One way we can work towards rewriting harmful narratives about minority communities is through representation in film, television, land literature. Since the beginning of film, Black people have been portrayed as deviant, criminal, malevolent, or “the help”. Black women have been dehumanized, objectified, or erased from history. Other people of color(POC) are portrayed as terrorists, servants, or the enemy. Perpetuating the image of POC as second-class citizens or criminals shapes public perception and biases the criminal justice system. If our society is stacked against POC, then the justice system that mirrors it is also stacked against POC. In addition to structural change, we need to shift the stories we tell about POC. We need to not only represent POC in movies, TV shows, and books, but we need to create minority characters who are multidimensional, who are moral, and who are successful. Writing a story about a Black female CEO or a Muslim public servant may not only help young Black and Muslim children believe that they are more than their skin color, but will allow the next generation to be raised under a new legacy — one of equity, justice, and diversity rather than division, bias, and oppression.
While concocting fictional worlds where people of color are depicted as moral and successful is important, the stories we tell about real life are equally critical to the way that our society understands race and humanity. Too many times the public is subject to reading a news article that characterizes lone offenses by a Middle-Eastern individual as an “act of terrorism by a Muslim” or uses a mug shot when writing about Black individuals. These subtle but vital choices can significantly influence the way that the reader understands the story and perceives the world. All journalists and news outlets need to hold themselves accountable for reporting accurately and refusing to let bias or stereotypes seep into objective journalism. Until then, media outlets on both sides of the aisle will continue to fuel misconceptions, prejudice, and polarization in our country.