Throughout the world, everyone makes comments that may offend one’s character or race to distinguish him or her as inferior. These comments have flourished through the racist scenarios and characters produced by the media. Racism is a prominent epidemic that has affected African Americans, especially in the development of America. Africans were torn away from their homes and brought to America in the 17th century to work as slaves, where they experienced various forms of chastisement and torture (Siddiqui). Lincoln abolished slavery in 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all the slaves and ending the Civil War.
However, many of the freed slaves still lived in bad conditions and poverty. Whites saw African Americans as an inferior race, and they discriminated against them, as they were not allowed to attend the same school or church as the whites did. In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, banning discrimination in public places. Despite these progressions throughout the years, about 25% of African Americans in the USA still live in poverty, having a lower income and a higher unemployment rate than whites (“African Americans”).
Much of this inequality is due to the media’s portrayal of blacks in the community. The media uses negative stereotypes to depict untruthful and unpleasant qualities of blacks, whether it is through the news, TV, or movies; the media also exhibits racism by completely disregarding them. The media’s unequal treatment of colored people is becoming more of an issue today as these stereotypes are shaping the perceptions of many Americans, creating unfair environments for the blacks.
These stereotypes could be the source of colored people’s struggle with their lack of income or unemployment. When the media discriminates against blacks through the production of negative stereotypes or exclusion, it influences the audience into viewing and treating them in unfair ways; these unjust beliefs are then spread throughout the community, creating struggles in the colored community. The Media The media’s representation of blacks is a major source of the racism and discrimination in today’s society.
As the use of the internet and television continues to grow, people tend to rely on the media to for daily information, and in turn, they rely on it so much that it shapes their perceptions of daily events. People come to view the depictions of characters in the media as a real representation of people, and they use these as examples of how to act in reality. Therefore, the media has influenced society’s behavior with the use of negative stereotypes of blacks. The media associates colored people with the general misconception of being “… stupid… disrespectful, violent… gnorant, menacing, untidy, rebellious… [and] uneducated… ” (Punyanunt-Carter 2008).
Laura Green, a student counselor at Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar with a masters in social work, compares the media’s depiction of whites to blacks as “whites are 10 times more likely to be seen as superior in artistic ability and abstract thinking ability” than colored people are (Green 1999). The most commonly seen stereotypes, as explained by About. com, an internet-based collection of new articles reporting on a variety of subjects, include the magical Negro, best black friend, thugs, brash women, and domestics.
All of these common stereotypes depict black people as minor characters who serve to assist their white colleague, criminals with no respect for the law, or sassy, overdramatic characters (“Five Common Black Stereotypes” 2014). These stereotypes cause audiences to associate and apply what they view in the media with reality, forming the belief that all of the colored people they meet are dangerous, shady people with loud attitudes. With these stereotypes, the black community is subjected to unequal treatment and a single negative generalization produced by the media.
In addition to the unfair judgments, the media also discriminates against blacks by excluding them in the entertainment media. In relation to movies, Laura Santhanam and Megan Hickey, a data team for PBS, emphasize that of the top 100 films produced in 2014, only about 12. 5% of characters were black compared to 73. 1% of white characters (Santhanam 2015). The lack of black characters ingrains the thought that colored people are minorities and are less significant than those of white people. According to Yasmin Jiwani, a Department of Communication Studies professor who focuses on gender and race inequality in the media, “… eople of color tend to be absent from the media in general.
However, they are conspicuously present in stories dealing with crime or with problems in their communities” (Jiwani 2013). Unlike movies, the black community is shown pervasively on the news for their acts of crime. On the contrary, Stephen Balkaran, an instructor of African American Studies at Central Connecticut State University, points out that in reality, the “… most serious crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, and assault) in inner cities are committed by a very small proportion of African-American youth, some 8% by estimates” (Balkaran 1999).
These criminal portrayals formulate the viewer’s belief that colored people are the cause of our dangerous communities, and because of that, we should downgrade them to prevent them from causing any more danger. Overall, the media’s biased representation of colored people influences the way people interact and treat them. Black Perspective When they see racist portrayals of themselves are in the media, the black community is disheartened by the false personas they are credited with, and their lifestyles are widely affected.
According to Catherine Shoichet, writer and editor for CNN digital reporting on Latin American news and immigration topics, “About two-thirds of blacks (66%)… said racism is a big problem… [and] 57% of blacks experienced some form of racial discrimination in their lifetimes” (Shoichet 2015). One major cause of this discrimination is from the influence that media has on people. When colored people view these stereotypes, they take them as offensive attacks on their personalities, and they try to defend themselves by arguing that the stereotypes are false, portraying more negativity in the media than in reality.
In a focus group conducted by Ohio. com, a Summit County news reporter delivering professional journalism from local and national levels, common racial issues were addressed from colored and white perspectives. When colored people were questioned about the perception of them living in dangerous neighborhoods, they responded by saying that they only live in bad communities because they lack the wealth to properly care for themselves.
