The Perpetuation of Negative Images of African Americans through Mass Media

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The Perpetuation of Negative Images of African Americans through Mass Media

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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 cas...

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...image we have seen, read, heard and ultimately come to believe of Malcolm X which is far from the truth. In short Malcolm X is much more than the violent man he is made out to be. To me, he is a prophet the media should portray him that way.

“The mass media is the most powerful entity on the earth. The media has the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent; and that’s power. They control the minds of the masses… You don’t have to lie to them you just have to be selective about what you tell them-because human beings gather information and they form opinions based on the information you have given them” (Malcolm X 56). Until the spoon fed white America opens their eyes to this injustice, the media will continue to portray a self-serving negative stereotype of the African-American community. Until the public acknowledges the media’s influence in the perpetuation of negative images of African Americans, white America will continue to oppress, and African Americans will continue to be looked upon as second class citizens. In the words of rap star Chuck D. of Public Enemy, “Don’t believe the hype,” or more concretely, don’t selectively not believe the hype.
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