Racial Utopia and The March on Washington

The television network’s hopes for The March on Washington were that it would bring attention to and encourage the passing of the Civil Rights Bill.  Therefore, the television networks chose very particular images to film at the event in an effort to portray certain “characters.”  For example, the networks wanted to construct the idea of AP63082811298“civil rights subjects” who appeared “worthy” for equal rights.  To do so, they chose to show well dressed, smiling, or emotionally moved  individuals.  They also used the camera to exaggerate the number of white people in attendance and always showed whites and black  mingling happily to express the idea that peaceful integration was taking place.  This was done for the comfort of the audiences watching  the coverage from their living rooms who were used to seeing only whites on their televisions, and to convince people that the Civil  Rights Bill was clearly reasonable because the white community supported it.

These forced images of integration had a lasting effect on society.  The images encouraged a “racial utopia,” a “sameness” amongst  society at large.  However, thisgty_mlk_march_on_washington_1963_lpl_130801_16x9_608 “utopia” morphed into the problematic concept that  today we refer to as colorblindness.

The networks also constructed their desired story by overlaying the images with a passive voice that didn’t take a side but simply reported what was happening.  Finally, they omitted from the coverage an entire speech made by John Lewis and a portion of Martin Luther King Junior’s speech because the speeches did more than support the Civil Rights Bill, and therefore didn’t fit into the network’s goals for the march.  The speeches were thought to call too much for action and revolution and, in short, were too close to “Black Power.”

All of these tactics were part of representing the March on Washington as taking place within the “sphere of consensus” (rather than in the “sphere of deviance” or “sphere of legitimate controversy”) which is described by Bodroghkozy as “a break from regular viewing patterns wherein viewers are encouraged to watch reverently and in unison with the entire nation.”  Revealing that the March on Washington was depicted as a consensus media event is the most concise way to describe the network’s plans for the march, because the use of the “sphere of consensus” is said to be how objectivity is manifest.



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