For centuries racial discrimination has played a huge role in the everyday lives of African Americans they had to fight an constant uphill battle with segregation on the busses hotels restaurants and even simple things like a drinking fountain it took many years for the government to realize that this kind of treatment to a given race is unconstitutional. Finally they passed rules and regulations to try and bring equality to all (men) but not everything has been solved. It has been 50 years since the civil rights act of 1964 but it seems to me that African Americans are still facing racial discrimination but in a whole new way.
The various main broadcast networks and their affiliates are the most used source for people to get local or national news and entertainment but sadly it is helping to push the racial inequalities and stereotypes for many minorities especially African Americans.
On many shows you flip to on any station (BET included ) you can see an African American male playing one of four roles “A sidekick of a white protagonist to help with the comedic relief, the athlete, the over-sexed ladies’ man, the absentee father or the violent black man as drug-dealing criminal and gangster thug.” This generalization of African Americans does not only apply to men, women play the role of the hard working “IDON’T NEED A MAN”, the one that is struggling with a dead beat dad Angry black woman Baby momma Black Barbie Gold-digger Unhealthy fat black woman or she plays a mistress to a very wealthy man (scandal). Now I won’t lie these shows can be very entertaining but detrimental to the African American society. According to Darron T. Smith “These stereotypical, one-dimensional characters in film negate the broader and deeper experience of black life… Once these representations of blackness become familiar and accepted, they fuel misperceptions and perpetuate misunderstandings among the “races” These negative stereotypes of African American people are often used to justify racial inequities that they face daily. For example “rates of school discipline underachievement in higher education, and higher rates of poverty, homicide, unemployment, and over involvement in the criminal system.” Entertainment television are not the only people ones that cause this negative view of African Americans but local and national news dose as well.
Day in and day out millions of people watch their news and see a local robbery or shooting while the station shows you a picture of a beat down African American man’s mug shot. Once people constantly see a crime attached to a give race they start to make negative judgments about this group of people. In a study where Heinz Endowments examine how Pittsburgh newspapers and local television newscasts cover African American males they found that many of the stations so African Americans in a negative light. Local residents (of all races) got to attend a meeting about the study on the city and many said that they thought the local news was unbalanced and even damaging reporting. Both analyses concluded that a disproportionate amount of Pittsburgh news coverage of African American men and boys focused on crime. The Meyer team reported that crime headed the list of all news topics related to the group. Pittsburgh psychologist Walter Howard states “We just aren’t portrayed well as people who are intelligent or thoughtful or interested in things like the environment or social causes,” “In either medium, however, African American males only rarely were present in stories that involved such topics as education, business, the economy, the environment and the arts,” reported the Pew staff. “Of the nearly 5,000 stories studied in both print and broadcast, less than 4 percent featured an African American male engaged in a subject other than crime or sports.” These results could have been discouraging to the Endowments and its community partners; instead, the findings have fueled efforts to encourage mainstream media to broaden their coverage of black men and boys and to support projects that put media in the hands of African American males, enabling them to tell their own stories and to challenge those told about them. In an article by Joshunda Sanders he states “the real problem is that people are becoming desensitized to one-dimensional portrayals of black youths. Perpetuation of them as dangerous has been embedded in American society not only by words and images projected by journalists but also by a wide variety of other media and entertainment sources, including the Internet, movies and video games.”
This problem not only effect African Americans but it affects all races in a statement by Larry Davis he goes on to say “Overwhelmingly, white Americans learn about African Americans not through personal relationships, but through images shown by media. Unfortunately, blacks too consume these same images,” “People’s perceptions of themselves are shaped by others’ perceptions of them. There is a very strong psychological component that goes along with the images people are shown themselves,” he said. The projection of negative images, which are seen by both whites and blacks, creates a cycle of negativity. “This affects the way whites see blacks, the way blacks believe whites see them and the way blacks see themselves,”. It would seem hard to change the movies but one amazing actor has paved the way for other leading African Americans to not have to play the role of a gangster or thug. Will Smith “he is often seen starring as a protagonist fighting the good fight rather than the criminal to be apprehended” like most African American male roles. “Yet, for most black actors, the parts they are offered leave them with limited options. Conventionally, white screenwriters, who view the world through the prism of a white lens, write about subject matters that reflect their own narrow experiences living and existing in a highly radicalized society. As a result, the predominately white film industry (from producers to screenwriters to directors), in the market of pleasing their predominately white consumer base, lacks diversity in the depth of their characters. Unfortunately, images and words wound and are difficult to erase from the mind.”
Fighting the media seems like a very difficult job to do but it’s not impossible start local. After The Heinz Endowments brought to light the inequality in the way African Americans are portrayed in the media they worked their hardest to change it. “These results could have been discouraging to the Endowments and its community partners; instead, the results have fueled efforts to encourage mainstream media to broaden their coverage of black men and boys and to support projects that put media in the hands of African American males, enabling them to tell their own stories and to challenge those told about them”
One of the most important things any group of people can do is to control the image of themselves,” and no things will not change overnight but I we stay constant about the type of news and media that we want to see so will Hollywood (because the never want to lose money) This may seem like a hard challenge but it is very possible!