TV's Portrayal of Blacks

I'm Black, I love movies, I enjoy TV shows, and I'm proud to be an American, so it's all good. (Or is it?)
Although there are more images of African-Americans on television now than ever, these images are still too often harmful to the prospect of unity between the races. It's still rare to see meaningful black love relationships on TV, in media in general and in society. Even after more than 200 years of such nonsense the perceptions are still twisted. we have further to go! While Black actors are now more visible in films, it is an open question as to how well they are being represented. Compare, for example, how Blacks and Whites are portrayed in the top movies of 1996. (only 12 years ago)
• Black female movie characters shown using vulgar profanity: 89% to white females: 17% • Black female movie characters shown being physically violent: 56% to white females: 11% • Black female movie characters shown being restrained: 55% to White females: 6% A mug shot of a Black defendant is 4 times more likely to appear in a local television news report than of a White defendant • The accused black is 2 times more likely to be shown physically restrained in a local television news report than when the accused is White • The name of the accused is 2 times more likely to be shown on screen in a local TV news report if the defendant is Black, rather than White • Research findings are reprinted with permission. Copyright notice: 2000 by Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki.
Journalist Juan Williams sites:
• • One of the most damaging forces tearing at young black people in America today is the popular culture's pernicious image of what an "authentic" black person is supposed to look like and how that person is supposed to act.
• For example, VH-1's highly rated Flavor of Love show
features a black man in a clownish hat, a big clock hanging around his neck, spewing the N-word while demeaning black women. And hip-hop music videos celebrate the "Thug Life" and "gansta" attitude for any young black person seeking strong racial identity.
Now believe me I (SPEECH) am one of the BIGGEST Public Enemy fans there is! And I love Flav's vibe, artistry and style! But I must say it didn't surprise me AT ALL that his image, instead of a Chuck D, or Me for instance, would draw the attention of executives and decision makers at Viacom, MTV, VH-1.
• Journalist Juan Williams sites:
A critic who points out that this so-called culture is defeatist and damaging — because it leads to high drop-out rates, record black-on-black murder statistics and a record number of out-of-wedlock births — is dismissed as a prude and a censor.
Anyone questioning lyrics that glorify violence and make it cool to treat women as sex toys is told that the words reflect the reality of black life, and that they are "acting white."
• Well, today there is new fuel for the debate...
• A poll released by the Pew Research Center, in association with NPR, finds that 67 percent of black men and 74 percent of black women think rap music is a bad influence on black America. In fact, 59 percent of black men and 63 percent of black women think the whole hip-hop industry — from the jail house fashion of pants hanging low, to indifference to work and school — is equally detrimental to black America. • White and Hispanic Americans agree, too. The Pew poll finds 64 percent of whites and 59 percent of Hispanics agree on the damaging impact of hip hop. • This Pew poll is a uniquely reliable measure of black opinion. Unlike most polls, it has a large sample of black people, in addition to whites and Hispanics. Most polls include such a small number of blacks and Hispanics that it is hard to draw reliable conclusions about racial issues. This poll is different and its findings are stunning.
• Damaging Media Images
• For example, young black people are the most upset (when compared to older blacks in the poll) about the way black Americans are portrayed on television and in the movies. Blacks under the age of 50 are much more likely to say media images of black people are worse today than they were 10 years ago.
SO WHO EXACTLY DOES LIKE THIS PORTRAYAL? WHO IS LOVIN' THIS IMAGE OF US? Since it ain't us & it ain't whites! (Could it be Black & white corporate America?) (uumm - that a be YES!)
The destruction of the black family is not comedy fodder. The fact that so many black men have several children with several different women only builds an argument for them being more related to animals than humans. So why is there going to be a comedy show about it? Why aren't surprised?
• And the proportion of young black people in the 18-29 age group who condemn the current media images of black people is 31 percent — higher than the 25 percent of blacks between the ages of 30-49, and the 17 percent of blacks in the 50-64 age group with similar disdain for black images in the media. • Similarly, when asked if the portrayal of black people on television and in the movies is harmful, it is young black people who most likely scream "Yes!" More than half (54 percent) of 18- to 29-year-old African Americans say black people are presented in a negative way in movies and TV shows. Fifty percent of black people ages 34-49 agree.
A recent blog posted by LADYMILZ says:
