Negative Images in the Media Lead to Racial Stereotypes

Unfortunately racial stereotypes are still alive and well in this country despite progressive steps to eliminate it. My previous article on generational racism explained to some degree why racial stereotypes through racism still exist. However, there is another reason why racial stereotypes exist and that is through the media. News, movies, cop dramas, and crime documentaries often contain many racial stereotypes that continue to perpetuate racial myths and stereotypes in our society.

The Black male, and oftentimes, the Hispanic male, are constantly betrayed as violent, angry and hostile, criminally minded, lazy, lacking intelligence, and engaging in illegal activity, mainly drug dealing or robbery. If convicted of a crime or a suspect in a crime, the news media will often show a mug shot photo of a black male but will show a less offensive picture of a white male. Movies and crime shows often show Black males as the offender, running from the police, being disrespectful or involved in hostile situations. The problem is not that they show this behavior but they show it constantly, over and over again, overwhelmingly portraying negative images, and therefore, racial stereotypes of Black males. This, in turn, perpetuates racial stereotypes. Showing these images repeatedly creates a racial stereotype in the minds of those watching. Pretty soon the viewer believes all black males act a certain way.

The same negative image portrayed by the media is turned around when it comes to white females. White females are often portrayed as innocent or the victim of crimes. Shows like forensic files or cold case files (not the drama on primetime TV but the reality show on the cable networks) seem to only focus mostly on crimes that involve a white female as the victim. A crime that includes a black male victim is never shown. And we know based on crime statistics and reports, that black males have a high likelihood of becoming a murder victim and are disproportionately the victims of violent crimes. Another example of the media being responsible for influencing or continuing racial stereotypes is in the movies. Movies, in particular the ones about gang violence or living in urban areas, focus on black males committing crimes, running from the police, and being hostile or angry.

A movie called Menace to Society, which was produced by Black men, was a complete disservice and totally negative portrayal of black men. These same producers could have produced a movie showing black men in a positive light, instead of getting caught up the desired “street life” and perpetuating the myth that there is something good and respectable about being a thug and involved in criminal activity. Other movies like Colors portrayed black men as animals, showing no emotion and knowing nothing more then to engage in violent, criminal behavior, a racial stereotype. Another racial stereotype in police shows like forensic files and cold case files is how often the police or detectives mention a black suspect or offender as evil when they have committed a murder, how dastardly the crime was and how low down the offender is. However, crimes committed by white males are stated as being clever, cunning and crafty, and even intelligent.

Understand that the media has every right to provide us with the news, accurate news. My concern is that the media constantly bombards us with negative images of non-whites, in particular black males, and that is what perpetuates racial stereotypes. Seeing images over and over again becomes a perceived reality in many people’s mind, despite the fact that the perception is not real or inaccurate. Racial stereotypes are based on a lack of knowledge of another group of people. A good place to learn about other people could be through the media outlets. However for the most part, it seems the media prefers to continue portraying negative racial stereotypes. The media needs to take more responsibility in the way they cover stories but that will probably never happen due to the fact that most news stories or crime dramas are aired for ratings, not accuracy or for accomplishing the right thing or displaying the right message. Unfortunately, this means racial stereotypes will continue to part of our society.

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