"I Never Thought It Would Happen Here": White Privilege and Assumptions of Safety
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Criminology and media scholars over the last two decades convincingly argue that crime is one of the major social problems of this era. Racialized constructions of safety and space, however, continue to be the dominant paradigm through which crime is viewed and the hypervigilance of people of color legitimized. I argue that depictions of white communities as pure, homogenous, and calm spaces permit and facilitate whites’ tendency to link danger and violence to people of color, which not only reinforces existing stereotypes that associate people of color with the dangerous side of the safety continuum, but also harks back to a history when white space was violently protected and its isolation legally sanctioned. Using 155 newspaper articles taken from four Chicago area newspapers from January 2008 to January 2013 (The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Defender, La Raza Chicago, and The Daily Herald), I conduct a structurally contextualized critical discourse analysis and engage several different categories of frames, particularly in three areas: 1) neighborhood contextualization; 2) safety concern of the article; and 3) how the incident being reported on is described and understood in terms of locality. My analysis highlights the white supremacist logic found and upheld in newspaper discourse; a discourse that focuses on white normative standards of safety while also structuring the way in which people and communities of color experience safety. As such, my analysis indicates demonstrates discourse surrounding safety and crime indicate an often unnoticed privilege—the privilege of being able to presume safety—that is denied to people and communities of color and almost guaranteed to whites and white communities.
Varela, Kay S (2014). "I Never Thought It Would Happen Here": White Privilege and Assumptions of Safety. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from