Perception of Black American Stereotypes in Mass Media Introduction Derogatory images of minority groups remain a commonplace in society despite marked improvements in white Americans’ racial attitudes over the last several decades. Social, ethnic, and racial stereotypes, the ‘‘pictures in the head’’ that members of one group form of other groups, are often uncomplimentary, for, in addition to their purely cognitive function, they are motivated by an ethnocentric bias to enhance one’s own group and to disparage out-groups (Sigelman 1997).
Popular culture is an exceptional means for gaining an insight into what masses of people are thinking, feeling, and dreaming (Lemons 1977).
Historically, the media has depicted highly negative images of Blacks. Prior the late 1900’s, whites constructed entertainment media with a white audience in mind. Because of this, whites were depicted in the most flattering of ways, where as other minorities, primarily Negroes, were depicted in a harsh and negative light.
Mass produced music, cheap magazines, comics, and mass circulation of newspapers began to circulate in the 1890’s allowing for black stereotypes in popular culture to be seen nationally.
This literature review will serve as an exploration of black stereotypes as depicted in mass media. Black’s Perception of White Stereotypes on Blacks Stereotypes in general serve to “reinforce the beliefs and disbeliefs of its users” as well as provide “solidarity for the prejudiced. ” White Americans’ negative stereotypes of blacks have softened as racial attitudes in the United States have become liberalized.
Negative stereotypes of blacks can promote white resistance to neighborhood integration and lessen support of equal opportunity and multiculturalism. While addressing stereotypes, it is important to address not only public perception, but perception of one’s own group as seen by other racial groups. In particular with this case, it is important to observe how blacks perceive themselves in confluence with the perception of blacks by white Americans. A 1988 survey’s results showed that many whites perceived blacks as less ambitious, less attached to work and work ethic, and more likely to engage n crime. While these images of racial and ethnic groups by whites foster a negative racial climate they prove whites as significant because they have influence over other attitudes toward these groups (Sigelman, 1997). In a study on meta-stereotypes, blacks perceptions of blacks by whites, black Americans were asked the question “Do you think that most white Americans hold the following perceptions of black Americans? ” The response showed that at least two-thirds of blacks saw whites as endorsing every uncomplimentary stereotype.
The majority of blacks alleged that most whites viewed them as “violent, unintelligent, immoral, lazy, undisciplined whiners who abuse drugs and alcohol and would rather live off welfare than work. ” In addition to those perceptions, most blacks also believed that they were viewed as religious and athletic by whites. Though neither blacks nor whites have the tendency to project their own policy preferences onto the other race, blacks exaggerate the conservatism of whites while whites exaggerate the liberalism of blacks.
In order to determine how accurately blacks perceive whites’ stereotypes of blacks then one must have accurate information about whites’ stereotypes of blacks (Sigelman, 1997). Black American Stereotypes Popular Culture Blacks Perceived as “Comical” Black stereotypes of the Zip Coon, Jim Crow, and Aunt Jamima were extremely prevalent in mass media at the turn of the twentieth century. These degrading images became a statement of black culture. Popular culture presented Negroes as comical figures. The black figure took the crown as the most popular comic character of this time.
This stereotype, as shown in minstrel and vaudeville became extremely difficult to part ways from. Between 1900 and 1920, during a time of reconstruction, there was a cultural shift in the manner in which blacks were depicted. The negative stereotypes began to be replaced by more positive images as seen with the elimination of coon songs and coon shouts and as vaudeville shifted from being primarily focused on black face to focusing German and Yiddish stereotypes (Lemons 1990). Blacks Perceived as Illiterate and Grotesque
The mass media used negative stereotypes of Negroes in order to maintain the ideology of white supremacy prior to the turn of the twentieth century. The 1896 Separate but Equal US decision and the Post Civil War era showed blacks as systematically disenfranchised, segregated, and excluded from the economy The 1880’s served as an era where coarse, grotesque caricatures of Negroes began to circulate. These images portrayed blacks having big mouths, big ears, and oversized hands and feet, and behaving in exaggerated and ridiculous fashions amongst other characteristics.
Entertainment media portrayed Negroes as physically ugly and having easy morals such as promiscuity, gambling, and razor fighting. The stereotype of promiscuity amongst Negroes became linked to the idea of Negro fecundity. Blacks were commonly depicted as being less than human. Many images depicted blacks as “watermelon addicts, chicken thieves, irresponsible, stupid, lazy, and dishonest. ” A 1901 postcard portraying a Negro with a watermelon tucked under his arm, staring down at a chicken saying “Dis Am De Wust Perdickerment Ob Mah Life” is one of many examples of images portraying blacks in this stereotype.
The south, often portrayed in the media as Dixieland, was a place filled with high rates of illiteracy, tenant farming, low wages, lynching, and abuses of child labor. (Lemons 1977). Blacks As Perceived in Modern Mass Media The 1960’s and 1970’s served as a time for great change amongst racial stereotyping of black Americans. Seen as contributing to the perpetuation of racial stereotypes rather than the eradication, the mass media began to integrate images of black Americans that appeared to be more non-stereotypical in films, television, and magazine advertisements.
