Fox News levied a series of complaints and attacks against a Black History Month video by the African American Policy Forum that portrays the barriers of institutional and historical anti-black racism. Fox ignored the substance of the video, which was shown to students at a Virginia high school, and instead focused on complaints that the video is “trying to make students feel guilty for being white.” Fox's diatribe against the video underscores a long-standing pattern of shortsighted race coverage at Fox and in mainstream media.
Educational Video Compares Systemic Racism To Unequal Marathon -- A Long-Established Metaphor
Video Shows “Metaphors For Obstacles To Equality,” Including Slavery, Mass Incarceration, And Housing Segregation. An educational video by the African American Policy Forum metaphorically portrays the barriers of “structural discrimination” and the historical legacy of slavery through a marathon. The video shows white runners are afforded a host of privileges and opportunities that the black runners are not, and it shines light on issues including wealth disparities, discrimination, underemployment, education disparities, the school-to-prison pipeline, and housing, among others. [African American Policy Forum, accessed via YouTube, 2/11/16]
Marathon Analogy Of Racial Inequality Has A Long History, Dating Back At Least To President Johnson. President Lyndon B. Johnson used the race metaphor during his June 4, 1965, commencement address at Howard University, which is “widely known as the intellectual framework for affirmative action.” According to The Washington Post, in the speech, Johnson said, "'You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others,' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.'" [The Washington Post, 6/4/15]
Fox Ignores Substance Of The Video, Hypes Complaints That It Was Created To “Divide” And “Make Students Feel Guilty For Being White”
Fox's Steve Doocy: Is This So-Called “White Guilt Video ... . Really The Way To Address Racial Discourse?” In a “Trouble With Schools” segment during the February 11 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy introduced the video by saying that it has “been referred to as a white guilt video,” and asking, “So was this really the way to address racial discourse or was it just a way to create a divide among some students?” Doocy ignored the information in the video, instead hyping the criticism of parents who are “outraged,” and his guest Craig Johnson said that the video was only a “partial history” and that the barriers portrayed were not “real issues”:
STEVE DOOCY (HOST): Parents at a Virginia high school are outraged after their children were shown this, which has been referred to as a white guilt video, as part of Black History Month. The video shows athletes at a track meet, two are white, getting a head start while black runners are shown running into roadblocks like slavery, genocide, and discrimination. So was this really the way to address racial discourse, or was it just a way to create a divide among some students? ... . You say it is out and out deception. Why?
CRAIG JOHNSON: Well, it's partial history. The simple fact of the matter is that slavery and discrimination has happened since the dawn of time in every culture. You've had black Barbary pirates enslave the white Europeans, you have white Europeans then enslave blacks. You have black on black capturing of slaves, selling them to Jewish and Muslim middlemen who sold them to Europeans. The entire world, Steve, participated in slavery. But only England and America fought to end slavery, and you still have slavery in certain parts of North Africa to this day. Blacks are enslaved by Muslims to this day, OK? ... . Martin Luther King died for America to be a place where you're judged by the content of your character, not the color of your skin, and the poverty pimps need to beat their swords into plowshares. Roll their sleeves up and get busy with real issues that these children are going to have to face once they leave school and go into a very, very increasingly competitive marketplace.
DOOCY: Craig, this is not historical. It's not looking back in the rearview mirror. It's saying that if you are African-American today, the deck is stacked against you for your entire life. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/11/16]
Fox's Charles Payne: “It Looked Real, Real Dumb”; There Are “A Lot Better Ways To Explain American History.” During the February 10 edition of Fox Business' Varney & Co., guest host Charles Payne said that the video “looked real, real dumb,” and claimed there are “a lot better ways to explain American history than that”while guest Ashley Webster claimed that although the video is “supposed to be a lesson in racial discourse,” it was “heavy-handed at the very least”:
CHARLES PAYNE (GUEST HOST): And now to this, a video shown to high school students in Virginia causing controversy. Ashley, what's the story here?
