Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Race, Agency, Blame and Gender: Narratives on Police use of Force in a South Carolina High School

Race, Agency, Blame and Gender: Narratives on Police use of Force in a South Carolina High School

Kyle Dunn

How do the police, media and other parties use language to frame blame agency and race? This paper explores this question in the incident that happened at Spring Valley High South Carolina. This exploration is done to better understand how parties frame these complex issues of race, blame and agency on the level of language. In this incident the schools resource officer removed a student from her desk through a questionable amount of force. This was all captured on video and was covered by major news organizations and social media. More specifically this paper, looks at how people defending the student and officer frame race, agency, blame, and gender. This is accomplished through analyzing 6 online news articles of the incident. Who mentions Race, blame, agency, and gender was collected and analyzed. Furthermore, a literature review of cultural, and linguistic anthropological sources was conducted to provide theoretical context and to help better understand the data. In doing so this paper illustrates the linkage between ideology and narrative in police officers explanation for their use of force. It also illustrates how news organizations when trying to be unbiased, reinforce systematic racism through un-even representation.

April 11, 2016 - Posted by | abstract


  1. I like this topic but it sure is a sensitive. I think this topic can be discussed on a national level where there is such disparity in how police forces treat various ethic groups. Much has been done on this subject and it would be interesting to understand the numbers in the light of discourse analysis.

    Comment by D Castagna | April 19, 2016 | Reply

  2. Kyle, this is a great topic in that this is something we see greatly reflected today within American society. As this paper reflects on the southern part of the United States, this sparks more questions. I would be very interested, looking into a similar situation in the more northern half of the US, to see how findings vary from the north to the south and see whether or not that also plays a role in how media on the topic is covered.

    Comment by Crystal Mitchell | April 25, 2016 | Reply

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