"I flip through the channels on a Saturday afternoon, I find it harder and harder to change the channel and not see black women as either video vixens or reality show whores. Reality shows are the new rap videos on television. From MTV to VH1, women with low morals and lower cut shirts who are in search of their 15 minutes of fame flock to these trashy yet oh so irresistible dating reality shows. Sadly, I am one of many who have become a fiend to the bad reality show drug cartel. I can’t help but be hypnotized by watching scantly clad women embarrass and degrade themselves. I shake my head, and I’m even ashamed that they are one of the few representations black women have on television. Reality shows provide women to go from nameless “video hoes” to D-List celebrities. Just walk by any magazine rack and see who is flaunting the latest cover of King Magazine, Black Men and Smooth Magazine . The only difference is that they are on TV constantly, so they are shown more frequently than in printed magazines or your typical rap music video. Ever since slavery, black women were treated as sexual objects, admired for their curvaceous bodies. They were raped, molested and abused by their white slave masters. Our black men have taken the role of the slave master and are treating black women as if their a__ is their only asset and their breasts are the best thing they have going for them. I blame rappers for continuing the exploitation of black women.
The media images portrayed through their videos are abhorrent. Yes, white men started it, but why should black men continue it? Rappers use the justification that these women are not forced to do anything they do not want to do. These women can say “no”; and they can choose to keep their dignity. However, if the only option is to “hoe”, or not to “hoe”, the extremely desperate have no other choice. The women who clearly are willing to stand up and say no are quickly replaced as fast as you can swipe a credit card through a rear end. Little pigtailed girls are passing on double-dutching after school to and running home to watch “106 & Park” and “Rap City”.
They see this lifestyle as the best way to get a guy to like you is by wearing barely anything and demeaning yourself. These are the prime years where they gain confidence self esteem and find their identities. What’s painstakingly obvious and saddening is that there used to be role model types for young girls to model themselves after. You can see this as recently as the 80s & 90s. Not only were there positive strong images of women, but there was a tide turning of in the depiction what a black woman was and what she stood for.
Where are the women of today to be that model? Instead of strong images of black women, they are constantly internalizing these depictions of what it is to be a woman. If they mirror these shows and videos on TV, we are going to have a generation filled with disrespectful men and promiscuous women.. Many black men have replaced the white slave master by treating women of color as over sexed objects. So I have this to say, black men, step up and stop treating your women this way. Black women, step up and do not let black men treat you the way they do. Sounds simple enough? Try it and see what change it makes."
In all fairness to Hip-Hop, I wrote about this years ago, AD songs like "Mama's Always on Stage", "U", and a number of newer joints as well tackle and confront this wack behavior.
Racial stereotypes of African Americans have persisted in American culture since the early black-face minstrel shows of the 19th century which portrayed blacks as joyous, naive, and ignorant.
Early minstrel shows lampooned the assumed stupidity of black people. Detail from cover of The Celebrated Negro Melodies, as Sung by the Virginia Minstrels, 1843
Stereotypes continue today as blacks are often portrayed as athletic, poor, and criminals. Black stereotypes: then and now In the 1930's, studies found a high level of consistency among adjectives used to describe black people. Furthermore, most of these adjectives were negative, and included terms such as superstitious, lazy, and ignorant. Today’s stereotypes are not much different, and include unintelligent, loud, poor, and criminal. Stereotypes can also be “positive” terms, although this does not make them less damaging to their targets. Current stereotypes of African Americans include athletic and musical/rhythmic.
Many of the black stereotypes do not correspond with reality, For example:
Most black people are not poor and most of America's poor people are not black. On TV, black people are depicted as poor nearly twice as often as their true incidence; black people actually account for 24.1% of America’s poor, although many might assume the incidence to be in excess of 50%. • Because black people tend to be stereotyped as criminal, many people are surprised to learn that criminality among African-American youth is significantly lower when it comes to the use of tobacco, alcohol or some illicit drugs; African American youth are significantly less likely to report using these substances than either white or Hispanic young people. Although the reported incidence of weapon carrying and violent behavior was higher among black female students (11.7% and 38.6% respectively) than white female students (3.6% and 22.3%), the race-behavior correlation is broken by the behavior of black male students (23.1% and 44.4%) when compared with white male students (28.6% and 43.2%). • Blackface is a style of theatrical makeup that originated in the United States, used to affect the countenance of an iconic, racist American archetype — that of the darky or coon. White blackface performers in the past used burnt cork and later greasepaint or shoe polish to blacken their skin and exaggerate their lips, often wearing woolly wigs, gloves, tailcoats, or ragged clothes to complete the transformation.