ASHLEY WEBSTER: Yeah, it's an animated film, it's called “Unequal Opportunity Race.” You're seeing it here, it was shown for a Virginia high school. It's supposed to be a lesson in racial discourse. What you're seeing here is four athletes, two whites and two African-Americans, take off in the race. And the minority races are told to hold back, and then you see such words as discrimination, slavery and so on, come up on the screen. Parents have said, “Look, this is like an attempt to create white guilt for students and is inappropriate.”But the school said, “Look, this is a presentation involving an American -- discourse in American history and racial issues.” Well as you can see, some parents not very happy, saying, “Wait a minute; this is just purely designed to, as they say, create white guilt.”
PAYNE: It looked real, real dumb. And considering this is educational --
WEBSTER: Heavy-handed at the very least --
PAYNE: A lot better ways to explain American history than that. [Fox Business, Varney & Co., 2/10/16]
Fox's Heather Nauert: “Parents Are Outraged” At A Video They Claim Is “Trying To Make Students Feel Guilty For Being White.” On the February 10 edition of Fox & Friends, news anchor Heather Nauert ignored the substance of the video, instead hyping criticisms from “parents are outraged” and questioning whether the video was “trying to make students feel guilty for being white.” Nauert further noted that the video “raises a whole lot of eyebrows”:
HEATHER NAUERT: And a school trying to make students feel guilty for being white? Parents are outraged at Glen Allen High School, this is in Virginia, after this video was played during class. It shows athletes at a track meet, several white runners get a head start on several black runners, who are forced to deal with things like slavery, genocide and broken treaties along the way. School officials defending that video, calling it a lesson in quote, American history and racial discourse. What do you think about that one? That one raises a whole lot of eyebrows at that school in Virginia. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/10/16]
Video Raises Important Points About The Continuing Effects Of Institutional And Systemic Racism
The Sentencing Project: “One Of Every Three Black American Males Born Today Can Expect To Go To Prison In His Lifetime.” A 2013 report by The Sentencing Project found that “racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested” and “once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted.” The report showed that “African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males” and that “if current trends continue, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime”:
The United States criminal justice system is the largest in the world. At year end 2011, approximately 7 million individuals were under some form of correctional control in the United States, including 2.2 million incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons and jails. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, dwarfing the rate of nearly every other nation.
Such broad statistics mask the racial disparity that pervades the U.S. criminal justice system. Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. African-American males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white males and 2.5 times more likely than Hispanic males. If current trends continue, one of every three black American males born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino males--compared to one of every seventeen white males. Racial and ethnic disparities among women are less substantial than among men but remain prevalent.
The source of such disparities is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and minorities. [The Sentencing Project, August 2013]
PBS: “School To Prison Pipeline.” PBS republished a factsheet from SuspensionStories.com that highlights the “school-to-prison pipeline,” saying that rather than receiving appropriate punishments, many“students are suspended, expelled, or even arrested for minor offenses.” PBS noted that “statistics reflect that these policies disproportionately target students of color and those with a history of abuse, neglect, poverty or learning disabilities”:
[PBS, accessed 2/11/16]
U. Penn Study: Black Students Are Suspended And Expelled At “Disproportionately High” Rates In The South. A 2015 study from the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education examined school suspension and expulsion rates in 13 southern states and found that black students were suspended and expelled from school at rates far higher than school demographics would suggest. The report summarized:
Nationally, 1.2 million Black students were suspended from K-12 public schools in a single academic year - 55% of those suspensions occurred in 13 Southern states. Districts in the South also were responsible for 50% of Black student expulsions from public schools in the United States.
[ ... ]
On average, Blacks were 24% of students in the 3,022 districts we analyzed, but rates at which they were suspended and expelled are disproportionately high... .
In 132 Southern school districts, Blacks were disproportionately suspended at rates five times or higher than their representation in the student population. In 84 districts, Blacks were 100% of the students suspended from public schools. In 346 districts, Blacks were 75% or more of the students suspended from public schools. In 743 districts, Blacks were 50% or more of the students suspended from public schools. Blacks comprised 74% of suspensions from public schools in Mississippi, which was the highest proportion among the states... .
