In the Introduction to his book Seeing through Race, Martin A. Berger (not related to John Berger) lays out the thesis of his book’s interpretation of the photography associated with the U.S. Civil Rights era (1950s &1960s). According to Berger, newspaper and magazine editors selected photographs based on their perceived power to draw out the of their white readers. The result, Berger continues, was that “the media could not assuage the racial anxieties of whites without affecting the depiction of blacks.” This meant that photographs that featured the black protestors succumbing to white violence was more common than depictions of black-led political action. In other words, editors, especially white ones, were more likely to use photographs featuring black people as victims as opposed to black people standing up for their rights.
Recently, we have seen a similar dynamic at play as media depictions of the killing of George Floyd caused many white allies to take to the streets in solidarity with black Americans. We have also seen media depictions of African-American protests incite white racial anxieties about black violence.
What do you make of Berger’s argument? Do you agree, disagree, or something in between? Use the information from Chapter 4 of They Say/I Say and the “Sheridan Baker Thesis Machine” and write a thesis statement in which you take a position on Berger’s argument.