The 1968 report of The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders called for a more fuller and accurate image of the black American to be presented in the media. The depiction of blacks in contemporary magazine advertising may contribute to the perpetuation and reinforcement of stereotypes (Colfax 1972). In a content analysis of blacks in magazine advertisements conducted by Colfax and Sternberg, results showed that of the 5,523 advertisements examined in this case, only 4% showed blacks. In these advertisements, lacks were being depicted as obtaining white-collar jobs as well as were featured in advertisements for music, including phonographs. This depiction raises two points. The first is that blacks were being considered “merchandise” for their advertisers and were being drawn as having a high occupational status for the prestige of the advertiser. The second is that since musical talent is inherent and cannot be achieved, it would be inane to suggest that the “black musician” serves only to reinforce the cultural stereotype and may neutralize the threat that was implied by depicting blacks in a more conventional, white-collar role (Colfax,1972).
Blacks Perceived In the News Television has emerged as the American mass medium. In the 1950’s, sport, song and dance, and the occasional screen appearance of the black actor became the pinnacle of black involvement on television. It has been said, “the only TV that hires Negroes regularly is Saturday night boxing. ” When Civil Rights and Segregation began to make headlines, depicting images of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X, blacks began to emerge into News media more heavily (Lee 1985). It is argued that media exposure may predict social reality perceptions.
In a 2008 study of “News Exposure and Stereotypical Perceptions of African Americans,” exposure to network news resulted in depressed estimates of American Americans income, increased endorsement of stereotypes of blacks as “poor and intimidating,” and showed higher racism scores in public perception. The study, on nonstudent adults proved that people of color are often associated with criminality. This activated crime stereotypes of Blacks. Social issue segments on network news, such as those portraying segregation, may perpetuate racial prejudice by Whites.
African Americans are overwhelmingly associated with poverty, which may contribute to the perception of Blacks as “lazy and undeserving of welfare existence”. Blacks are also more likely than whites to appear as perpetuators in drug and violent crimes on network news, as well as to occupy roles as poor people, loud politicians and criminals. The outcomes of said stereotypes are endorsement of stereotypes and an increase modern racism (Dixon 2008). News media is inherently subjective. It is documented by certain demographics and aimed toward specific demographics.
Newscasters and journalists use buzzwords to influence public opinion. This allows for the public’s perception to be shaped by these gatekeepers of the media. Often times, blacks are misrepresented in the media by the use of faulty information, which leads to faulty views by society. In 1827, Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm launched Freedom’s Journal, the first African American newspaper published in the United States. Upon this they declared, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations in things which concern us dearly. Mainstream media in the US continually misrepresents black life and culture in America. Following the entrance of this publication into the media, the amount of blacks maintaining positions in journalism has increased. Though the amount of blacks in journalism has increased, there is still a significant amount of faulty information being presented to society, which holds weight in public perception of Blacks and Black culture. Subsequent to a report the black urban uprisings of 1967, the Kenner Commission concluded that news media had failed to accurately report on the causes of racial problems in the US.
Though Freedom of the Press is amongst the most cherished rights in society facts are often misrepresented in their presentation. The media’s omission and neglect in reporting in-depth accounts about or affecting black people remains incessant. This is shown in a report stating “Increasingly, the news media in using the term “black underclass,” coined by sociologists and theorists of political and social policy to describe blacks who are unemployed or underemployed, undereducated, and whose lives are socially unstable. The truth behind this back is that the decline of the economy, particularly in the manufacturing sector where blacks once held good-paying jobs, is the cause of the current socio-economic crisis in the black community (Abron 1990). Conclusion Though the social standings of African Americans have changed greatly through recent decades, the stereotypes given to them years ago are still present in today’s society. Racial stereotypes of class, economic standing, political power, and phenotype remain extremely prevalent within media today.
Social, ethnic, and racial stereotypes have proven to be continual. While media continues to shape the American public’s perception of race and ethnicity, the stereotypes deemed upon Black Americans remain. Works Cited Abron, JoNina M. (1990). “THE TRUTH BEHIND THE FACTS”: THE IMAGE OF AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE U. S. PRESS The Black Scholar , Vol. 21, No. 2, BLACK CINEMA (March-April-May-1990), pp. 49-52 Lemons, Stanley. (1977). Black Stereotypes as Reflected in Popular Culture, 1880-1920 J. American Quarterly , Vol. 29, No. 1 pp. 02-116 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Article Stable URL: http://www. jstor. org/stable/2712263 Colfax, J. D. , & Sternberberg, S. F. (1972). The perpetuation of racial stereotypes: Blacks in mass circulation magazine advertisements. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 36(1), 8-18. Retrieved from: http://search. proquest. com/docview/60856504? accountid=14679 Dixon, T. L. (2008), Network News and Racial Beliefs: Exploring the Connection Between National Television News Exposure and Stereotypical Perceptions of African Americans.
Journal of Communication, 58: 321–337. doi: 10. 1111/j. 1460-24 66. 2008. 00387. x Lee, A. (1985). Blacks and White TV: Afro-Americans in Television Since 1948. Journal Of American Studies, 19(2), 276-277. Sigelman, L. , & Tuch, S. A. (1997). Metastereotypes: Blacks’ perceptions of whites’ stereotypes of blacks. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 61(1), 87-101. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/61532706? accountid=14679
Cite this Literature Review: African American Stereotype
Literature Review: African American Stereotype. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/literature-review-african-american-stereotype/