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06 June 2016

Media Framing, Race, and Individualism

Last fall, the Benton Harbor (Michigan) High School football team garnered a lot of national attention after they won their first game in three years, had their first winning season in 26 years, and made it to the playoffs for the first time since most can remember. Here is a selection of the media attention:

One thing you might notice in that coverage is that the narrative adopted almost universally by the media is that their new coach, Elliot Uzelac, was the reason for the team's success. Not the community. Not the boys on the field. Uzelac. This is not a post to attack Uzelac. I know little of the man, and I'm fully willing to accept that he is upstanding and well-intentioned. This post is not about a man--and that's the point. This post is about how the success of a community, a school, and a team are distilled down to a story about an individual. And at that, the media have transformed what could have been a story of triumph for a city that is 90% black and 90% impoverished into a myth about an affluent white man. For example, in the ABC piece, reporter T. J. Holmes tells Coach Uzelac in the midst of celebrating with his players, "Yes, you turned around a football team but a community as well" (6:35). This is the White Savior Industrial Complex in action.

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