Conversation Reframed: Marriott Library Hosts Panel about Racism within Media


The panelists together following the discussion. (Photo by Joseph Moss | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Joseph Moss, News Writer


On Feb. 24, the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion hosted a panel at the Marriott Library titled “Reframing the Conversation: Expanding the Portrayal of Black Men.” The panel focused on racial inequality of black men in not only the media but in America as a whole, and what people at the University of Utah can do to address this issue.

In room 1150 of the Marriott Library sat a full room of largely white students, pizza filling their stomachs, waiting to hear from a panel focused on the topic of race.

At noon, the moderator Chris Linder, a special assistant to the president for violence prevention and education, stepped up to open the discussion.

However, she didn’t start asking questions immediately. 

To begin the discussion, Linder focused on the complex history of race in America.

“I’d like to start with just a plan in labor acknowledgment,” Linder said. “Recognizing that the land of the University of Utah is on, as well as all other universities and institutions of higher education in the U.S., land that has been colonized.” 

 “Part of our colonization history in the United States is sexual violence,” she said.

The panel included Marlon Lynch, newly appointed chief safety officer for the U, Sarah Projansky, professor of gender studies, Liz Adeola, Emmy award-winning journalist and host for PBS Utah, Meligha Garfield, director of the Black Cultural Center at the U and Byron Russell, co-chair of the Utah Multicultural Commission. All members listened and nodded as Linder lectured.

Linder then referenced the United States’ history of enslaving people of both of African and indigenous descent, and how history is often told from the “perspective of the winner.” 

Linder then brought the issue before the audience, asking how black men are portrayed in the media. She pulled up images of women affiliated with the U that had been murdered by their partners in the 2018-2019 academic year.

She showed the audience photos of Lauren McCluskey and Sarah Hawley.

“I want you to know the difference,” Linder said, as she cycled through more photos of black men who perpetrated crimes shown in the media.

After her introduction, Linder asked the panel her first question, What patterns and themes have you noticed or are familiar with related to the representation between relationship and sexual violence and race through your unique advantage?” 

Garfield opened, speaking about his time back home in Rochester, New York.

Garfield discussed the concept of a “super predator,” which he says has been “prominent in the media.”

“This term was mentioned by former President [Clinton] and kind of stating like, ‘hey black men are predators.’ They’re creatures, they’re not necessarily someone that you can have a relationship with.” Garfield said.

Adeola spoke about her experience working in the media.

“What we’ve talked about in the news world is the characterization of when mass shootings happen, how [perpetrators] who are not of color are portrayed as victims — ‘they have mental issues,’” Adeola said.

“Whereas when crimes happen with African Americans, their humanity is stripped away. There’s no deeper look into their past or what their parents did or how they were raised. It’s more ‘they did this,’ and it’s kind of dehumanization of the suspects,” Adeola said.

Provjansky jumped in, talking briefly talking about where fictional representation around black men as rapists began. She said it emerged in the early ’70s and ’80s and still continues to this day, as anti-rape activism emerged and became more public, similar to the #MeToo movement.

Russell talked about the implicit bias when he came to Utah. He mentioned a time when he was asked where he was from, which in his words was another way of saying “you aren’t from here.” However, choosing to make light of the situation, he answered that he was from Nephi, and watched as the person asking the question change their expression to disbelief.

Linder then asked the panel what they see as consequences and implications of harmful stereotypes in media and the challenges of accurately portraying news without stereotypes.

After this portion of the panel, the floor was opened to the audience who directed most of their questions towards the new chief safety officer Lynch.

One audience member asked, “What training are you doing for your officers to counteract the narrative around black men?”

“There’ll be a training curriculum,” Lynch said. “It’ll be the in-service training that takes place, as well as the field training program. So those are all the new officers that will come on to you would have anywhere from a 12 to 20 week training period.” 

He also said that officers will also have a minimum of 24- to 32-hour firearm training. “Our training will be extensive,” he said.


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