The Waste Products of the American Dream: framing Black cultural pathology in the dominant news media in times of crisis

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In The Waste Products of the American Dream I argue that the ability to influence the popular narrative that frames the Black communities' public existence is critical if the Black urban poor is going to draw the nation’s attention to the structural and historical forces that create and continue to perpetuate concentrated Black poverty today. More specifically, enticing white “common sense” fears about Black life, culture, and space became a strategic political maneuver that conservative politicians began to use in the late 1960s by suggesting that all “civil rights brought was rioting.” The mainstream media would reproduce these narratives of Black criminality to further demonize low-income inner city communities and its inhabitants as the culprits of urban decay, delivering the state from any blame for the creation of concentrated poverty and the spatial mismatch that went along with social isolation. To illustrate how this discursive politics works to frame North Minneapolis and its residents as always already deviant, I did a comparative reading of the 2011 North Minneapolis tornado media coverage between the historic Black press and local mainstream press. I did this to show how important it is for the creation of Black counterpublic spaces that the historic Black press maintains as a way to take control of the community's narrative while also highlighting how the mainstream press simply relies on readily available stock narratives of Black cultural pathology which blame the victims of disaster for their plight with an uncanny similarity to Hurricane Katrina coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)390-406
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Black counter publics
  • Blackness in the media
  • Hurricane Katrina
  • and North Minneapolis tornado
  • the politics of disposability


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