The Perception of African Americans in the Media and How it Affects Their Self-Identity
There has been much debate over the perception of African Americans in the media and how it affects their self-identity. It is easy to find examples of bias in portraying African Americans, but not a lot of causal research to prove that it causes problems with self-identity. A case can even be made that the amount of media presence by African Americans, whether biased or un-biased, has greatly helped to unify and give voice to a small minority group.
The role of the media in the social identity of African Americans
According to the United States Census Bureau (2001), 12.3% of all people reporting as one race reported they were “Black or African American”. This ethnic identity is now the second biggest minority in the United States. It also refers to a group of people who have been in this country for as long as it has existed. However, through the persecution of slavery, the rigors of segregation, and the continuing latent prejudice; African Americans are still searching for their true identity.
African American Identity
Just as children that were adopted tend to long for a true identity most of their lives, so is the plight of the African American. Stolen from their homeland and forced into enslavement in a new country, African Americans were basically victims of identity theft. Although much progress has been made in the way of an American identity for African Americans, a true identity has not yet been found. According to W.E.B DuBois (1903) “The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self”. (p. 68)
Many African Americans feel the same as Kali Tal (1996) when she says, “After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world – a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.” She also states, “One ever feels his twoness – an American, a Negro, two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled arrives; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” A quick look at American history makes it easy to understand where this split identity stems from.
According to PBS’ African American World Timeline (2004) there is a long standing history of not granting African Americans an identity. Before 1787, of course, African Americans were slaves and only thought of as chattel. In 1787 the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It provided for the continuation of the slave trade for another 20 years and stipulated that a slave counted as three-fifths of a man for purposes of representation by government. In 1865 some headway was gained when the Thirteenth Amendment was passed,...