TV News & the Chicano Civil Rights “Brownout”

[Note: I’m reposting this, as Alissa posted it as a reply, where it won’t be as visible.]


Ontiveros, Randy. “No Golden Age: Television News and the Chicano Civil Rights Movement,” American Quarterly 62.4 (2010): 897-923.

Abstracted by Alissa Gabis

Randy Ontiveros argues the “Golden Age” of television during the mid 1900s was hardly anything close to golden. He claims Chicano people in America strongly fought for television and media coverage, during a time when discrimination toward Mexican Americans was prevalent in society. Ontiveros identifies the Mexican and Chicano as citizens in America that were not taken seriously, resulting in television broadcasts refusing to hear their story. Instead of broadcasting riots and key events of the movement, television stations ignored them. In addition, the African-American civil rights movement paved the way for the Mexican-American civil rights movement and allowed for political activists to make a name for themselves. However, the television station was not representative of the Mexican civil rights, creating the “brownout” (900). Ontiveros uses the brownout to exemplify how television did not have their “Golden Age” because they let their discrimination get in the way of an important and prominent issue in America. César Chávez, a prominent civil rights activist, started to turn this all around. Chávez led the California grape strike, which led to television coverage all over the country. However, this was not the coverage the Mexican American citizens were hoping for. The movement started to hurt their case because television viewed them as being “martyrs” or “traitors” (904). Television started to portray the Chicano people as an ethnic group that was struggling to receive the rights they deserved. However, as Chávez and his followers were continually depicted on television, they started to appear as traitors to America as the strike started to impact American lives. In addition, Figure 3 is a picture of the view from the police side of what the Chicano Moratorium looked like (913). This shows the fear that police would have seen and the danger from the police eyes, which also convinced people that the movement was against America. Chávez’s attempt to exploit the media and help the strike, ending up hurting he overall cause. Ontiveros demonstrates how the news starting to become even more unsympathetic towards the Chicano people and how television was far from a “Golden Age”. [348 words]


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