Presentation

Adrienne Avery
Western Carolina University

Subject Listing - Communications
Advisor: Prof. William Dulaney

Thursday, Oral Session 3, Presentation 1, Karpen Hall 011

RACE, LAW, AND ORDER IN SMALL TOWN APPALACHIA

In the fall of 2005, a young black man, Dewann McCollum, was shot four times when a team of white Jackson County Deputy Sheriffs attempted to question him about the recent robbery and shooting at a local Chinese restaurant, adjacent to Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee, North Carolina. A potential suspect and convicted drug felon, McCollum had moved to this largely white community early this year to be close to a family support system and to distance himself from previous legal problems in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It can be seen that in the aftermath of this robbery and murder, regional news media reported contradictory reports and stories that reflected biased perspectives. Some local and state papers presented the police shooting as a simple matter of law and order. Numerous articles in the Asheville Citizen Times raised questions about police procedure, evidence, and interviewed family members of McCollum. Across the nearby campus, white and black faculty, staff, and students responded to the event with different fears and apprehensions that provided a window into the persistent divide between the perceptions of the white majority and the black minority This paper combines George Gerbner's Cultivation Theory and Cheris Kramarae's Muted Group Theory in order to analyze university, local, and regional reactions and media coverage of the Cullowhee, North Carolina incident. Visual images, textual analyses, and oral interview expose how the following variables:1) racial bias, 2) stereotyping, and 3) majority-minority reactions, interpretations, and responses, affected the local community. With a keen awareness of historical forces and the relationship between race, poverty, environment, and the justice system, this paper argues that incidents like the one in Cullowhee reveal that even in the post-civil rights era, communication still falls short in arresting the legacies of racial discrimination.

Advisor: Prof. William Dulaney, Assistant Professor of Communication, Communication, Theater, and Dance, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC