Identity of African American Men

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The Identity of African American Men: How has it been displayed in the Media; negatively or positively?

“No metaphor can capture completely the complexity of ethnic dynamics in the U.S. ‘Melting pot’ ignores the persistence and reconfiguration of the ethnicity over the generations. ‘Mosaic,’ much more apt for pluralistic societies such as Kenya or India, is too static a metaphor; it fails to take in to account the easy penetration of many ethnic boundaries. Nor is ‘salad bowl’ appropriate; the ingredients of a salad bowl are mixed but do not change. ‘Rainbow’ is a tantalizing metaphor, but rainbows disappear. ‘Symphony,’ like ‘rainbow,’ implies near perfect harmony; both fail to take into account the variety and range of ethnic conflict in the United States.

The most accurately descriptive metaphor, the one that best explains the dynamics of ethnicity, is ‘kaleidoscope.’ American ethnicity is kaleidoscopic, i.e. ‘complex and varied, changing form, pattern, color… continually shifting from one set of relations to another; rapidly changing.’ When a kaleidoscope is in motion, the parts give the appearance of relationships. The viewer sees and endless variety of variegated patterns, just as takes place on the American ethnic landscape.”- Lawrence Fuchs (Literature for Composition 1032)

“Identity in America” was the theme chosen by my English 201 study group. This theme was taken from chapter twenty two of the Literature for composition: Reading and Writing Argument text book. However, I focused the broad theme of “Identity in America” to the more narrowed theme of “The Display of African American men in the media.” I chose this theme or topic because I felt that I can relate to it and as a matter of fact, it was also interesting to me. But in order to conduct my research on the particular topic, I came up with the following question, “How has the identity of African American men been displayed by the media: negatively or positively?” This question was chosen in order to provoke an argument for discussion. I conducted several interviews in order to acquire information about my selected topic. The media’s display of the identity of African American men can be discussed or looked at from two angles: negatively or positively.

First, from my experience I can say that the media displays African American men in both lights, negatively and positively. But after conducting interviews with several individuals, my opinion has somewhat changed. I was always aware of the negative images of African/black men in the media. But I was not aware that this display had evolved overtime.

My first interview was conducted with April T. Glasgow, a communications major at the University of the Virgin Islands on Wednesday 20th February 2008, at approximately ten o’clock in the morning. We conducted the interview at her dorm’s lobby. I had explained the topic prior to meeting with her, so she already had an idea about what issue the discussion would be addressing. Generally, her opinion was that black men were being exploited and portrayed negatively by the media. She also stated strongly that black men were too often portrayed or given the roles of thugs, gangsters, and pimps in films and magazines. In addition, a suggestion she made on how we could resolve this stereotype was that black people must unite and stand up against these negative portrayals especially those in rap music videos.

The second interview was carried out that same day with Professor Alex Randall. His general statements were that the media has changed over the years. “The negative portrayals of the 1960’s and 1970’s have changed,” Randall stated. Randall felt that in modern times, people of color were treated more fairly and given a more positive portrayal in the media. Randall stated that there were many positive images in the media of African Americans, such as Denzel Washington, Barack Obama, Michael Jordan, and Bill Cosby. In addition, Randall said...
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