In 77 Southern school districts, Blacks were disproportionately expelled at rates five times or higher than their representation in the student population. In 181 districts, Blacks were 100% of the students expelled from public schools. In 255 districts, Blacks were 75% or more of the students expelled from public schools. In 484 districts, Blacks were 50% or more of the students expelled from public schools. Blacks comprised 72% of expulsions from public schools in both Louisiana and Mississippi, which was the highest proportion among the states. [University of Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, 2015]
Georgetown University Center On Education And The Workforce: Higher Education Remains “Separate And Unequal” Among Racial Groups. A 2013 report from Georgetown's Center On Education And The Workforce found that the types of institutions students chose for college enrollment were starkly divided by race, perpetuating white privilege through education outcomes. In an analysis of enrollment trends at 4,400 postsecondary institutions, researchers determined that white students disproportionately attended selective colleges and black and Hispanic students disproportionately attended open-access and community colleges, leading to racial discrepancies in graduation rates and access to resources. The report summarized:
Between 1995 and 2009, 82 percent of new white freshman enrollments were at the 468 most selective four-year colleges, compared to 13 percent for Hispanics and 9 percent for African Americans; 68 percent of new African-American freshman enrollments and 72 percent of new Hispanic freshman enrollments were at open-access two- and four-year colleges, compared to no growth for whites.
These racially polarized separate pathways exist, even among highly qualified students: Among “A” students, African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to enroll in community colleges than similarly qualified white students. [Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, 7/31/13, 7/31/13]
Study: “A Black College Student Has The Same Chances Of Getting A Job As A White High School Dropout.” A 2015 study from the nonprofit Young Invincibles found that “African-American students need to complete two more levels of education to have the same probability of getting a job as their white peers” elaborating that “an African-American male with an associates degree has around the same chance of getting a job as a white male with just a high school diploma.” ThinkProgress reported on the study's findings, based on federal labor and census data, which attributed this gap to factors associated with “a long history of discrimination”:
African-American students need to complete two more levels of education to have the same probability of getting a job as their white peers, a new study by Young Invincibles finds.
The researchers looked at data mainly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census, isolating the effects of race and education on unemployment. They found that an African-American male with an associates degree has around the same chance of getting a job as a white male with just a high school diploma. “At every level of education, race impacts a person's chance of getting a job,” Tom Allison, a research manager and one of the study's authors, told ThinkProgress.
The study attributes the employment gap mainly to hiring discrimination, high incarceration rates for black people, and African Americans' lack of inherited wealth from past generations due to a long history of discrimination. Less inherited wealth results in low homeownership rates and high deficits among African Americans: While a college-educated white American has an average net worth of $75,000, a college-educated black American has a net worth of less than $17,500. [ThinkProgress, 6/24/15]
Gallup: “Black College Grads More Likely to Graduate With Debt.” A Gallup analysis from 2014 revealed that “half of 2000-2014 black college graduates in the U.S. report graduating with more than $25,000 in undergraduate student loan debt” compared with “34% of recent white graduates.” Gallup also found that “recent black college graduates are 17 points more likely to have graduated with student loan debt than white college graduates,” pointing out that this is part of a “larger issue of the income and wealth gap between the races that has failed to close”:
Half of 2000-2014 black college graduates in the U.S. report graduating with more than $25,000 in undergraduate student loan debt. By comparison, 34% of recent white graduates report similar levels of debt, revealing a large borrowing gap between the races.
While there has also been a concurrent rise in the amount of undergraduate debt for whites as well as blacks, the gap between white and black college graduates has remained roughly the same over the timespan, at nearly 20 percentage points. Recent black college graduates are 17 points more likely to have graduated with student loan debt than white college graduates, close to the differences that existed between white and black college graduates in the 1970s (20 points), 1980s (20 points), and 1990s (17 points).
