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How Has The Media's Monolithic Portrayal Of African Americans Affected The Black Race?

2258 words - 10 pages

How has the media’s portrayal of a
monolithic black experience affected African Americans?

Jeressia Williamson
University of Memphis
Portrayal in the media can have a tremendous affect on the way a person or a group of people is perceived by the world. This paper will focus on how the depictions of African Americans in the media have created a monolithic image of the group, and further, shaped the treatment of said persons. Although blackness has typically been defined very loosely with such methods as the one-drop rule stating that a person who has a single drop of black blood is black, today’s definition of blackness is synonymous with whatever the ...view middle of the document...

Black uses director Spike Lee’s satirical film about defining blackness to attempt to find a straightforward definition. He goes on to ask:
Is blackness only in skin color? If so, then can blackness be appropriated with the application of blackface minstrel makeup? Is blackness defined by specific mannerisms? If so, then do those who "act black," those who perform the minstrel exaggeration of stereotypical black traits, become a part of black life? Is blackness defined by black heritage? Is it only possible for black to originate from having a drop of black blood? (Black, 2003)
Although Black ended up with more unanswered questions than he started with, he concludes that the media’s definition of blackness is similar to minstrelsy. According to the media, only those people who behaved in the manner of a stereotypical black person could be considered black. The constant reinforcement of this idea through labeling “less black” African Americans as sellouts, allowed the media to effectively construct a single black image (Black, 2003).
Finally, Dr. Ronald Williams II, a professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, follows up with his own research entitled “Barack Obama and the Complicated Boundaries of Blackness”. In this article, Williams explores “post-racial” America and the rules of race surrounding multiracial Americans. He used the president of the United States to make his point that race is a social construction and that in today’s society, a person’s race is dependent more on his or her accomplishments and status than his or her actual genetics (Williams, 2008).
In order to gauge the media’s true influential power, I would create two surveys: one survey for black people questioning their self-perception, the way they think other people perceive them, etc., and the other survey for non-black people asking them how they perceive black people and from where they got those perceptions. On the first survey, I would use a scale of 1-5 (1 being strongly disagree, 3 being neutral, and 5 being strongly agree). I would ask black survey takers questions like:
• In the past month, I have felt mistreated because of my race.
• In the past month, I have felt stereotyped.
• In the past month, I have felt that I needed to prove something because of my race.
In my second survey, I would use the same scale and I would ask my non-black survey takers questions like:
• In the past month, I have seen black person on television depicted as a thug, welfare queen, gold digger, jokester, etc.
• In the past month, I have encountered a black person who has behaved as a thug, welfare queen, gold digger, jokester, etc.
• I believe that racism still exists.
I would give my survey to college-aged people because they are most likely to be subjected to media influence. My survey would be kept confidential and would be taken online to ensure survey takers that I could not find out who they were and that their answers would be anonymous. I assume...

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