Race Inequality & the 99%: Representing Race in Caucasian and Asian Seattle Newspapers

Race Inequality & the 99%: Representing Race in Caucasian and Asian Seattle Newspapers

Group 15: Amanda Kirk, Hyun Jin (Chloe) Kim, Stephanie Dusin, Wei Jiang, & Jenny Nguyen

Our group focused on race in the 99% movement for our project. When dealing with the Occupy movement, there are many different issues that we could have focused on but we wanted to zone in on something that affects our immediate setting. Seattle has a very large mix of ethnicities and is known for its cultural diversity. We thought that it would be interesting to look at how different races were represented in the Occupy movement in Seattle because of this reason. The importance of analyzing the multi-racial factor of the Seattle Occupy Movement lies within the racial categories so ever present in American society today. There is a very large Asian population in Seattle so we thought it would be important to narrow in on this dynamic between how Asians and Caucasians represent the Occupy movement in newspapers. Looking at how different races cover local news is important to understanding not only a city’s dynamic but how different cultures deal with current events. Asians are a minority in Seattle and many come to the city internationally. It is interesting to see how up to date Asian cultures are with more American politics and how involved they might be in these issues. Through newspapers we saw which publications decided to include or exclude the certain races while also observing other aspects of the discourse genre such as the language used. While gathering articles, creating our corpus, and coding the terms we decided on, we discovered that there are some patterns in the way the two races deal with the Seattle events. From this we were able to draw some conclusions about the discourse in our topical focus. We used different discourse analysis methods within our discourse genre to come to these conclusions in our corpus. American newspapers and Asian newspapers focus on different topics and use different terms to describe the incidents that deal with the 99% movement in Seattle. Through our analysis, we found patterns that proved Asians and race were not represented in Caucasian based newspapers. It is necessary to claim that racial inequality still exists not only in the Occupy Seattle Movement, but in Seattle newspapers through the minimal coverage of racial ideologies throughout Caucasian newspapers. We found that American based newspapers focused on the economy much more than the racial implications of the movement. Another trend we found was that Americans were not defined by the term protestors. There was also in and out grouping done by both the Caucasian and Asian newspapers. We also found that in Asian based newspapers, articles are targeted exclusively at Asian populations and excludes themselves from the “American” Occupy movement by out grouping Caucasians. Some Asian newspapers did try to stay in the in group by promoting democracy in reference to the Occupy movement. These findings are all supported by discourse analysis methods.

