The Perpetuation of Negative Images of African Ame Essay

This essay has a total of 1733 words and 7 pages.

The Perpetuation of Negative Images of African Americans through Mass Media

The Perpetuation of Negative Images of African Americans through Mass Media

Why as white people have we been lulled into thinking its safe to be around other white
people. Why have we been taught since birth that it's the people of that other color we
need to fear? They're the ones that will slit your throat (Moore 57). The mass media has
played and will continue to play a crucial role in the way white Americans perceive
African-Americans. As a result of the overwhelming media focus on crime, drug use, gang
violence, and other forms of anti-social behavior among African-Americans, the media is
fostering a distorted public perception of African-Americans. Looking at past examples of
African Americans treatment in the media, one can see that the media has become the main
perpetrator through which oppression, discrimination and the treatment of African
Americans as second class citizens is carried out.

As a result of this media bias, white America has suffered from a deep uncertainty as to
who African-Americans really are. The media stereotype of bad guys wearing black or that
anything that is black is evil has been fostered for decades. Looking at one of the oldest
sources in the media (the dictionary) you clearly see racist overtones in the definitions
of any words starting with black or white. Black is defined as opposite to white, African
American, soiled or stained, and evil or wicked just to name a few of the definitions
(Webster 68). I believe this not only fosters a subconscious negative view of African
Americans, but also makes many white people think they are some how better than blacks.
The defense put on by the four white Los Angeles police officers accused of beating Rodney
King in 1991, and the recent case in Ohio, are very telling of this. They claimed that
they were scared and felt they might have been attacked or even killed (88). This is a
legitimate excuse in a white American society that perpetuates negative images of African
Americans. Whites have come to believe that their life is in danger every time they're
confronted with a black person and that some how their life is worth more than a black
person's life. Their fear and their bias is a manifestation of a deep-rooted media bias
that anything black is bad and anything white is pure and good. This media bias has also
been illustrated in the Susan Smith case. Smith was the South Carolina woman who made
headlines when she claimed that a black male kidnapped her two young children. It turned
out that Smith herself had killed them. However, the finger pointing that her accusations
set off show precisely the media's influence on white America and the media's push to
blame African Americans (the bad guys) for social ills. This same reflex can also be seen
in many other cases in American history.

"I turn on the news each night and what do I see again and again? African Americans
alleged to be killing, raping, mugging, stabbing, gangbanging, looting, rioting, selling
drugs, pimping, ho-ing, having to many babies, dropping babies from tenement windows,
fatherless, penniless, and Godless" (Moore 59). The media has devoted too much time and
space perpetuating these negative views of African Americans and far too little time
describing the background problems of African-American communities. "What is not a crisis
is not usually reported and what is not or cannot be made visual is often not televised"
(Racist America 154). The news media respond quickly and with keen interest to the
conflicts and controversies of racial stories. For the most part, "they disregard the
problems that seep beneath the surface until they erupt in the hot steam that is the live
news story, ‘The suspect is a black male' we've all seen it" (Racist America 154). The
media has not studied important events in the African-American community today. Issues
such as urbanization, education, and poverty, just to name a few that have and will
continue to have a significant bearing on positions of the black community just aren't
being covered. A good example of this is the media portrayal of the Los Angeles riot in
1992. "What we witnessed in Los Angeles was the consequence of a lethal linkage of
economic decline, cultural decay, and political disillusionment in American life. Race was
the visible catalyst, not the underlying cause, as media portrayed it to be" (Racist
America 59). The portrayal of this individual event encouraged the perception that the
black community was solely responsible for the riots and disturbances. According to
reports, of those arrested, only 36% were black; of those arrested, more than a third had
full-time jobs and most had no political affiliation. Some 60% of the rioters and looters
were made up of whites and Hispanics that's almost twice as much as African Americans
(Racist America 63). Yet the media did not report this significant underlying fact. The
media portrayal of this event along with other race riots has again inflicted negative
charges amongst the black community and the awareness of others. Race riots in Miami in
1980 were similar to the later Los Angeles riots (Racist America 59). Here the media also
refused to search for the underlying cause behind the protest choosing instead "only to
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