What needs to change in the media’s portrayal of race
Melissa Harris-Lacewell is Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of the award-winning book, Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, (Princeton 2004). And she is currently at work on a new book: Sister Citizen: A Text For Colored Girls Who've Considered Politics When Being Strong Wasn't Enough. Her academic research is inspired by a desire to investigate the challenges facing contemporary black Americans and to better understand the multiple, creative ways that African Americans respond to these challenges.
Her academic research has been published in scholarly journals and edited volumes and her interests include the study of African American political thought, black religious ideas and practice, and social and clinical psychology. Professor Harris-Lacewell's creative and dynamic teaching is also motivated by the practical political and racial issues of our time. For example, her course entitled Disaster, Race and American Politics explored the multiple political meanings of Hurricane Katrina. Professor Harris-Lacewell has taught students from grade school to graduate school and has been recognized for her commitment to the classroom as a site of democratic deliberation on race.
Question: What needs to change in the media’s portrayal of race
Harris-Lacewell: Yeah. I generally hate everything I read about race . . . (laughter) . . . in mainstream press, and most of what I read about it in the . . . you know in the Black press as well. I mean it’s just . . . It could be that I’m just a snob. Part of what happens in the academy is that you get so engaged in the minutia of how things operate that it can be hard to see the big picture. And journalists are definitely generalists, right? So the thing that I fundamentally respect about journalists is that they know a little tiny bit about a million topics. And meanwhile academics know a great deal about one or two things, right? So we are fundamentally different in our knowledge base in that sense. But I do think that our press for the most part covers race in a very flat and uninteresting way. And often because they don’t do a very good job of reporting either scientific or social scientific results, they often say things which simply are not true. So I’ll give you a contemporary example. So I guess it’s – where are we now – December. So in November of 2007, the Pew Foundation along with National Public Radio did a big survey of African-Americans where they found a few things like . . . that African . . . there’s a plurality of African-Americans who believe that Black people do not constitute one race. In another finding, that African-Americans of the middle class and African-Americans who are poor perceive there as being value differences between the middle class and the Black poor. Every journalistic report has linked these two ideas. Every single thing that I’ve seen about this has said Black people believe that because there are these value differences that we aren’t the same race, and that’s just not true. I mean maybe it’s true. Who knows? But you certainly can’t tell it from the questions that were asked whether that is true. That’s not what the evidence says. It’s not what those data say. It simply is inaccurate. And yet because it sort of looks like that might be what it says, and because journalists are not specialists, they report this over and over again in a way that then has – especially in a presidential election cycle – its own self-perpetuating realities. So now it is true with the __________ . . . In other words it’s true as a perception out there in the world that the Black middle class simply thinks that the Black poor have terrible values and don’t even want to be in the race with them anymore; even though I, in fact, think this probably is not true, the more that you report this; the more that you frame the political and social conversation around this kind of false finding, the more that it becomes true simply as a result of this being the way that we talk about the world. So you know it is . . . It is in those . . . I mean that’s just sort of one example; but those kinds of moments where there’s just such a failure to grasp what might be the alternate story so when I read that data, I see two alternate stories. One, the reason that most Black Americans probably think that African-Americans aren’t all one race has to do with the increasing presence and identification of African immigrants, West Indian immigrants, and interracial people. Over the past decade we have seen more and more discussion about West Indians, Africans, and interracial people who identify themselves as a different kind of Black person. That has nothing to do with values. That has to do with actually ethnic identity, identification with other national origins. That’s a pretty reasonable sort of perspective to say well, we’re not absolutely all the same. Similarly, the values question. The assumption here is that it’s the middle class who has a problem with the poor. Might we imagine for one moment that the poor and working class have a problem with the middle class? The poor and working class African-Americans look at the Black middle class and see enormous consumption; see a desire to integrate and move away from Black communities; see a desire to move their children away from involvement with and relations in Black communities; and that maybe, just possibly it’s the Black poor who have anxieties about the value judgments of the Black middle class. That explanation is equally plausible. And since there’s no evidence to adjudicate it in the data, there’s no reason to think that it’s not equally true. What if we told the story that way? What political implications might emerge from that? So if instead of beating up on the Black poor, we beat up on the Black middle class a little bit, we might end up with a very different set of behaviors, and organizing, and policy ideas around what is needed to “solve” the problem. So how we frame the problem I think is a big problem for journalists. And because journalists often frame the problem incorrectly, it moves our policy agenda toward solving the problem, I believe, incorrectly. And so in that sense, yeah. I think for the most part the American media does a bad job with race.
"I do think that our press for the most part covers race in a very flat and uninteresting way."
