Frances Henry

Frances Henry:


University Of Toronto Press, 2002


"Though racism in Canada's social systems and public institutions takes many forms, racism in the media is one of the most important areas of inquiry, if we hope to develop effective strategies and mechanisms for dismantling racism in Canadian society. The media are one of the most powerful institutions in a democratic society, because they help transmit its central cultural images, ideas, and symbols, as well as a nation's narratives and myths. Media discourse plays a large part in reproducing the collective belief system of the dominant society and the core values of society (Hall, 1975; van Dijk, 1988).

The media holds up a mirror in which society can see itself reflected, but as we demonstrate in this book, the mirror's reflections are sometimes seriously distorted. The media do not objectively record and describe reality, nor do they neutrally report their facts and stories. Rather, some media practitioners socially reconstruct reality based on professional and personal ideologies, corporate interests, cultural and organizational norms and values (van Dijk, 1988, 91; Fiske, 1994; Hackett and Zhao, 1998).

We hope that this book offers a constructive critique of the media and their systems of representation. It is not our intention to label as racist any particular newspaper, journalist or editor, nor do we see our role as that of agents of 'cultural thought police.' We believe that journalists often operate within discursive spaces that transcend them, and we agree with Hall (1981) and Riggins (1997) who contend that the media's offerings flow out of a set of complex and contradictory system of structures, practices and discourses, and not the personal inclinations of any of its practitioners. As we demonstrate throughout this book, journalists and editors contribute whether consciously or not to the marginalization and denigration of people of colour and other minorities; however our concern is not with individual and prejudicial attitudes. By focusing on this narrow aspect of racism we would be deflecting the problem of media representation away from the ideological centres and the historical, political, cultural, and institutional contexts within which racism in some of the media has functioned.

Our approach, then, involves examining 'codes of meaning,' (Hebdige, 1993) -- that is the unquestioned assumptions, values, norms and practices that are rooted in the dominant culture's ideology and in the culture of the media organizations. We wish to help uncover and critically examine what passes as 'everyday commonsense' (Essed, 1990), what mainstream culture defines as 'truth' and accepts as 'fact,' and, views as 'reality' (Foucault, 1980)."

© Dr. Frances Henry & Carol Tator

Extracts From Writings
The Equity Myth: Racialization
and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities
The Colour Of Democracy:
Racism In Canadian Society

© Dr. Frances Henry