African Americans in Media

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For Decades, media has been censured for their imaging and representation of African Americans. Since the inception of the United States, African Americans have always been viewed as third-class citizens. Both African American men and women have always been stereotyped and still are today. The media portrays an image of African Americans that is misrepresented and biased. Arguably, they change how society treats and views African men and women in their social endeavors of life. This raises the question: Does the media correctly represent African Americans in our country? Does the media portray an image that is discriminating and skewed? There are various television shows, music entertainment, cinemas, and social media that prove that the representation of African Americans is very much discriminating and racist.

The bias of media has not only negatively affected African Americans’ relationship with the law and judicial system, but also the way that they are viewed in society. This social mechanism is allowing African Americans to struggle in society through socialism, as they are being denied basic human rights and social privileges. It could be argued that there is a pattern between African Americans and criminality, especially in the news where African Americans are not only represented and shown as criminals but also violent and threatening to the social environment. During the 19th century, African Americans in media were stereotyped as “dirty and useless” . However, these stereotypes in the media have gotten inferior in American society. For example, today African Americans in media are seen as violent, drug traffickers, ghetto, poor, uneducated, and thieves.

Evidently, the general public chooses not to view African Americans as who they really are because of what the media has labeled them. Arguably, this emphasizes Durkheim’s Labeling theory. Labeling theory is the act when an individual pre-judges another individual based on what they see, hear, and sometimes interpret. Sociologically speaking, this allowed many other racial groups in addition to the whites to start to draw conclusive observations that are inconclusive about African Americans. “Irish, Hispanics, Italian, Jewish, and Middle Easterners make up 12% of the individuals who stereotype African Americans” .Suggestively, African Americans are constantly discriminated against in America today because they must fit specific criteria in the social environment. Meaning, African Americans are forced to represent themselves under other racial groups’ approval whether discriminative or non-discriminative. Media represents African Americans in ways that aren’t correct. For example, the hip-hop industry.

African American men are viewed as thugs or being a murderer. Likewise, African American women are viewed as “gold diggers” and a “ride or die chick”. African American women in these music videos play multiple sex roles. Studies have shown that “African American women are represented in music as voluptuous and disparaging” . Then again, studies have further shown that since females are treated poorly in music videos, they tend to be more tolerant of sexual abuse and sexism. Arguably, this shows a misogynic on African American women. In a music video with multiple African American women, men are “respected” or “commended” to having multiple women while being seen as a player while the African American women are seen as promiscuous and desperate. Clearly, this is normalizing sexism towards black women which is both demoralizing and inhumane. There are a plethora of reality television sitcoms that are lensed around African Americans; However, these television series’ image and represent African Americans in a dehumanizing way. For instance, the reality television show “Love and Hip-Hop”.

Arguably, this reality television show mirrors African American women as high-tempered, violent and licentious. According to the Sociologist Steven F Gray, there are four forms of stereotypes of African American on television. The four forms of stereotypes are the “black best friend, ghetto thug, and the arrogant woman”. The two common stereotypes seen is the black best friend and arrogant woman. Evidently, the black best friend is the individual who helps a white individual out of an incriminating situation and the arrogant woman is represented as the sassy and eye-rolling individual. Based on a study found in the Dualism and Functionalism journal, “African American women found these stereotypes false representations and illustrations, and that these stereotypes are making women as a whole struggle socially”. This is true for African American men as well. It could be argued that there is a disproportionate amount of African American men acting roles on television that fuels the racial stereotype that African Americans are faced with, such as African Americans being violent and having no respect for the law.

Isn’t it sad that this is what the media feeds the general public? Arguably, this has caused society to develop an interest for these shows that represent discriminating images and we do not realize how damaging and toxic these television sitcoms can be but it’s what sparks the drama, right? For instance, in “Love and Hip-Hop” they display disrespectful acts and conduct of African American men and forcibly accept that African American men power is only seen sexually. Looking at the network from these Reality television shows, VH1 is based on the concept of “high-tempered African American women”. For example, the television show “Bad Girls Club’. Theoretically speaking, the “Bad Girls Club” was just another way to belittle women. “The majority demographic of the BGC was African American women”. In this television show, the “baddest” girls were always African American. The criteria of a “bad girl” were hyper-sexualized, extremely violent, and loud. What does this say about African American women? Although African American women in reality television shows are professional actors, they are characterized and brought down by the familiarized stereotypes we see of African American women. Historically, African Americans actresses were being represented as jezebels, sexual restrained women, highly-tempered, and extremely violent.

