In my previous post I touched on a couple of my frustrations regarding how the 47 million Latinos living in the United States legally lack representation in both the English and Spanish media. This lack of representation leads to being lumped into the illegal immigrant category and ultimately forgotten for the most part. I made it a point to talk about how Latinos should be viewed on a multidimensional spectrum encompassing different values, beliefs, and colors instead of a monolithic people who look and think the same. I thought about why Latinos are viewed in such a one-dimensional, negative way. The explanation I found included the media and consumers of said media as culprits. I have read reports and opinions that provide an explanation behind how Latino stereotypes are created and persist. But it wasn’t until I saw Humans of New York Brandon Stanton’s TEDx talk titled “The Good Story” that I understood the psychology and art of crafting an attention grabbing story that directly or indirectly leads to stereotypes as well as shapes people’s perceptions on a given topic. Stories, I learned, coupled with imagery are two immensely powerful mediums that profoundly influence people for better or for worse.
The main point of “The Good Story” is that the media’s job isn’t to provide an accurate representation of the world around you but rather tell a good story that sells. Stanton explains how consumers of media don’t want to hear the normal, mundane things happening around them because for most people normal is boring and entertainment is a reprieve from the mundane. So at times, the media searches for bad things and amplifies them for entertainment purposes and to draw in consumer attention because ratings equates to money. In this way, the news comes to be a reflection of what we find interesting, entertaining, and our interests. However, “good” stories come at the expense of telling the complete truth and providing context. Embellishments and sensationalism usurp the truth for the sake of selling a story and we, consumers, eat it all up for the most part never stopping to think if what we are consuming is factually true and accurate. Since we are bombarded day after day with so much information, we don’t have the time to fact check and stereotypes are our way of organizing things in our minds. But in not fact checking if the media we consume is accurate and simply accepting what we hear and see as true we begin seeing why stereotypes are created. You are probably thinking that Stanton’s point is banal. But if this is common knowledge why do people allow themselves to be seduced by the media into thinking that all Latinos are illegal immigrants, criminals, maids, gang members, and an over all threat? Why have we allowed ourselves to think that illegal immigrant is synonymous with violence when a massive majority are people doing back-breaking work in terrible conditions and just want a better life for their families? Because we allow stories to play on our emotions and fears instead of seeking the truth. Stanton goes on to describe how when he covered events he noticed how photojournalists cover one individual or a small group of individuals and make it a point to cover extremes such as anger, violence instead of actually portraying the event as it was. Since media consumers consume the same imagery and story over and over again, it becomes engrained in our minds and we accept it as a widely held truth. By journalists focusing on a select number of people or person this leads to facts being omitted or twisted resulting in how stereotypes are created. Stanton concludes that it’s important to be a person with a discerning mind that doesn’t allow the media to heavily influence you, challenge what we see, and decide if it’s true for yourself.
I LOVE Humans of New York and admire Brandon Stanton for this work in reminding us that the world, though dangerous, is still a place filled with kindness, beauty, and wonder. Stanton has the ability to humanize the people who live in the most dangerous or misunderstood corners of the earth. He is one of the few people who uses his platform positively to honestly portrays all walks of life in their raw, vulnerable state making it relatable and poignant. I really think that Humans of New York is wildly successful because it is a medium of discovery and rediscovery. On one hand it shatters stereotypes and allows people to rediscover people or places they initially misunderstood through a different lens and on the other it opens people’s eyes to discover parts of the world the media never represents in a positive light in their true state. In 2014, Stanton made a trip across the world to photograph different walks of live and he went to Mexico. Below are a few of my favorite photos he took that I think best capture what is truly means to be Mexican and Latino culture. The people you see below are an accurate representation of nuestra cultura and Latinos (yup, even those illegal immigrants the media has wrongfully depicted as a threat and overall stain to the American fabric ) living in the United States but the media doesn’t portray. Is there any sensational story to be told about the people below? No. Are the photos below normal? Yes, but that’s what makes them so beautiful and moving.