They said that they have lived in rough conditions all their life, and part of the reason they are associated with crime is because they were never treated as equals and “they don’t have an understanding of who they are” (“Blacks and Whites Have Different Perspectives” 2012). Lastly, their reason for owning guns is “because [they’re] afraid of crime… they want to protect themselves” (“Blacks and Whites Have Different Perspectives” 2012). These false stereotypes impact their lives, especially their income and security. For instance, there is a common belief that the police are attracted to incarcerating colored people.
According to Do Something, a global organization where young people address world issues through social media, “… police are more likely to pull over and frisk blacks than whites. In New York City, 80% of the stops made were blacks … compared to a mere 8% of white people stopped” (“11 Facts about Racial Discrimination. “). Nevertheless, the most impactful result of the media in their stereotyping of blacks as gang members or drug dealers is their economic challenges because they are unable to surpass those stereotypes for employment or advances in the workplace (Balkaran 1999).
For example, in “A Letter to My Nephew,” a letter written by James Baldwin to his nephew about the discrimination they face, James Baldwin states, “You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason… You were born into a society which spelled out… that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence” (Baldwin 1962). Just because they are of color, people will limit their opportunities, like no hiring them for a job, due to their belief that they cannot be successful.
The media’s generalization about colored people creates false images of them that lead to the daily struggles of being labeled as dangerous or criminal. White Perspective Not only are the black community affected by the media’s discrimination, but the media is leading the white society into the disillusionment of black people. First off, much of white America does not believe that racism is that much of an issue anymore as “only about four in ten whites agree [that racism is a big problem)” (Shoichet 2015).
As explained by Rashad Robinson, a civil rights activist and executive director of the Color of Change organization dedicated to making a political change for black Americans, Americans’ constant exposure to racism in the media causes them to think it is normal, and they “act out those biases, treating black people as if the media’s stereotypes are real” (Savali 2015). Therefore, this constant cycle created by the media is brainwashing the public into thinking that black people are dangerous, disrespectful criminals, and they are suffering from an uncertainty about black identity.
Defenders of the decreasing racism belief argue that discrimination in the media is “… clearly exaggerated. Critics who decry stereotypes are being oversensitive… ” (“Infobase Learning” 2007). Infobase, an educational information provider to schools and libraries, addresses both sides of the argument about racism in the media. They defend the media by claiming that any characters or depictions should not be taken personally, as the creators are not purposely trying to “perpetuate harmful stereotypes” and only trying to express them as an art form (“Infobase Learning” 2007).
While it is elievable that the writers have no intention of discriminating against any race, their representations of black characters are impacting their viewers and how they regard black people. It is even evident among younger viewers, who watch multiple hours of television and are very impressionable, that blacks are being unfairly represented on TV as they are shown to be inferior to white characters. For instance, in 1998, Children Now, a research and development organization dedicated to improving children’s health and lifestyles, conducted a study where American children were surveyed on how much they have seen race depicted on television.
In the end, the children associated white characters with “positive qualities such as financial and academic success, leadership, and intelligence,” yet they associated black characters with “negative qualities such as lawbreaking, financial hardship, laziness… ” (Burr 2001). Because the media is broadcasted to all ages, children are being embedded with the impression that all colored people are criminal, dangerous, and subordinate compared to the favored white people; this one-dimensional impression then stays with them throughout their lives.
One girl in the study remarked “‘You always see black people doing drugs and carrying around drugs, shooting people and stealing things’… ” (“Infobase Learning” 2007). In brief, the media’s racism is creating a dangerous cycle that exploits misleading characteristics about the black community, and it is putting white Americans and their perceptions at harm. Conclusion In summation, the media’s creation of negative black stereotypes affects the society’s perception of them, creating a racially unequal society.
On the other hand, colored people are sometimes represented in the media through some positive aspects. While whites are seen more as expressing artistic and intellectual qualities, “African-Americans were 10 times more likely to be seen as superior in athletic ability and rhythmic ability” (Green 1999). Even though some common stereotypes of black Americans depict them as minor characters supporting the main white character, Narissra Punyanunt-Carter, an associate professor of communication studies at Texas Tech University for over 10 years, found that, after analyzing 139 television shows, “…
Black males were portrayed as a helper, a giver, and as cooperative, and Black females were portrayed as virtuous” (Punyanunt-Carter 2008). While colored people are shown as being of lesser importance than whites are, they do have moments where they are emphasized for their generous, caring nature. To prevent any racial treatment of blacks, it is important for audiences to separate the media and their fictional representations from reality, so they can form their own observations.
While it is understandably difficult to change one’s beliefs, especially if they had them for several years, viewers should treat everyone with an open mind, so they can form opinions based off their own experiences. When it comes to the media, news providers should strictly deliver only new events, excluding any racial or cultural labels to prevent any discrimination of races. Similarly, TV shows and movies should limit their racial production by creating an equal amount of roles as whites have as well as expressing black characters with positive qualities to emphasize that all races are still human and deserve equal, fair treatment.
It will take time to erase many years of negative stereotyping and discrimination, but in doing so it will create a racially equal society without discrimination. In conclusion, the media does influence viewers’ perspectives of colored people as they create unfavorable stereotypes and the perception of inferiority through exclusion, and their discriminable expressions are affecting colored peoples’ security and financial life.