Our group was able to come to some of these conclusions through discourse analysis.  These methods are content analysis, concordance, collocation, word frequency cohesion and coherence. We use them in discourse analysis and text linguistics to describe the properties of written texts. (Connor, 1996). Discourse analysis was a way to understand that “knowledge is socially constructed- that is, that our current ways of understanding the world are determined not by the nature of the world itself, but by social processes” (Gill, 2000). Discourse analysis helps us examine our materials in a more rigorous and effective way so that we can reveal the answers that we are looking for. “Discourse Analysis is more than a simple method of discovery. It rests on a powerful theory detailing and explaining how the social world is understood” (Phillips, 1).  The main topic of interest is the underlying social structures, which may be assumed or played out within the conversation or text (Taylor, 2001). A Critical Discourse Analysis or ‘Semiosis’ method of analysis allows meaning to be made out of the pattern of excerpts found in the corpus. “An important part of a CDA is to demonstrate the existence of consistent patterns in a text or set of related texts. Analysis, in other words, has to be systematic and not just a matter of picking out isolated examples for comment” (Cameron, 129). In this project we used a variety of different techniques that helped our research. We first looked at “the study of the functions of social, cultural, situative and cognitive contexts of language use” (Wodak, 2001). We used a lot of inductive theory to guide our research. The inductive theory is described as “the process of testing hypotheses [which] can only occur after one has gathered evidence from which the predictions are deduced… the subconscious must contain material based on reality for it to be potentially useful” (Locke, 2007). So by using the inductive theory, we tried to notice if there were any patterns in the corpus so that we could build typologies to make sense of the patterns. Another method we used was corpus linguistics. “Corpus linguistics will systematically analyze a large body of naturalistic texts or spoken discourse (called a corpus) along various dimensions of language and discourse” (Van Dijk, 131). Corpus Linguistics allows a quantitative exploration of texts and text collection in relation to the Seattle Occupy Movement through a grammatical analysis. “Corpus-based analyses of individual lexical items and phrases that have been identified as relevant references in the study of particular aspects of ideology can be used in providing evidence from different domains of discourse and from different discourse communities” (Adolphs, 93). The KWIC Concordance is a corpus analytical tool for making word frequency lists, concordances and collocation tables. Since collocation tables highlight more or less common collocates, we were able to use this method to find out which terms were used more often. By using concordance lines, which “arranges all instances of a particular search item in a way that makes the search item appear in the centre of the page” (Adolphs, 2006, p. 53), it was helpful to focus only on instances of a specific lexical item and locate patterns of use with my corpus for our analysis. One particular analytical tool that we used was Keyness. It is used to analyze the high frequency of certain words in comparison to another corpus. “Its purpose is to point towards the ‘aboutness’ of a text or homogeneous corpus that is, its topic and the central elements of its content” (Baker, 2012). Also, by using the Dedoose tool, codes for communicating meaning were found and made sense of. Through these codes an ability to find relationships between the language to describe power and race were possible. There is also qualitative coding, which draws on patterned occurrence of key themes throughout the corpus. Additionally, it “tends to emphasizes aspects of the study that can be replicated, such as its instruments, measurements, sample and the order in which treatments are applied or survey items presented” (Alexander, 2001). We used these tools and methods to come to theoretical explanations about our research topic. Discourse analysis helped our group find approaches to examining our research material.

The discourse genre that we employed was essential to our goals. Our group dealt primarily with newspapers that captured the effects of the 99% movement. In contrast to other groups, each person in our group chose a different news source relating to their specific race they were researching.  Newspapers offered a chance for our group to investigate the two different cultures in relation to newspaper publications that covered the issue and compare and contrast the ways in which each race deals with publication of the 99% movement. This genre is available to both of the races that were involved in the movement so we looked at both cultural newspapers to see if both races were treated equally in the events that occurred. Through newspapers we can see which publications decided to include or exclude certain cultures while also observing other aspects of the discourse genre such as the language used or photographs. The Caucasian based newspapers we used were The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, The News Tribune, and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The Asian based newspapers we employed were The International Examiner, and The Northwest Asian Weekly. The specific date ranges that we looked at are from September 2011 until present.

After figuring out what our discourse genre was going to be, we needed to gather our corpus. “Investigating the use and distribution of synonyms in a corpus allows us to determine their contextual preferences, associated with other collocates or associated with register differences” (Douglas, 1998). This project required a more specialized corpus, so a strategy for collecting data was very necessary. We collected data according to our individual discourse genre newspaper. The population for our corpuses was much too large so we had to zone in on a more concentrated sample. We needed the theoretical relevance to be more specific. We first narrowed down our search to fit into the timelines of September 2011 to the present. We also did this by searching for articles that were related to race by searching for key words such as race, culture, American, white, Caucasian, and Asian. We were able to find a more concentrated number of articles dealing with our individual corpus. The sample frame had to be narrowed down in order to reach the results that our group was looking for. The articles that we found all helped find some answers to issues dealing with race and helped us come to some conclusions about it.

From the Caucasian based newspapers, race was not dealt with in regards to the Occupy movement. There were several different patterns in the corpus that backed this up. The first was that Asians were not discussed much in the sample frame. Another pattern found was that not only were Asians not brought up, race was not a large concern when talking about the Occupy Movement. Another pattern backing this up was the fact that Caucasian based newspapers kept using the word “economy” instead of more cultural terms. Caucasian based newspapers also didn’t label Americans as protestors. Both American and Asian newspapers use labeling terms for the in and out group.  Asian newspapers also found a trend in promoting democracy in terms of the Occupy movement.