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The results of this study showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence, declining in early adulthood and then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- A 2020 Michigan State University study examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life.
- This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- There are several ways you can attempt to stay active and socially connected while battling depression, according to experts.
The study suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rated of depression later on in life.
Credit: asiandelight/Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/msu-tsn093020.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2020 Michigan State University study</a> examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life. The results of this study suggested teens who have a larger number of friends in adolescent years may be less likely to suffer from depression later in life. These findings were especially prominent in women.</p><p>This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. This data asks students to select up to 5 male and 5 female friends and indicate how often they felt depressive symptoms. </p><p>MSU Sociology Assistant Professor Molly Copeland and lead author Christina Kamis (Sociology doctoral candidate at Duke University) published the study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in September. </p><p><strong>Female teenagers may struggle more with depression during their teen years but show fewer depressive symptoms later in life.</strong> </p><p>For female adolescents, popularity can lead to increased depression during their teen years. However, this ultimately may lead to lasting benefits of fewer depressive symptoms later in life. "Adolescence (is) a sensitive period of early life when structural facets of social relationships can have lasting mental health consequences," Copeland wrote, adding that "compared to boys, girls face additional risks from how others view their social position in adolescence."</p><p>Throughout this study, men showed no association between popularity and depressive symptoms, however, they did show benefits from naming more friends. As for why this is, Copeland has a theory: perhaps the expectations on young girls (compared to young boys) as well as the roles that lead to popularity can create a kind of stress and strain felt more prominently by girls than boys. </p><p>While this does create more difficult teen years for young girls, the stress and strain may lead to giving these girls a psychological skillset that benefits them later in life, allowing them to deal with stressful situations more easily.</p><p>The study also suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rates of depression later on in life. </p><p><strong>Results from both men and women followed a U-shaped trajectory of depressive symptoms.</strong></p><p>The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s. This was particularly more noticeable in women, who showed a steeper decline in symptoms between the ages of 18-26, followed by a more rapid increase in symptoms in their early 30s. </p>
How to stay social while battling depression<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MjA3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDMyNDY1N30.e1ULIJ5QYXh4H1SGUPUTJqYBCnX2XWp6InjPRr-2Bdw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C22%2C0%2C22&height=700" id="832fd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b360bb24fb8d6025680bfffb52fd5982" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="depression support group illustration" />
Attending support groups, planning activities with family or even just a weekly phone call to a friend can help alleviate depression.
Credit: Mascha Tace/Shutterstock<p>Although maintaining relationships can help you cope, it can also be one of the most difficult things to do when you're experiencing depression.</p><p>As Dr. Jennifer L. Payne (an assistant professor/co-director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore) <a href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression/staying-socially-active-with-depression/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tells Everyday Health</a>: "One of the common symptoms of depression is social isolation." </p><p>Payne goes on to explain that you can "soak up some energy" by simply being around other people, moving around, and staying active.</p><p><strong>Creating a daily schedule and planning activities ensures action. </strong></p><p>While it may be easy to turn down last-minute plans, it's more difficult to cancel plans you've already committed to with friends and family. While it's important not to overwhelm yourself with a packed schedule, creating a minimal daily schedule that involves seeing friends and family or doing activities that you've previously enjoyed can ensure you stay active and often makes you feel more accomplished at the end of each day. </p><p><strong>Support groups and social networking with people who understand. </strong></p><p>While depression can very easily make you feel isolated and alone, surrounding yourself with others who may be struggling with depression as well can help in multiple ways. You will have peer support from people who relate to how you're feeling plus the added benefit of being around people, which can raise your spirits. </p><p><strong>Keeping a journal (and setting goals) can help you feel accomplished. </strong></p><p>Keep a thought journal and detail certain daily or weekly goals (such as a plan to call a friend on Monday or to visit your local coffee shop for a change of scenery on Thursday). These small, achievable goals not only get you out of the house and/or interacting with others, but they also provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction once they are complete. </p><p><strong>Random acts of kindness, such as volunteering, will make you feel good. </strong></p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/kindness-benefits-james-doty?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1596517476" target="_self">Being kind is good for your health</a> in many different ways. Doing something nice for others can boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Similar to exercise, kindness, and altruism can also release endorphins, creating a <a href="https://www.quietrev.com/6-science-backed-ways-being-kind-is-good-for-your-health/#:~:text=Kindness%20releases%20feel%2Dgood%20hormones&text=Doing%20nice%20things%20for%20others,as%20a%20%E2%80%9Chelper's%20high.%E2%80%9D" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">temporary sense of euphoria</a> that can help combat depressive symptoms. </p>
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