number five asks if "the mass media realistically portray images of African Americans." To what extent the media portray anything realistically could, undoubtedly, be questioned. African Americans have certainly been portrayed as something less than brilliant at some point in all forms of media. I feel that this trend continues to some extent, but an increase in black ownership and black awareness will eventually all but defeat negative media.
The form of media that has, over hundreds of years, had the most destructive effect on peoples of African descent would be the print media, though not really mentioned by either author. Europeans, upon "discovering" blacks, wrote about their supposedly inferior culture. Abolitionists wrote about equality, while their opponents discussed superiority. The print media did not stop bashing blacks cold turkey after the Civil War. Even such recent publications as The Bell Curve, without intent, have continued to hurt African Americans today.
The print media has done more to help than to hurt in recent years. Books and articles dealing with civil rights, black history, and such issues as Afrocentricity have popped up to help preserve, or create, an identity. Papers similar to the Milwaukee Community Journal attempt to express the views of many African Americans. Ebony and Jet are two of numerous magazines that deal with black issues. A few of these magazines have been established because of the advent of the Hip Hop culture.
Rap exploded onto the music scene about ten years ago. Dyson feels that rap music and black film are the "flourishing independent popular culture" of the black male. Just as broken-hearted Caucasians identify with country music, so do young blacks with rap. Rap is more than just a catchy beat with a lot of bass. The lyrics can promote thought via the use of comedy and violence. Hearing Public Enemy proclaim that "9-1-1 is a joke in yo' town," is somehow is more powerful than Ted Koppel telling us that 9-1-1 is occasionally slow to react in urban districts.
Black ownership would help in the distribution of information in a manner that is pretty much non-existent, save for a few radio stations. Censorship of rap on the airwaves is an unfortunate result of violent or just dirty lyrics. The feelings behind the rap music could still be discussed, even if the actual words are not used. In the music industry, African Americans do not own a lot of labels, but a sense of cooperation seems to exist to some extent, and it is growing.
Black film was the main topic of Dyson's argument that the media can and do portray African American's realistically. He tells us that the movie The Boys in the Hood addresses "gang violence, drug addiction, black male-female relationships, domestic joys and pains, [and] friendships." An underlying theme of a black male trying to come to maturity also exists according to Dyson. This movie tells a violent, yet moving story that has similarities to the lives many inner-city youths.
The goal of a black film director, in my opinion, should be to get the audience to feel for and identify with the characters. Singleton, with The Boys in the Hood, gets us to feel for Tre, Ricky, and Dough Boy. This was done to show how three unique personalities react to similar circumstances. Another movie that shows violence as more than just a horrible act by an unknown is Zooman. We see how a family reacts to the murder of a daughter, with an emphasis on the choices of the teenage son. We also get to see the internal turmoil that arises in the killer with equal importance. The final embrace where Zooman is dying in the arms of his victim's brother deals with pain, forgiveness, and brotherhood very powerfully. The scene is reminiscent of the embrace between Tre and Doughboy mentioned by Dyson.
Movies that portrayed a black as a sort of "Noble Savage" have existed since before the Civil Rights Movement. Sydney Poitier in such movies as Lilies of the Field, or In the Heat of the Night along with The Jackie Robinson Story were good movies about the relationship between blacks and whites. These movies, along with many until present day, did not always deal with the African Americans living in their own communities and dealing with other blacks. A few exceptions like Raisin in the Sun dealt with feelings, how movies about blacks are hopefully leaning towards today. We can only hope that an influx of African American directors will limit the number of movies like Colors that are based mainly on the violence of the black community.
We now must examine the medium that everybody uses, which is television. Dates and Barlow use advertising as their argument that the image of blacks is not improving. We learn how the advertisers ignored blacks until there was "overwhelming evidence that it would bring them huge profits" not to ignore these consumers. The advertisers did not want to alienate Caucasian customers, so they rarely used African Americans in the commercials. Even now that the advertisers realize that no ill-effects occur, they still hesitate to use blacks, even if profits will increase. I would chalk this one up as stupidity along with a bit of racism. Commercials do not portray African Americans in an unfavorable way if they are not portrayed at all. Dates and Barlow also mentioned that commercials with black musicians singing show whites dancing around. The music used is also not rap or R&B, rather it is music that whites would dance to.
African Americans do appear quite frequently on television. We may not see black dominated commercials, but "token" blacks do appear with white friends. African Americans are seen on soap operas and sitcoms, dramas and documentaries. These blacks are not necessarily portrayed realistically, but neither are the whites. Black friends in school jokingly mocked whites for being mass-murderers, while the Caucasian faction regarded the African Americans as gangsters. We drive Fords, while they drive Cadillacs. We smoke pot and they smoke crack. These stereotypes are all aided by television, but not exclusively. My point is that little on television is portrayed too realistically, based on race or religion, and it cuts both ways.
The mass media can help a race or potentially help to condemn it. I feel the African Americans have fought and won many battles against racism in the media. There is certainly room for improvement, which undoubtedly will be addressed by future generations of African Americans.
ned. African Americans have certainly been portrayed as somethin...