The fact that Asians were not a more common topic is a very interesting finding. The largest non-White racial group in Seattle is Asian (14% of the city’s population), followed by Black or African American (8%) (Seattle Population & Demographics, 2010). When dealing with a major current event, it is striking that such a large percentage of Seattle’s population wasn’t discussed. Using hermeneutics, a qualitative analysis term that relies on the process of interpretation, we can come to this conclusion. This method is much more of a meso-analysis because it focuses on the trends within an institution. This all comes from the moment of encoding. This is the production of communication in general that is influenced by institutional practices, organizational conditions, practices of productions, and the producer’s bias. The issue of race within the Occupy movement is not something that American newspapers thinks is noteworthy in their articles, and this comes from their history of production. Asians were not incorporated into this issue because of the Caucasian’s cultural background in expressing current events. Caucasian newspapers are showing their narrative identity when writing these stories about the Occupy movement because of the way they position and construct the narrative away from the issue of race.  This could deal with the issue of power as a force or a constructive element to society. The fact that they decided to exclude race shows their lack of concern for the out group of Asians. This shows structuralized and institutionalized power relationships between ethnicities. This shows that by analyzing discourse, we can demonstration the particular micro-physics of power.  As discourse analysts, we need to take this argumentation into consideration when reading these articles so that we become more aware of different cultural sides to the issue. This perspectivization comes from Caucasian’s perspectives and its bias is shown quite passively because it would only take a discourse analyst to come to these conclusions.

Not only were Asians excluded from mention in the Occupy movement articles in Caucasian based newspapers, race as a general topic wasn’t discussed. In our corpus, using a type token ratio helped us come to this conclusion. The type token ratio helps find a word’s lexical density by looking at the ratio of words to word occurrences in a text (Sinclair, 1998). Using a type token ratio in order to analyze sources is more of a micro analysis because it is looking at more specific linguistic features of a text. The type-token ratio is “a more common ratio, that is often calculated in order to gain some basic understanding of the lexical variation within the text” (Adlophs, 2006). By looking at the words race and American, we were able to get a good sense of its importance and relevance to the stories. These words best summarize our goals because we are looking for all instances that newspapers take a stance on ethnicity. We want to see if culture is incorporated into their stories and how they attempt conquering that theme. The type token ratio for the word race in The Seattle Times is 1/7,355. In The Seattle Weekly, the word race only showed up once as well, making its ratio 1/13,172. In The Seattle Post Intelligencer, the word American’s type token ratio was 6/21,916. In those six instances, not a single time was it used as a racial term. Words that were frequently attached to the term Americans were foreclosure, million, percent, top, billion, cost, housing, and homes. Another example from the collocation tables shows that the term Americans was never tied to inequality or racial patterns. Furthermore, the term Americans was not used to describe anyone from another race and ethnic background other than Caucasian. The lexical choices made in these articles were clearly not centered on ethnicity because the word race was only used once in all of the articles that I looked at. It says a lot that the word wasn’t used because race is an important issue when it comes to the Occupy movement and it should be talked more about. The words before the word race in The Seattle Times were “whose parents were born in Taiwan, said issues of” and the words after were “have come up during the group’s twice-daily gener” (Haines, 2012). The collocation was interesting to note. Some of the words surrounding race were capitalism, inclusive, issues, and job. These words are interesting when comparing them to race in the broader issue of the Occupy movement.  A key lesson of this pattern throughout Seattle Newspapers is that just because racial inequality is not talked about or present right in front of us in written language does not mean that it is not an issue in society. The Occupy Movement is just as much of an issue of economic inequality as it is of social and racial inequality. By the patterns shown throughout the corpus it is clear to see that the journalistic style that embodies Caucasian centered ideologies in Seattle Newspapers is more focused on the economic inequality tied to the movement than racial. Looking at the lexical density of the word race and American led us to the conclusion that ethnicity was not a priority for Caucasian newspapers to cover with the topic of the Occupy movement.

