Crowdsourcing Lebduska’s article on Racist Visual Rhetoric

Here, we’ll start the discussion we’ll continue in class next week about Lebduska article, “Rasist Visual Rhetoric and Images of Trayvon Martin.”

This is an opportunity to make sense of the article together (similar to how we each write our excerpts/questions on the whiteboard in class), so let’s first tackle what the article is actually saying by crowdsourcing her main claims (thesis, points, evidence in support of those points) here. Then we can also unpack them, asking clarifying questions, complicating them, challenging then with provocations and counter-arguments, etc.

Don’t forget to include citations in MLA format when you refer to the text.

9 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing Lebduska’s article on Racist Visual Rhetoric

  1. Several reasons explain the selectivity of this representation. One is commercial: pathos attached to an innocent, middle-class ethos sells. Pathos, as invoked by the photos, unsettles the whiteness gaze and its assumptions about the Black body: “how dangerous and unruly it is, how unlawful, criminal, and hypersexual it is” (Yancy 3). The “racially saturated field” that Butler identified is confronted with its apparent opposite—the cherubic black child, de-sexualized and neutralized. A martyred child provides a more marketable story is easier to convey than the nuanced complexity of a human teen, who smoked marijuana, chased girls, blustered for the camera and was robbed of his life (5)

    In circulation of any media whether political, religious, sexual, criminal, or scientific there is an appeal to a persons emotional self; a play on morals that allow us to either want, need, sympathize, or empathize.

  2. “People want to make this a black and white issue, but I believe this is about right and wrong….” (page 3)
    This quote is powerful to the article because it relates to Lebduska’s point about how the media and the imagery it provided worked so hard to highlight the races of both Martin and Zimmerman. Several times in the article Lebduska references juxtaposed images that tried to solidify the roles of the individuals. However Martins family did not respond to the issue of race only to the tragedy of loosing their son unjustly.

    “… images are not things. They are relationships we create” (page 6)
    This powerful reminder that not everything we see is valid ties into the unjust wait Martin lost his life, he lost his life at the hands of someone who viewed him a certain way with no cause to do so. Throughout this article we’re met with examples of how imagery and the way people view things set the stage for the context of the images circulated. How images of a typical teenager were blown out of proportion to portray Martin as a threat meanwhile the image held little relevance to Martin as a whole. Taking bits and pieces of a persons life and pasting them together to fabricate a story is why Lubduska says “relationships we create”

  3. “Power and inequality themselves have long been mediated by visual practices across an array of media (Berger; Butler; Yancy). In racist cultures, a “racially saturated field” (Butler) creates the backdrop for a scopic regime, perpetuating inequities by visually presenting people of color as Other. Zimmerman followed and shot Martin because of the way Martin looked to him, as Other. Mainstream media reinforced that vision both by depicting Martin as an angel in some cases and by depicting him as a threatening thug in others (1).”

    “The Million Hoodie March inspired protests around the U.S. and in other countries, as an image event that combined visual, spoken and written discourses calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. Million Hoodie March alluded to Zimmerman’s 911 call observing that Martin was wearing a hoodie and looked suspicious, while also invoking one of the most significant recent civil rights actions, the 1995 Million Man March on Washington, aimed at persuading lawmakers and the general public to recognize and re-see African American men and social issues impacting them (5).”

    Lebduska presents a strong on the impact cultural environments have on both society and the justice system. Throughout the argument there is evidence of a constant battle of how being seen determines the victim and aggressor in many racial situations.

  4. ” ….the debate surrounding the decision to arrest George Zimmerman was waged through racialized visual discourse focused on depicting Trayvon Martin as one of three tropes: at cherubic black child, a menacing that criminal, or an average teenager” (Lebduska 1).

    Images circulating the web, portrayed these three characteristics of Trayvon Mason which played a major role in the ruling of Zimmerman’s trial.

    • In the same context, the notion can be reiterated when Lisa Lebduska uses Butler to explain that, “‘seeing’ and attributing” in cases involving black men can be indissoluble (2).

  5. I don’t think the death of Trayvon Martin would have been gained so much attention and controversy had it not dominated headlines, air waves, and Twitter for months.
    Lebduska identifies how collected media sources influential the news and the framing of major controversies (Lebduska 3).

    Not only has social media changed the way we remember a person who has died changed, but how we die and mourn. From the funeral, grief, and memorialization, new online practices has brought the private and public realms into our everyday lives. Trayvon was portrayed as a martyred child and his death became a national tragedy. Yet there are also negative images of Trayvon that are equally effective in portraying him as a rebellious thug.

    The competition to reshape how Trayvon is both viewed and remembered may be ongoing but one thing is sure; a precious life is lost and an injustice has been incurred.

  6. “. . . gives a racist scopic regime additional force because once a particular image is released it remains in circulation forever” (4)

    How can we rewrite visual rhetoric?

    “Visual performances combined text and image to shatter a single, myopic lens” (5)

    Can we untrain our eyes to see individuals for the first time without any predisposed biases?

    • That is such a hard thing to accomplish because what we see shapes our perception and our perception shapes our reality. After all, we all have internal preconceived ideas that direct out external perceptions to the point that they become self-fulfilling. Yes, we should always assess every person and situation individually and objectively before we make up our minds.

  7. “A racist scopic regime contributes to the white conflict reduction and displacement by teaching viewers to associate images of blacks with violence and those of whites with peace. Zimmerman confounded the dichotomy, but as either a Latino or “white Latino” he was joined to white racism by being positioned as someone threatened by black violence: someone trying to protect his neighborhood from an encroaching hooded black threat. A legal system that assumes black violence would view any defense against any black male as justifiable” (4).

    The Martin and Zimmerman case was reinforced by images and stories on social media. However, when the media publishes stories that are inaccurate, it is doing a disservice to its audience who rely on the convenience of the internet to gain knowledge and information, so much to an extent that it shapes their mentalities and perceptions.

    As humans, we are advancing with each day and if we are to embrace our modern world, we need to understand how technology changes the way we communicate and share our ideas. Although social media has made sharing much more possible, a shared network does not mean shared principles and values. Therefore, the challenge is finding the best way to regulate how we share those ideas using a tool that has so many capabilities? As more and more technology is being created, there need to be some very clear policies on what is ethically acceptable. But as technology rapidly changes, so must our policies.

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