So Francisco Izzo my consultant on the English language and American media cultureand I did some very basic research on North American websites and articles to try to speak a bit about some of these stereotypes, in a very educational, simple, and informal way. This text was originally created as an album on Facebook. The intention was to popularize the topic and create a dialogue, in simple and easy language.
While on the streets, we are regularly treated by police as dangerous suspects. Officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, described their alleged tussle by testifying: These portrayals, constantly reinforced in print media, on television, the internet, Black stereotypes in the media during shows, print advertising and video games, shape public views of and attitudes toward men of color.
Pouring over those yellowing pages of archival newsprint, I discovered notable examples of blatant bias, misrepresentations of facts and poorly substantiated claims about particulars of acts of violence.
Overwhelming evidence exists of exaggerated associations of African-American men to drug-related crime, unemployment and poverty.
Too many stories associate black men with intractable problems. Men of color held in esteem by the media, while entirely worthy of praise, too often personify a circumscribed spectrum of human qualities.
Prowess in sports, physical achievement in general and musicality are emphasized inordinately.
Common role models depicted by the media such as rap or hip-hop stars and basketball players imply limited life choices.
When is the last time you have seen a black college professor, doctor, lawyer or scientist selling a product? What we are also seeing play out among both white and black people is a hyped view of black boys and men being coupled with criminality and violence, a lack of empathy for black men and boys in trouble, less attention being paid to the bigger picture of social and economic disparity and increased public support of more rigorous approaches to social ills, such as police aggression and longer jail sentences.
In the images that ran alongside those stories in print, black people were overrepresented, appearing in more than half of the images, despite the fact that they made up only a quarter of people existing below the poverty line during that time frame. Media images and words are known, according to the Opportunity Agenda study, to have the greatest impact on the perceptions of people with less real-world experience.
People who have never interacted with a black family in their communities more easily embrace what the media tells them. The most negative impact is upon black individuals themselves.
Derogatory portrayals can demoralize and reduce self-esteem. In worst case scenarios, black boys and men actually internalize biases and stereotypes and, through their behavior, reinforce and even perpetuate the misrepresentations.
They become victims of perception. The mass media is certainly aware of its vast power to shape popular ideas, opinions and attitudes. They should become equally cognizant of their role as a mechanism of social change for the better of all. Liberal sprinklings of black achievement are not enough to offset an uneven emphasis on the failure of black men.
Besides working to eliminate obstacles to African-Americans entering newsroom and television positions, editors must start listening more closely to black constituencies, African-American TV and radio station managers, journalists, film producers and learning from their perspectives.
All media can and should choose words, images and news angles that give a fuller, more nuanced narrative of African-American men, as well as black history, culture and life in America, as a whole.
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