Another pattern for Caucasian based newspapers was that the main focus centered around the term “economy.”  There were more than fifteen examples in The Seattle Weekly where the articles mainly talk about economic issues such as budget cuts and tax breaks. Since the economy has been an ongoing issue with the people in America, looking for sentences that were related to the economy helped contribute to our group’s goals since we wanted to look for all instances where newspapers talk about American and Asian perspectives in connection to the Occupy Movement. In the article, Teachers, Taking a Page from Occupy Protests, Get Militant by Nina Shapiro, she says,

“600 teachers [showed up], making for the largest local demonstration by their profession in years. After years of budgets cuts to education, and even more on the table now, teachers are getting militant.”

These sentences talk about the main reason why those teachers are protesting and what they want to get from it. The budget cuts to education seem to be a big issue for them, and they said they are doing this “to make the invisible work we do visible.” If the teachers are getting paid less and getting their budgets cut, the parents of students also have to worry about a less well-rounded education. There is another example to support this pattern. In the article, Occupy the Capitol Demonstrators Urge State to Repeal Tax Exemptions of the 1 Percenters by Rick Anderson, it also talks about economic issues by saying,

“it doesn’t make sense to hand out tax breaks to big banks and special interests at the same time as we’re raising tuition, ignoring toxic pollution, shortchanging our kids and putting people with disabilities and mental illness out on the streets.”

Here the focus on the economy can be clearly seen. People are protesting against unreasonable tax breaks to big banks and special interests when there seems to be a raise in tuition and other problems within the 99 percent group. Thus, those protestors are protesting for their right to be treated equally with financial and economic issues. Since tax breaks seems to be an ongoing issue in the Occupy Movement amongst American people, we looked for the term “tax” to see if there was any sub-pattern within the economy topic. The term “tax” was included quite a number of times with the Movement topic, showing up 33 times in 29 articles in The Seattle Weekly. By looking at the presentation of the collocation tables, we noticed that when talking about tax, it continually showed up with certain words such as breaks, exemptions, income, sales, corporations, rich, business, etc. Moreover, by analyzing via KWIC and looking at the concordance lines, it became more obvious that the term tax dealt mostly with tax breaks and tax exemption issues. These terms of economy and tax help us see where the focuses of the articles are, and that is certainly not on race.

A large pattern we found in American based newspapers was that Americans were not portrayed as a protestor. In an article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, it is said,

“They are another race of being: They are loyalists who really, really believe in what they are doing.”

This suggests that a protestor is neither American nor from another ethnic background. It also labels them as something besides a protestor, which is an interesting stance to take because it has an American bias. Another example from the Seattle Post Intelligencer is,

“Demonstrators upset with the current economic climate hold signs and yell slogans expressing their feelings towards the banks and corporations in America.”

This again deemphasizes the protestor perspective while also being vague in ethnic background. This syntagmatic analysis shows that there is a prejudice in the authorship of these articles. Through this Critical Discourse Analysis it is fair to say that these texts strike a pattern that it is un-American to take part in the occupy movement. If it is un-American to take part in the Occupy Movement, then those who are not taking part (those occupying the 1% of the United States) are the ones that are American. This is also validated through a Corpus Linguistics approach of discourse that shows that the term protestors are regularly grouped with violence and the out group. This suggests even further that the Occupy Movement does not truly involve Americans, but rather an unknown group. This pattern shows us that Americans are not portrayed as the protestor.

