Racial Stereotypes of Blacks in the Media
The media and stereotypes are two separate entities. However, many times these two matters commingle. The lines begin to blend and soon people may not be able to distinguish between these two affairs. The stereotypes are so welded into what is shown in the media. A stereotype is a generalization of a group of people. In and of themselves, stereotypes are not damaging. Stereotypes become damaging when they distort the view placed on a group of individuals. Unfortunately, the media warps their views on people to the general public for their own gain based on the stereotypes they manifest. The Black race is one that has been greatly affected by these stereotypes. Many believe that there are no biases in the media. Nevertheless, those people could not be more wrong. Yes, the media does display biases in the case of stereotypes. The media are motivated to continue to display stereotypes that present Blacks in a negative light.
Firstly, the media does not know how to transition out of the stereotypes that were created when television became popular. Black women were being portrayed as Mammies, Sapphires, and Welfare Queens. Sherri Burr, a professor of law, describes these stereotypes in her article dealing with television and its societal effects. A black woman that is portrayed as the "Mammy" stereotype is overweight and very nurturing towards the children that she watches over. A Sapphire is the opposite of a Mammy. While a Mammy is a woman of kindness and love, a Sapphire is a woman of cruelness and spite. A Welfare Queen is just that, a queen of welfare. She, in essence, lives off government money in order to support her children (166-67). Burr also mention that in the 1970s, shows such as "Good Times," Diff’rent Strokes," "That's My Mamma," and "What's Happening" nearly all a featured a black lady conveying the "mammy" stereotype (165-66). We see that when black women were first featured on television they already had stereotypical images attached to them. The "mammy" stereotype continued through the years. Dates and Mascaro conclude that "stereotyped black representations are usually frozen images, often incapable of growth, change, innovation, or transformation" (52). If stereotypes are incapable of change, they can quickly become problematic. Meenu Anand, a professor at the University of Delhi, realizes the importance of the media. In her paper dealing with television, she acknowledges that television "reflects dominant social values" (). Americans are constantly viewing what the media wants them to see. These stereotypes soon become ingrained people's minds, and before long, they cannot distinguish between stereotypes and reality.
The stereotypes continued through the years. Tyler Perry's "House of Payne" is a more recent show that displays some of these stereotypes. The mother is an overweight Black individual who cares for her kids. In a sense, she would seem to embody the Mammy stereotype. However, sometimes during the show her personality switches to that of the Sapphire stereotype. Another recent show that displays these stereotypes would be "Everybody Hates Chris." The mother on this show is a very loud Black mother who is usually cruel to her son Chris. She acts with the Sapphire stereotype. When treated with the utmost respect, however, she does soften a bit and son melds into the Mammy stereotype.
Blacks also are still seen as mentally inferior and indolent. Burr points out that in the 1950s, the show "Amos 'n' Andy" aired on television (162). This show had an all-black cast. Characters Beulah, Buckwheat, Amos, and Kingfish each had an unintelligent aura. The 1950s was an era in which a black's intelligence or supposed lack thereof was very prevalent. David Shipler author of A Country of Strangers responded saying, "The comedy [of Amos 'n' Andy] . . . often turned on dialect, crookedness, laziness, gullibility, and other forms of incompetence thought to be...
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