Then there is the larger issue of the income and wealth gap between the races that has failed to close, according to several studies. Indeed, a 2011 study by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University showed that even when educational attainment is the same between whites and blacks, blacks consistently earn less. This could help create a vicious cycle for many black graduates whereby they are compelled by economic necessity to take out student debt when they attend college and then subsequently spend a substantial period of their professional life paying down this debt, minimizing the ability to save for a child's college education. [Gallup, 9/18/14]
St. Louis Fed: Even With A College Degree, Black And Hispanic Graduates Have Less Economic Security. Recent research from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis called into question the common assumption that college degrees lead to some level of economic stability for all graduates, finding that black and Hispanic college graduates are not guaranteed the same protections as their counterparts simply by having a degree -- partly because of outsized household debt burdens. The New York Times wrote of the study's findings (emphasis added):
A college degree has long been recognized as a great equalizer, a path for minorities to help bridge the economic chasm that separates them from whites. But the report, scheduled to be released on Monday, raises troubling questions about the ability of a college education to narrow the racial and ethnic wealth gap.
“Higher education alone cannot level the playing field,” the report concludes.
Economists emphasize that college-educated blacks and Hispanics over all earn significantly more and are in a better position to accumulate wealth than blacks and Hispanics who do not get degrees ... But while these college grads had more assets, they suffered disproportionately during periods of financial trouble. [The New York Times, 8/16/15, Federal Reserve Board of St. Louis, August 2015]
Economic Policy Institute: History Of Housing Segregation Has “Continuing Effects.” The Economic Policy Institute's Richard Rothstein explained that the discriminatory housing policies of the 20th century have “continuing effects” that cause social and economic disadvantages for African-Americans. Rothstein notes that the “widely acknowledged difference in educational outcomes is, in considerable part, the enduring effect of de jure segregated house policies of the 20thcentury”:
Even those who understand this dramatic history of de jure segregation may think that because these policies are those of the past, there is no longer a public policy bar that prevents African Americans from moving to white neighborhoods. Thus, they say, although these policies were unfortunate, we no longer have de jure segregation. Rather, they believe, the reason we don't have integration today is not because of government policy but because most African Americans cannot afford to live in middle class neighborhoods.
This unaffordability was also created by federal, state, and local policy that prevented African Americans in the mid-twentieth century from accumulating the capital needed to invest in home ownership in middle-class neighborhoods, and then from benefiting from the equity appreciation that followed in the ensuing decades.
In short, middle-class African Americans and whites are in different financial straits. Total family wealth (including the ability to borrow from home equity) has more impact than income on high-school graduates' ability to afford college. Wealth also influences children's early expectations that they will attend and complete college. White middle-class children are more likely to prepare for, apply to, and graduate from college than black children with similar family incomes. This widely acknowledged difference in educational outcomes is, in considerable part, the enduring effect of de jure segregated housing policies of the 20th century, policies that prevented African Americans from accumulating, and bequeathing, wealth that they might otherwise have gained from appreciating real estate. [Economic Policy Institute, 11/12/14]
Slate: “The Wealth Gap Between Blacks and Whites Is Even More Enormous (and Shameful) Than You Think.” A December 2015 Slate article explored the growing wealth gap, pointing to a Pew Research Center report that found that the “median white household was worth...12.9 times more than the typical black household.” The article explained that “racist policies like redlining” and other housing policies have made it so “blacks weren't able to save and build assets to pass on to the next generation concluding that. The piece concludes that ”when it comes to finances, the U.S. has left the typical black household with just about nothing":
“Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country's shameful history of treating black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap,” the Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in his masterful essay, “The Case for Reparations.” That gap, enormous and awful as it already was, has been growing since the recession. Last week, the Pew Research Center reported that the median white household was worth $141,900, 12.9 times more than the typical black household, which was worth just $11,000. In 2007, the ratio was 10 to one. The divide between white families and Hispanics was similar.
This doesn't fundamentally change the story Pew is telling about the racial wealth divide. It just shows that the median black household lives even closer to the edge than the official numbers might suggest. The reasons why have to do with far more than relative poverty (as Matt Bruenig has written at Demos, white households are worth far more than black households even when they have similar incomes). Because of racist policies like redlining, midcentury black families were regularly cut off from the housing market, forced into predatory lending arrangements when they did buy, and settled in neighborhoods that were eventually decimated by white flight and urban decay. For the American middle class, homeownership is wealth, and without it, blacks weren't able to save and build assets to pass on to the next generation. In more recent years, subprime lenders specifically targeted minority communities with the risky loans that later led to the foreclosure crisis.