• Characteristics of "Mammy" include dark skin, a heavyset frame and large bust, and overall matronly appearance, complete with an apron around her waist and a kerchief on her head. She is overweight and dressed in gaudy clothing, as well as genial, churchgoing, and spiritual to the point of delusion — "Lord have mercy" is a common phrase associated with this archetype. She is compliant in the face of white authority, as in the Aunt Jemima and Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind's Mammy character, standards of this archetype.
• The term Mammy is a variant of mother, used most prominently by black people in the South during and soon after slavery. White people used the term, as well, to refer to black female slaves, servants and caregivers, as well as a general term for black women. When in common use by white people, the word was often used sentimentally, but many black people considered it patronizing or insulting. Today, the term mammy, when applied to a black woman, is considered highly pejorative. Early minstrel shows lampooned the supposed stupidity of black people. Movies such as Birth of a Nation questioned whether or not black people were fit to run for governmental offices or vote. Secretary of State John C. Calhoun arguing for the extension of slavery in 1844 said, "Here (scientific confirmation) is proof of the necessity of slavery. The African is incapable of self-care and sinks into lunacy under the burden of freedom. It is a mercy to give him the guardianship and protection from mental death." Even after slavery ended the intellectual capacity of black people was still frequently questioned. Lewis Terman wrote in The measurement of intelligence in 1916, "(Black and other ethnic minority children) are uneducatable beyond the nearest rudiments of training. …There is no possibility at present of convincing society that they should not be allowed to reproduce, although from a eugenic point of view they constitute a grave problem because of their unusual prolific breeding." • Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been often cited as racist due to the depiction of the slave Jim, among other black characters, which has led to schools banning the book. The word "nigger" appears numerous times, and is used to describe Jim and other black characters. While this is not surprising for the time, it is understandably offensive to modern readers, particularly African-American students, who may have been required to read the book in high school. • Political activist and one time presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson said in 1985 that the news media portray black people as "less intelligent than we are." Bill Cosby spoke out publicly in May against dysfunction and irresponsibility in black families, he identified one pervasive symptom: ''boys attacking other boys because the boys are studying and they say, 'You're acting white.'' Film director Spike Lee explains that these images have negative impacts "In my neighborhood, we looked up to athletes, guys who got the ladies, and intelligent people," said Lee. "[Now] If you're intelligent, you're called a white guy or girl." In 1986, Nigerian sociologist John Ogbu co-authored, along with Signithia Fordham, a study that concluded African American students in a Washington, D.C., high school did not live up to their academic potential because of the fear of being accused of "acting white," echoed in his 2003 book Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement. He concluded that the black students' own cultural attitudes hindered academic achievement and that these attitudes are too often neglected. • Though not all scholars define acting white in precisely the same way, most definitions include a reference to situations where some minority adolescents ridicule their minority peers for engaging in behaviors perceived to be characteristic of whites. Obviously there has been an historical problem with whites branding blacks in warped ways. That cycle, just like any cycle doesn't stop unless challenged and fought! The idea that white is better, more trustworthy, more intelligent, more loving is so sad. I have a 14 year old son (Jahi) and a 11 year old daughter (Zoe). they don't understand the whole causes of these images they see, but they are still effected by them. This must be fought with further intensity! I often watch TV/movies and it's so consistent to see two whites making passionate, meaningful love to each other, maybe violins and strings as their soundtrack. While usually portraying two blacks or a white & black in a jungle-like passion! Even listen to the sound score during those love scenes, and hear the bongo's and congas start up! My white friends don't notice the difference, but the stereotypes none the less play themselves out within white societies perceptions of black culture and ultimately it has even warped the minds of us blacks too. I hope we will start to defy these images and Stand!


Ocipare McKinley said...

Excellent blog... so what do you propose that we as Black people should do about this?

I would say that for me I am personally tired of not seeing more MARRIED couples. I see the "baby mamas" and "baby daddys" but I do not see married Black mothers and fathers taking care of the Black family. In my service within my community I have found young Black men not feeling that marriage is important and young Black women wanting a baby with no man attached. I find this more defeatus than the images on TV because the images would mean nothing if you had positive parents teaching the REAL lessons to our children. We would know how to treat each other if we were the examples instead of the celebrities on television being examples.

Anonymous said...

One of the main reasons these types of blogs are written is for us to spread it around to our friends! And to become more aware!
All we need is awareness, and things will change!