The most impactful female stereotype was the Jezebel. The Jezebel stereotype is a promiscuous woman with an urging sex appeal. The image of Jezebel; in fact, in early cinemas was justified as a sexual affiliation which in theory was rape and sexual abuse between white males and African American females. The degrading, disgusting, and dehumanizing stereotypes that are acted by African American women are what have structured and framed society the view of them in the United States today. The more African American women that continue to create films with stereotypical leads the more discriminating views they will get. Doesn’t society think that women especially African American women go through enough? “African American women face segregation, wage gaps, and low economic and social stratification”. Tenure in media is what helps control what is being leaked to the public. African Americans have always been unrepresented when having a strong and influential role in the media. Especially, on news broadcasts. Without an individual representing African Americans, the media can “spoon feed” what they believe based on their intuition and not actual facts to the public. According to William Chambliss, an American criminologist, “the media is a vital source of information about African Americans and their social representation”. The image that the media filtrates influence publicity that is capable of augmenting perceptions of African Americans.

According to CNN News, “African Americans has the highest crime rates than any other racial group”. This begs the question: Does the media correctly represent African Americans in our country? No! Arguably, the media “hand picks” and chooses what to feed to the audience. Because there are so many stereotypes and micro-aggressions of African Americans, it will result in more of a popularized moral panic. African Americans are misrepresented on the scope of racist entertainment. There needs to be more support for African Americans in media. When the media images African American men and women in a discriminating way, the aftermaths are acted in reality. Due to these discriminatory actions, African Americans are denied jobs because they are not the “right fit”. Secondly, African Americans are treated as suspicious and as suspects by police officers on the street. The media creates a portrait of stereotypes that put African Americans into an unnatural and inescapable social dilemma. For example, in the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case, Zimmerman a white police officer shot a seventeen-year-old black male- Trayvon Martin. Why? According to Zimmerman’s interview “Trayvon was alone making him suspicious and armed, so he shot him because he saw it in a movie once”. These stereotypes are causing people to react violently. Arguably, this murder case emphasizes how the power of media forces us to indulge in these stereotypical and discriminating acts.

Additionally, there are multiple incidents similar to this one because of the stereotypes of African Americans. Such as the killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Therefore, we need to take the proper steps to correct our mistakes. In doing so, we will make it easier for everyone to live their lives. Not only the media, but everyone needs to rid of the stereotypes that have been created. By eliminating the stereotypes that everyone has created we will create equal opportunity and treatment of people of all races, genders, and identities. If the media began portraying everyone as equal and not singling certain people out for poor decisions that all types of people have made, the world would become a much less hostile place to live and nobody would feel like “the entire world is out to get them.” This, in turn, will result in equal treatment and respect of every single person of all kinds, making getting all jobs, attending all events, and being portrayed in all settings the same, giving us all an equal opportunity to strive in our lives in all ways possible.


“African Americans and Pathological Stereotypes.” Psychology Today. 2015. Accessed December 04, 2018. Aya5472. “Gender, Race, and Media.” SiOWfa15 Science in Our World Certainty and Controversy. 2015. Accessed December 04, 2018. “The Problem of African American Underrepresentation in City Councils.” Demos. Accessed December 04, 2018. “Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans.” Ferris State University: Michigan College Campuses in Big Rapids MI, Grand Rapids MI, Off Campus Locations Across Michigan. Accessed December 04, 2018. “Black-white Wage Gaps Expand with Rising Wage Inequality.” Economic Policy Institute. Accessed December 04, 2018.

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African Americans in Media. (2021, Feb 24). Retrieved from

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