Media Portrayal of Blacks in an Ever-Changing Society
They are ingrained In our minds In some form or another, and many times are subconscious. Tolerance is the 21st century answer to this issue, UT that was not always the case, even In the media, an establishment Intended to entertain the public as a whole. This paper will discuss the following question: why is priming still used to stereotype black culture In American media when we live in a time where egalitarian norms have made it unfavorable to appear prejudiced? In essence.
I want to understand why the media still portrays blacks to fit their historical stereotypes, even though we live In a colliding nation. It is an important question because this stereotyping contradicts the values and beliefs of the majority of American citizens and the way we want to advance as an open-minded society. History of Stereotyping To begin answering this question, we must first look at the history of how black stereotypes were used in the media, beginning with entertainment.
Nineteenth and early twentieth century plays featured black characters, played by white actors, and usually took the part of a few major stereotypes: the caretaker, or black woman who took care of household chores of whites, the Incompetent buffoon who had difficulty assimilating in a white society because of his stupidity, and the aggressive and sordidly black who disrupted the peaceful white society (Dixon). More often than not, these stereotypes fit the culture of the south rather than the north, simply because of geographic and economic factors.
Even In literature. Blacks were portrayed as dimwitted, lazy creatures that lacked morals and standards (Wilson). One of the most famous ways blacks were portrayed in the media In the nineteenth and twentieth century was the application of black makeup to white actors, who acted as one of the aforementioned roles in performances. “Blackjack” as It was allied, was used up to World War l, when black actors began taking the stage, although limited to the roles they could play (Blatant). Up until the sass’s, blacks were still heavily stereotyped in the media.
This early priming set the stage for new mediums to depict these stereotypes, mainly in television and advertising. Blacks in Advertising We are now able to look at how priming was and still is used in television advertising, beginning in the offs when television became a mass medium. Although we sometimes do not realize it, stereotypical advertisements are quite prevalent in days media. Take one look at Aunt Jimmie. The Infamous maple syrup lady. She clearly represents the “mamma” stereotype; a polite, calm, down home southern maid who merrily lives to serve others.
The marketers goal Is to prime us to Imagine a 1 OFFS sweet tempered mother Teller serving us Dreariest when we think AT pancakes Ana maple syrup. Quaker Oats is not the only conglomerate that is priming us with stereotypes through advertisements. Before the black civil rights movement, it was commonplace in the south to call an older black man “uncle” as a sign of disrespect Weatherperson). Uncle Ben’s rice products feature a grinning elderly black man with a suit and a bow tie. Uncle Ben represents the stereotypical post-civil War well dressed subservient attendant who catered to the every wish of his white overseer.
In this instance, the advertisers of Uncle Ben’s Rice Bowls prime the public to believe we are being served by Uncle Ben because the meal is quick easy to make. Based on stereotypes we have learned throughout our lives, this image and label strengthens our predispositions, and makes us think of the black elderly servant that Uncle Ben is meant to be. It is not Just fictional characters illustrated as logos that prime us to think of black stereotypes when exposed to advertising.
Frito-Lay, Storage, and even MAT are among dozens of corporations that prime its audiences to assume black stereotypes with their messages. Argued as one of the funniest commercials in the 2010 Superpower, the infamous Traitors commercial was perceived by many people as stereotyping blacks and black culture. In the commercial, a black man walks into his date’s house, where an attractive black woman answers the door, saying that she will e ready soon. She introduces him to her young child, who is playing video games.
When his date turns and walks into the next room, the man obviously stares at the woman’s buttocks in admiration, and picks up a Traitor from the boys bowl. Upon seeing both of these actions, the little boy slaps the man across the face, and says, “Keep your hands off my mama, and keep your hands off my Traitors. ” This commercial portrays a few age old stereotypes of blacks, and some fairly new black American stereotypes. First, the stereotype of the highly sexually aggressive black ale comes into play when the black man clearly checks out the black woman’s behind.
Although this stereotype is common among young male adults of all races in American culture, it reinforces the overlapping historical stereotype of the sexually aggressive black man. In addition, this ad depicts the relatively new stereotype of the single black female mother. In 2000, the percentage of black single mothers reached 62 percent (Raspberry). In lower class black families, the percentage is even higher. Another stereotype that exists in this commercial is the defiant, insubordinate black hill. With increased exposure to ghetto customs due to pop culture, black children have been stereotyped as being disobedient and unruly.
Especially now that ghetto culture is being glorified in pop culture, black children could potentially feel the need to fit this “positive” stereotype and act in accordance to what is expected of them in this society. This stereotype is especially detrimental to young black males because that culture places a negative connotation on academic success, and at such a crucial point in one’s life, it can be unfavorable for these adolescents to accept this reconciled notion of unruliness and petty criminal activity.
Priming in the Music Industry It is quite clear to anyone who watches MAT or follows the hip-hop scene that the major themes presented in the songwriting and music videos are the following: making money, having sexual (and sometimes violent) relations with women, doing drugs, Ana Delve Involved In criminal actively Rap music, wanly was primarily created in the Bronx by blacks and Latino, “became the cry of ghetto pain and ultimately their great hope for a way out. ” Evidently, MAT focuses on the hip-hop genre to be the rug of its music videos and television shows.
