The issue of race and its perception by the public is quite relevant now. In this context, it is worth noting the mass media. The importance of this outlet is because it is a direct representative of public attitudes and opinions and conveys how people relate to a representative of racial minorities. Moreover, the media has become a source of strengthening stereotypical thinking toward national and ethnic communities, which has a negative impact. However, it is worth noting that in modern society, there is a tendency to form a tolerant attitude and representation of different races. Thus, this research paper will explore the role that media play in racial representation and the formation of stereotypes.
Within the framework of this work, several forms of media sources were analyzed. The main criterion was a study of how they represent racial communities, primarily Black. Moreover, the attitude that was traced in media sources was analyzed. Among the resources were examined newspapers, films, and social networks. This choice was justified by the fact that these are the most widely used types of media currently. However, it is worth noting that newspapers are receiving less attention due to the spread of the influence of social networks.
The mass media is one of the most potent sources for forming opinions on a particular problem. The same thing happens concerning the representation of people of a particular race. Often, opinions expressed in media sources carry a negative connotation and contribute to the formation or strengthening of existing stereotypes. It is worth noting that the behavior regarding race can be expressed either directly or hidden and can only be tracked through certain elements. Hence, in newspapers and social networks, it can be descriptive phrases, and in visual media, it can be specially shown pictures.
Thus, media sources can be one of the tools for forming certain opinions and stereotypes about different races and nationalities. It is worth emphasizing that not only Black communities but also Asian and Latin populations suffer from stereotypes and underrepresentation in the media. The criticality of the problem lies in the fact that these people already face inequality in social, economic, and political terms. Desmond and Emirbayer (2010) show that race and nationality are overlapping symbolic categories that influence how people see themselves and others and how they divide different groups. Negative representation in the media can only worsen the situation and distance society from fully accepting the concepts of tolerance and equality.
The media has a powerful impact on people, especially the younger generation. This is because it is most vulnerable and open to the exposure of various social networks. Children consume opinions and views that are transmitted to them through these outlets. As a consequence, if they see too much harmful content regarding the attitude towards the presented oppressed races, then they may form undesirable behavior regarding them. Consequently, there is a probability that they will spread such opinions among peers, and it will take root in society, which is a highly undesirable trend. Modern society is gradually making successful attempts to limit the negative consequences of discrimination, and the negative impact on the younger generation of media sources is a threat to this process.
However, this trend is not enough to limit the negative impact and effect that the media have on the formation of ideas about races and nationalities. An example could be the phrases like “Black students are disciplined more because they are “loud” and it’s their “culture” or “It was a cultural thing that there seem to be a lot of African American kids who think fighting is a solution to everything” (Reyes-Valardeb 2022, para. 5). When reading this kind of statements, individuals automatically get the impression that all representatives of the black population are prone to violent actions and may show aggression. Subsequently, this translates into their daily lives, where racism and unequal treatment of minorities can get their manifestation.
Thus, after analyzing media sources, it can be concluded that they are powerful drivers for strengthening negative cultural stereotypes, especially about racial communities. Regarding television and the sphere, representatives of racial minorities rarely get dominant roles, and the plot associated with them often follows cliche narratives. Even though many pictures raise the problem of racial inequality, this industry is still experiencing the consequences of past years. The slavery that reigned in the United States of America left its imprint on the media sphere. Pursuing the goal of spreading awareness about the difficulties and problems of that time, film productions contribute to the formation of a stereotype that African American population still cannot be equated with ‘white’.
It is worth noting that media sources that represent the black population as aggressive and violent have a particularly negative impact. As already mentioned, even at first glance, simple phrases can contribute to the formation of a wrong opinion about this group of people. Moreover, often, representatives of non-dominant communities, such as Latinos or African Americans, are portrayed in poverty and lacking conditions for a full-fledged comfortable life. In addition, much research confirms “that black people are disproportionately portrayed as criminals, while white people are more often shown as the victims of crime” (Jan 2017, para. 5). Thus, media sources overlook the fact that crimes are committed by representatives of any racial communities but choose to pay attention to violence and a high crime rate among African Americans and other racial minorities. The concerning aspect is that these manifestations remain without much attention since they fall under stereotypes that have deep roots in the public consciousness. It is essential to know that the further education of people of all ages and groups can help to distinguish between truth and falsehood and, therefore, expose dominance in the classroom (Desmond & Emirbayer 2010). Thus, it is emphasized that teaching tolerance and equality can play a role in limiting stereotypes and increasing the positive representation of races in the media.
Therefore, the analysis of media sources has shown that different races and nationalities receive a reasonably fair representation in media sources. The tolerance and inclusion of Blacks, Asians, and Latinos in various film projects and TV series are gaining more and more power and popularity. Moreover, an increasing number of people are raising the topic of equality in social networks. Thus, a large number of influencers focus on the dissemination of awareness about the rights of minorities. In many articles and social media posts, people refer to black people as “African Americans,” “Black folks,” and “the Black people” (Capehart 2020). However, it is worth noting that these works were written by black authors. They have a relatively tolerant attitude to this community.
Frequently, people in power are responsible for the situation with the representation of racial groups in the media and society. The article emphasizes that “the fact is, when the systems begin to fail, it’s the people at the bottom who suffer, while those who reign from above insulate themselves from the pain others feel” (Coleman 2022, para. 12). As can be seen, the solution to the problem investigated in this work is that the initiative comes not only from the disadvantaged minorities and their supporters but is also motivated in the upper leading layers. Hence, these may be government documents that will determine the level of presence of minorities in movies or TV series. In addition, it may be a decree on the use of a specific language in relation, for example, to African Americans, Asians, or Latinos.
This work aimed to study the representation of races in media sources. Newspapers, social networks, movies, and TV series were analyzed. It was noted that in most cases, the black population is represented in the media as aggressive, violent, and involved in crimes. Moreover, representatives of racial minorities rarely have a leading role in the cinema, and their plots are basic and unmemorable. However, in modern society, especially in social networks, the concepts of tolerance and equality are gaining strength, which is becoming a positive trend for racial minorities. In conclusion, this topic requires further research and examination to spread awareness about the importance of changing the perception and representation of races in the media.
Capehart, Jonathan. 2020. ‘Why Black people are afraid of ‘crazy’ White people.
Capehart, Jonathan. 2022. ‘Ordinary self-defense’ doesn’t exactly apply to Black people’. The Washington Post.
Desmond, Matthew, and Mustafa Emirbayer. 2010. Racial domination, racial progress: The sociology of race in America. New York: McGraw Hill.
Jan, Tracy. 2017. ‘News media offers consistently warped portrayals of black families, study finds.’ The Washington Post.
Reyes-Valardeb, Alejandra. 2022. ‘Black students more harshly disciplined in Victor Valley high schools, feds say.’ The Los Angeles Times.