This is Your TV on Drugs

Whenever we watch TV or go to the movies, we repeatedly find references of characters using drugs. However, the portrayal of this drug consumption is depicted in a different way depending on who is the person doing them.

Stereotypically, drug consumption among whites usually shows them as a rich and powerful group, a group you would want to emulate. Their consumption seems to be mostly linked to fun and partying, as can be seen in popular shows such as Gossip Girl and The OC.

With Latinos and blacks however, drug consumption is related to gangs and poverty. They're a group of people you'd avoid and who seem to have started using because of their dreary surroundings. Examples of this are the long-running show, Cops and, more recently, The Wire, where blacks and Latinos are portrayed as a self-destructive group.

So why should we care if white kids do drugs for fun and black and Latin kids do it to avoid their harsh reality -- at least on TV? It's important because what we see on TV does affect our ideas of how things work, as a society. And these stereotypes don't contribute to a real understanding of why drugs are used in our community -- nor by whom.

If we were to claim an unrealistic portrayal of a certain ethnic group in the media, people might seem more interested in correcting it. But since the issue is drug consumption, it is not perceived as such an important issue because, after all, drugs are illegal.

Case in point: in its website, GLAAD states that "The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation." They claim that "what people watch on TV or read in their newspaper shapes how they view and treat the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around them." GLAAD also states that "Fair, accurate and inclusive media images shatter stereotypes. They prove that we are connected through common, human experiences. These are stories that we -- and the media -- have a responsibility to share." Well, this is something we should all consider if we want to eliminate racial discrimination from our society.

Since they're talking about human rights and the gay community, people pay more attention to this issue. But is there anyone who will stand up for a non-discriminatory portrayal of drug usage in the media? We should, since this only generates a distorted view of the diverse communities in our society.

Another clear example of this misrepresentation is something you can see in most news story about drugs -- the accompanying images are usually of a poor, black man doing crack. In reality, more white people use crack cocaine than do blacks. However the media chooses to depict mostly black people as crack users, perpetrating a false stereotype.

Not that we want to promote the use of drugs, but we definitely have to consider that the way the media stereotypes ethnic groups that use drugs is an outdated and racist perspective of our increasingly diverse and evolving society. Allowing these stereotypes to continue in the media will only support the racial disparity that we can find in jails were 90 percent of the prisoners are blacks and Latinos, even though the difference in drug consumption between these two groups and whites is nonexistent.