Because hip-hop is undisputed governed largely by black rappers who weave tales of the difficulty of ghetto life, gaining money through drug/gang related activities, and sexually exploiting women, MAT is priming its audiences of millions of teens to associate hip-hop and the ghetto life with black people. It is necessary to skew slightly off topic but stay relevant to my original question by making the bold assertion that MAT plays a large part in maintaining and promoting the racial differences between blacks and the rest of the American community that eave existed for centuries.
In the article Predicting Cognitive and Behavioral Effects of Gangs Rap, it is stated that “a number of prominent African American leaders, the National Black Women’s Political Caucus, and eminent African American scholars have been highly vocal in their outrage over the music (industry), labeling it as racially popularizing and, ultimately self destructive” (Hansen). Teens are the single most suggestible age group, and are inclined to emulate popular icons based not only on their accomplishments in their certain field, but also their apparent inference, which the majority of teens tend to lack based on social norms and biological changes.
There has been a history of arrests in the hip-hop world among the most prominent artists in the genre, including Ill Wayne and Outpace Shaker (Martinez). Both were sentenced for involvement in criminal activity. These celebrities should not be emulated for their involvement in crime, but since their entire image is based around this lifestyle, it makes teens think delinquency is acceptable or even admired.
This long standing stereotype of the black criminal is only being reinforced y MAT and the hip-hop genre, which promotes criminal activity and the mistreatment of women, as well as primes the public to perceive lower class blacks as involved in crime. Ultimately, commercials prime us to subconsciously digest racial stereotypes, and many times we do not realize it simply because of our inherent and ingrained beliefs about certain cultures.
These specific cases reveal how priming is still used to stereotype black culture in advertisements even though we live in a time where egalitarian norms have made it unfavorable to appear prejudiced. The Power of Implicit Racial Messages The crux of my question lies within the theory of implicit racial appeals. How is it that the media can influence the public through racial messages in a society where the norm is to reject any form of racial segregation? According to A Theory of Racial Appeals, whites will accept implicit racial messages if two circumstances are presented.
They want to appear to be completely color blind and not reveal their inherent prejudices to society, but they also wish to remain above blacks as a culture in society. While these circumstances can be argued to be true or false on an individual level, they remain true as a whole for the white population in America. Many people also feel that it is unacceptable to think of oneself as a racist, which contradicts their wish to keep blacks down in society. Implicit racial messaging mainly occurs in politics, where the Job of politicians is to code words and phrases in order to Innocence.
In one Instance, In a 1 House Tate auto Violent creme Control, Republicans argued against a piece of legislation granting money for a midnight basketball program meant to offer inner city youths recreational activities. Republicans mockingly argued that “hugs for thugs” was not necessary for these youths. Democrats ended up charging the Republicans as being racist, and using coded language in the bill an implicit racial message, designed to influence the decision in their favor (Hurwitz).
The Power of Explicit Racial Messages Just as implicit racial messages influence by using encoded language to reveal the underlying racial implication, explicit racial messages need not use code words or phrases to veil its fundamental inference. Essentially, the point of an explicit racial usage is to make a clear statement that points out an obvious claim that would be considered racist among the majority of the population. One way explicit racial messaging is used in the media is through comedy shows such as Family Guy and South Park.
In one episode of Family Guy, a black man and a white man are in a bowling alley, and the black man mentions how he “feels a strange satisfaction when the black ball knocks over the self righteous white pins. ” The white man responds that it is not the white pins’ fault for being self righteous because the black ball is in their neighborhood uninvited. The black man then responds that the black ball has done nothing wrong, to which the white man responds that if the black ball is innocent it has nothing to fear.
This type of comedy is considered an explicit racial message, about how a group of whites are stereotypically uncomfortable and unwelcoming to a black person who enters into the vicinity. In addition, it demonstrates how whites believe that blacks are always up to no good. This type of messaging is considered detrimental in a serious tone, yet only considered crass or crude when presented in a comedic light. This type of message indeed primes the audience to consider stereotypes when observing the media presented.
The Importance of Our Cultural Backgrounds While it is clear that priming is used in the media to influence the public perception, many believe that these subtle influences are wrong. Many people believe that cultural priming shows racial differences in a negative light, and that the media should make sure that race or culture does not come into play when advertising. However, different cultures make life more colorful, and our differences should be celebrated, not shunned. One’s cultural heritage is something to be proud f, not hidden or masked.
In the case of the Aunt Jimmie maple syrup, a black person should not be offended that a black mother like figure is the logo of a company. History is history, and even if the company came out and explicitly stated that the intention of this logo is to represent a motherly figure that was commonplace in the American south during the nineteenth century, why should anyone be mad? That is like saying that a pizzeria is prejudiced for having a ceramic statue of a man with a moustache and an olive complexion holding a pizza outside the restaurant.
People would be celebrating their culture heritage and their cultural history, not trying to pretend the bad or embarrassing parts did not occur. While many people argue that equality is what our founding fathers based our declaration of independence on, it can be argued that our society has become too sensitive when it comes to race and culture. The media has been attacked numerous times for not being “sensitive” enough toward certain groups. It Is now commonplace to read In ten news Tanat a reporter was fired for saying “lynching,” or a politically incorrect term is being banned from television and print.
Conclusion Ultimately, there is not one answer to explain why priming is still used to stereotype black culture in American media when we live in a time where egalitarian norms have made it unfavorable to appear prejudiced. However, if we forget these stereotypes or any other cultural stereotype due to the increasingly exaggerated sensitivity and politically correctness we as Americans seem to have adopted, we will lose a part of history that has had great significance in who we are today, how we live and how far we have come as a society in accepting or rejecting certain customs.