The Representation of African Americans in Modern Media

Although the modern society is considered to be based on the principles of equality, some stereotypes have been implanted so deep into people’s minds that they still affect the way that certain members of the society are represented (Blum 41). Particularly, the issue of race deserves to be listed among the most topical issues on the agenda.

Although the present-day society is considered to be based on the tenets of equity, there are some prejudices that affect the image of African Americans (Holt 110). Trickling into traditional and modern media, these prejudices affect the relations between the representatives of African American community and the rest of the U.S. residents.

A closer look at some of the modern representations of African American people in media will reveal that the latter is aimed at not getting the image of the specified community right, but, instead, to exploit it and, therefore, perpetuate some of the stereotypes related to the Black culture. The specified phenomenon can be traced back to the beginning of the introduction of equity principles into the American society (Arora and Wu 92).

The phenomenon in question, in fact, should be viewed as rather ambiguous. On the one hand, by representing the African American community as harmless as possible, one contributes to eliminating the stereotype of Black people being linked to drugs and crimes. Seeing that the latter misconception is also very popular in the contemporary society (Tosi 13), the image in question can be viewed as a positive one. However, in terms of acknowledging the African American community members as active and self-sufficient, the specified portrayal is a huge step backwards.

Chance, the Rapper
Figure 1. Chance, the Rapper (Album Cover) (“Chance the Rapper” par. 1)

In other words, the image above, though admittedly attempting at relating to topical political issues and clearly being a satirical representation of the current political situation, still lacks certain affirmative elements that could help the audience relate to the identity of the person in the picture. It, thus, perpetuates the image of African Americans as harmless and inactive.

The specifics of the Black culture, however, must also be borne in mind when addressing the issue of media bias. At times media becomes so politically correct that it erases every traceable sign of individuality of the person or people mentioned, leaving little to no room for expressing the uniqueness of a specific culture and defining the identity of its members (Muhammad 232).

Nevertheless, it is obvious that the modern representation of African American people is guided by the European Americans’ idea of who Black people are and what they should be.

Despite the fact that a range of American people, as well as people all over the world have learned much about the African American culture owing to the introduction of the latter’s elements into media, the fact that the current image thereof differs considerably from what the specified denizens of the U.S. population would like to be represented as and what they actually are cannot be denied.

Thriving on the need to perpetuate the stereotype of Black people as harmless and non-threatening, the specified stereotypes do more harm than they do goods, as they open a plethora of opportunities for people to underestimate the culture of Black people and, therefore, get a wrong idea about who African American people are.

Works Cited

Chance the Rapper.” n. d. JPG file.

Arora, Anshu Saxena and Jun Wu. “How Can You Activate ‘Incongruence’ in ‘Customized Communications’ Through African-American Stereotypes? Measuring ‘Customized Communication Incongruity’ in Advertising.” Journal of Marketing Development and Competitiveness 6.5 (2012): 83–106. Print.

Blum, Paul von. “African American Visual Representation: From Repression to Resistance.” Journal of Pan African Studies 5.8 (Dec. 2012): 41–51. Print.

Holt, Lanier Frush. “Writing the Wrong: Can Counter-Stereotypes Offset Negative Media Messages about African Americans?” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly 90.1 (2013): 108-125. Print.

Muhammad, Gholnecsar A. “Searching for Full Vision: Writing Representations of African American Adolescent Girls.” Research in the Teaching of English 49.3 (2015): 224–247. Print.

Tosi, Paula. ” Thinking About What We See: Using Media Literacy to Examine Images of African Americans on Television.” Black History Bulletin 74.1 (2011): 13–20. Print.