Complaining: A Poor Verb to Describe Student Reporting of Racist Incidents Such as #ConcernedStudent1950 in Missouri

I've always been interested in language thanks to George Lakoff's Metaphors We Live By.  One of Lakoff's interests is and has been "framing," or basically how something, be it a news item, a candidate, is presented.

One ESPN article covering the firing of a University President over racial tension at his university seemed to be emblematic of poorly built framing that bothers me a lot. 

The "framing" essentially presents the students in "complain" mode. 

"Complain" especially in the American context always carries with it a negative connotation.  The common belief, built up by an endless array of narratives from media, school, places of business, work is that you're not supposed to do it, much if at all.  The American narrative is supposed to be about working, working, working, no complaining.  Or if you want to complain move to a different country.

In the article editor/writer uses the word "complaint" in a headline link. 

S/he uses variations of the word (i.e. complaints, complained) three more times in the article all to describe actions that students and students alone took or have taken.  We read all about students and the flurry of activity that they have taken, couched on variants of the word "complain."

The student groups are complaining about "racial slurs" and "slights," terms which make it seem like students are simply getting mad over comments made to them.  Lots of commenters say some variation of "they've got some soft skin."

We don't get much sense of why the students are taking such action.  The depth of the reasons for doing so are buried at the bottom of the article,  in terse sentences. 

The article makes almost casual mention of four separate occurrences that have sparked these protests, each of which have only one sentence describing them.  Two of the occurrences are even peppered with a sprinkle of doubt with an "apparently drunken white student" and "two trucks flying Confederate flags, a move many saw as an 'attempt' at intimidation."

One of the occurrences includes feces being smeared in the form of a Swastika in a dorm bathroom.  Typical good ole boy college humor right?

We don't really read much about the President and his inactivity, except his credentials, and the one time where he does not choose to speak to students.  His refusal seems casual. At best he's painted as a typical busy, dismissive university administrator riding a limo who was the unlucky one to lose his job, which leads to comments such as "Another case of inmates running the asylum." 

If ESPN really want to ramp up the hits, their headline should've just read, "Unlucky white guy loses job to complaining blackies."

How Would They Describe Student Actions Then If They Are Not "Complaining" or Filing "Complaints"?

The article is anything but netural.  I probably wouldn't write like whoever did this.

I'm not saying that they shouldn't ever use the word "complain", but in this article and context, it's flagrant. 

With overuse of the word "complain" combined with a dismissal of the occurrences as "slurs" and "slights, they've painted the students as overly-sensitive if not overly emotional.  It's hard to see the students as anything but overly-sensitive and overly emotional, unless you are black.

I mean, ESPN could have painted the student groups as somewhat "reasonable" side by using the word "cite" as in "black student groups have cited incidents etc. etc.", but it doesn't seem like that was ever in this writer/editor's MO.  

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