.

Gabriel, J 1994, Racism, culture and markets, Routledge, pp 51-54.

Goldberg, D 2002, A companion to racial and ethnic studies, Wiley-Blackwell, pp 45-48.

Mosher, C 1998, Discrimination and denial: University of Toronto Press, pp 63-66.

Ore, T 2007, the social construction of difference and inequality, University of Michigan, pp 84-87.

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