Tuesday, October 13, 2015

To Give A Voice To Those Who Aren't Heard

Trianna Connolly

Picture this: You are a member of a minority group. It could be a certain race, culture, religion, sexuality, or a combination of these. Imagine you have a story to tell about how you have been oppressed or how you want to send a message to the world that stereotypes aren't real. Say your way of life conflicted with outside beliefs from outside people in the outside world.

How would you deal through the isolation and persecution you would face? How would you feel if you weren't being represented or were ignored by the media because of your minority status? What if you had a voice but couldn't be heard? How would you react knowing that you will forever be seen in the negative light?

Now, imagine yourself as a journalist, one who wants to be known for investigative reporting and hard hitting news. One who tells the truth of every situation. One who doesn't leave out the minority. Would you give up everything you had, risk your own life to report on an issue you felt needed to be addressed? Would you give a voice to those who want to speak?

The unrepresented must be heard
One of the major dilemmas minorities face is underrepresentation by the media, or the stereotyping that has formed due to media's portrayal of certain classifications of people.

Image courtesy of metrokids.com
Minority groups of sexuality, race, and culture have branched out on there own to report on issues that appear in their lives. The LGBT community creates television shows that illustrate the day and the life of someone who identifies as transgender. People from Africa and the Middle East produce documentaries detailing the struggles they face in their attempt to live another day. All of this hard work is done, but many people refuse to watch it because of stereotypes. Society is afraid to accept differences.

I am not just referring to society as in the United States. No, I mean the whole world. There are biases and opinions everywhere about how people act. There are judgments and punishments for those who don't follow the rules. There is oppression and darkness for the ones who just wish to express who they truly are. Muslims who are gay are a disgrace to the religion; black people are seen as threats in communities; people who associate with a different sexuality are labeled freaks.

North American entertainment and news media does not balance in the betrayal of visible minorities.

The world does not support those who exhibit traits that are not of the social norm. They do not accept diversity well, especially areas in the east.

So what will be done?
Media tends to lean on reporting stories or producing content that focuses on the privileged. We are a society that whitewashes; we try to make a story that focuses on a minority into a story that mentions the minority problem but uses the majority to express the problem.
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The way to solve the problem is to either 1.) have the minority group report their own stories and then publish them or 2.) send journalists and media enthusiasts into the brute of the action, the eye of the hurricane, the center of the problem.

While choice number one is becoming more popular and is certainly gaining a bigger following, what should be focused on is sending the majority to experience the lifestyle of the minority. These reporters and producers will see first hand what the minority goes through and have a better understanding. This could lighten stereotypes and help those in society who are lost in the social status quo to look outside of their own personal realities and see the bigger picture.

The world is a dangerous place
With all the news lately of journalists being captured and imprisoned, some even killed for reporting the truth of a situation, the idea of diving into a story outside the comfort zone can be terrifying. It is even difficult for the minority to get away with releasing certain footage.
Image courtesy of buisnessinsider.com
 For example, award winning documentary producer Parvez Sharma, who made a hajj to Mecca, openly gay and knowing that he would be criticized, still made the journey and recorded his experience. It may have put his life in danger and great risks were taken being a gay man in a Islamic world, but he completed his mission. He may have been abused along the way but in the end, he told his story. He broke stereotypes. He put a new twist to diversity, combining religion and sexuality. He is part of this religion that condemns him, yet he still presses on.

If he was willing to risk his life to report his own story, wouldn't you want to be the one who is willing to say "I helped this person share their tale. I put my life on the line so they could live theirs?"

The minority speak for themselves and are successful. Can we not speak for them too, extinguishing stereotypes altogether, creating diversity, and giving a voice to those who are ignored?

As a member of the majority (this meaning white) I think that I would be willing to report someone's tale, someone's life. I would want to show the world, not just America, that their needs and wants and beliefs matter too. I want to make them known. I want society to accept differences and see them as beautiful features of a human, not a hamartia.

All that really matters in the end is that the message is received, understood, and respected.

Image courtesy of scmp.com

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