The story is complicated. But the upshot is simple: When it comes to finances, the U.S. has left the typical black household with just about nothing. [Slate, 12/10/15]
Business Insider: “This Chart Showing The Gap Between Black And White Life Expectancy Should Be A National Embarrassment.” A 2014 Business Insider article pointed out the “yawning racial gap” in the results of a life expectancy analysis by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The analysis showed that in 2009,“the average life expectancy of black men and women in the United States was just 75,” which was the same as that of “white men and women in 1979 - 30 years earlier”:
The latest analysis by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that for people in the U.S., the average life expectancy in 2009 was 79 years -- that's up from 68 in 1950 and 57 in 1929.
But this generally positive upward trend obscures a yawning racial gap. Take a look at this chart:
In 2009, the average life expectancy of black men and women in the United States was just 75. That's roughly the same as the average life expectancy of white men and women in 1979 -- 30 years earlier. The average life expectancy of black men in 2009 was just 71 (compared to 76 for white men).
While such a significant gap is troubling, the 2009 black/white life expectancy gap was actually at an all-time low of 4 years. In 1950, that gap was almost twice as large.
The researchers found that white men with 16 or more years of schooling can expect to live an average of 14 years longer than black men with fewer than 12 years of education. (For white and black women with the same educational differences, that gap was 10 years.) [Business Insider, 1/9/14]
Fox Has A Long History Of Problematic And Skewed Race Coverage
Fox News Relentlessly Demonized The Black Lives Matter Movement In 2015. In 2015, Fox News' three prime-time hosts -- Megyn Kelly, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity -- engaged in a smear campaign against the Black Lives Matter movement, fearmongering about the alleged threat it poses to law and order whilehyping racial canards aimed at discrediting the movement's calls for justice. The three hosts relentlessly accused Black Lives Matter of extremismwhileinviting extreme guests onto their shows to attack Black Lives Matter, and linking Black Lives Matter to criminality. [Media Matters, 12/29/15]
Fox Has A History Of Race-Baiting And Hyping An Alleged Nationwide Race War. Fox's well-documented history of problematic race coverage and race-baiting includes attacking black victims of police brutality, smearing the Voting Rights Act, associating black people with victimization and criminality, hyping black-on-black crime, and using racist dog-whistles. [Media Matters, 12/16/13, Media Matters, 12/31/13, Media Matters, 2/18/14, Media Matters, 7/4/15]
Fox's Actions Fit Into A Larger Media Pattern Of Failing To Discuss Systemic Racism And Contextualize Racial Disparities
Race Forward Study: Media's Race Coverage Is Largely “Systemically Absent.” In 2014, Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation analyzed over a thousand national and local newspapers articles and cable television news transcripts to determine what percentage of race and racism coverage was “systemically aware” -- meaning it “mentions or highlights policies and/or practices that lead to racial disparities; describes the root causes of disparities including the history and compounding effects of institutions; and/or describes or challenges the aforementioned.” The study concluded that “most of the mainstream media's racism content is not 'systemically aware,'” finding that “about two out of three articles on race and racism failed to include a perspective with any insight on systemic-level racism.” It also concluded that “very rarely” did media “feature prominent, robust coverage of racial justice advocacy or solutions.” [Race Forward, January 2014]
Media Failed To Contextualize Ferguson Unrest With Broader Discussion Of Police Brutality And Historic Racism. Media coverage of the events in Baltimore and Ferguson similarly failed to investigate the role systemic inequality and institutional racism played in creating unrest, denying audiences the ability to understand those news events in context. A second Race Forward analysis examined media's race coverage specific to the Ferguson protests, seeking to answer “how much attention [race is] actually getting in the coverage.” The study found that media overwhelmingly failed to contextualize the Ferguson protests in a broader discussion of racist policing practices. The Race Forward report found that although nearly half of the articles included “terms such as 'race,' 'racial,' 'racism,' 'racist,' and 'diversity,'” “only 34 of 994 articles analyzed led with a minimally systemically aware perspective.” [Race Forward, September 2014]