There has always been a lot of discussion about the perception of African Americans in the media and how it affects their self-identity. It is easy to find examples of bias in portraying African Americans in the media. So what exactly is it that the media does to bring out these stereotypes, biases, and images that tend to stick with a lot of African Americans? The goal of this paper is to explore the different perceptions African Americans have gone through, how it has given them a sense of double consciousness on life, where the media image of African Americans that has stuck with them for so long can, and will go from here. According to the United States Census Bureau (2001), 12.3% of all people reporting as one race reported they were “Black or African American”. This ethnic identity is now the second biggest minority group in the United States. It also refers to a group of people that has been in the United States for as long as it has existed. However, through the persecution of slavery, the austerity of segregation, and the continuing underlying prejudice, African Americans are still searching for their true identity. Just as children that were adopted tend to long for a true identity most of their lives, so are the circumstances of the African American. Stolen from their homeland and forced into slavery in a new country, African Americans were basically victims of identity theft. Although a lot of progress has been made in the way of an American identity for African Americans, a true identity has not yet been found. According to W.E.B DuBois (1903) “The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self” (p. 68). Many African Americans feel the same as W.E.B. Du Bois when he says, “After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world – a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.” He also states, “One ever feels his twoness – an American, a Negro, two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled arrives; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” A quick look at American history makes it easy to understand where this split identity stems from because Du Bois claims that African Americans were always forced to see things through “white” eyes only and not have a vision of their own.
In an effort to rephrase Du Bois’ comment above, the terminology of “twoness” is really him trying to define double consciousness as a few different things: 1 the power that white stereotypes have on African American’s lives and also having that internal conflict between labeling themselves as African and American simultaneously. 2 it is a sense of awareness of one’s self along with the awareness of how others may perceive one. This in turn leads to conforming based on level of power, which is basically what occurred. PBS’ African American World Timeline (2004) says that there is a large history of not granting African Americans an identity. Before 1787, of course, African Americans were slaves and only thought of as property. In 1787 the U.S. Constitution was approved. It allowed for the continuation of the slave trade for another 20 years and claimed that a slave counted as three-fifths of a man for representation by the government. In 1865 some progress was gained when the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, outlawing slavery and creating a Freedmen’s Bureau to help out former slaves. Also in 1865 Union General, William Sherman issued a field order setting up 40-acre plots of land in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida for African Americans to settle. But, in 1866, some all-white legislatures in the former Confederate states passed what were known as,...
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