Another pattern that we found was that The Seattle Weekly, The Northwest Asian Weekly, and The International Examiner articles clearly distinguish who are in-groups and out-groups by labeling them with particular terms. An example is in the article, Teachers, Taking a Page from Occupy Protests, Get Militant by Nina Shapiro in The Seattle Weekly. It talks about the protest in Olympia and the article calls the teachers “the self-declared 99 percenters.” Shapiro clearly refers to those teachers as the 99% group, describing them as the major protestors in the movement. Here, those teachers are also being described as the in-group who is protesting against those years of budget cuts to education. The article, 9/11 Truthers: Please Stop Running Occupy Seattle by Curtis Cartier in The Seattle Weekly, also mentions “the 99 percent” here. It says,

“If protestors are going to call themselves “the 99 percent,” they need a message that resonates with 99 percent (or at least most) of the American people. The middle class and the poor are getting shafted by corporations and the government that those corporations control is such a message–9/11 conspiracies are not.”

This article describes the 99 percent of the American people as the middle class and the poor, and corporations and the government as the one percent. In Asian based newspapers the same occurrences happen. By using paradigmatic choice to find lexical and semantic terms, we found trends in word and image choice that coined American protestors as “different” and “other”. This is a form of out grouping. An example from The Northwest Asian Weekly is an article titled, Criticizing Its Profits at the Expense of Families. It says,

I hope that Chase [Bank] really thinks about the impact they are having on poor families with young kids, as well as on seniors.”

This shows that the Asian based newspapers are labeling all the American institutions involved in the movement as the “other”. The use of labeling as in and out groups is another pattern found in the Caucasian based newspapers.

We found another pattern in that Asian newspapers are promoting democracy in terms of the Occupy movement. We found that the newspapers clearly distinguish that Asians who are not Americans want to promote the discourse of democracy. They want their voice, freedom, right, and independence just the same as others. One example comes from The International Examiner in an article titled Reflecting Back on 2011. It said,

“The Occupy Wall Street protests showed corporate powers that people won’t stand for corruption and inequality. Every individual wants their existence validated – to be shown they matter; that they have a voice and will be heard.”

This shows that Asians are standing up for their rights in this democratic country. Another example comes from an article titled New Pulse,

“We want to contribute the voices of moms of color and present to the public the people who are carrying the brunt of a failed economy, which is our children.”

This example again shows how Asian newspapers are including themselves in the in group of the Occupy movement and are promoting democratic ideologies in relation to it. In this pattern it is important to note that Asian newspapers are including themselves in the democratic happenings of the Occupy movement.

Our group has found that Caucasian newspapers exclude Asians and race in general from their newspaper articles. The main focuses of American and Asian newspapers are different. This is because of power relationships of production and proven by our corpus. Through corpus linguistics analysis and critical discourse analysis one can see that by leaving out any mention of racial categories other than the perspective of the journalistic tone, there are no other racial categories present in the Seattle Occupy Movement other than Caucasian and that they have little power in the American society. These reflected a sort of in grouping of Caucasians by the lack of reference to the Asian culture and an out grouping of other races. Asian based newspapers show that they are somewhat involved, though. They raise the awareness of democracy promotion in relation to the Occupy movement, which shows awareness of the events. Race was also excluded from any article involving the Occupy movement. Caucasian based newspapers also referenced the economy much more than any racial implications of the movement. Lexical studies also showed us the importance of the word protestors in context and that Americans were excluded from this definition. It is important for us to study and analyze texts in this way so that we can find patterns to current events. In this case, it is necessary in order to figure out cultural differences and systems. It is fair to claim that racial inequality still exists not only in the Occupy Seattle Movement, but also in Seattle Newspapers through the minimal coverage of race. Caucasian-based newspapers need to become more aware of their perspectives and the way in which they present different cultures in their stories. The Occupy movement is a very important current event that affects all ethnicities in Seattle, especially Asians because they make up such a large percentage of the population. An understanding of the mix of culture is important for any discourse genre to keep in mind, and this project helps highlight this.


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