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Racialism and the Media

Black Jesus, Black Twitter, and the First Black American President


Venise T. Berry

Racialism and Media: Black Jesus, Black Twitter and the First Black American President is an exploration of how the nature of racial ideology has changed in our society. Yes, there are still ugly racists who push uglier racism, but there are also popular constructions of race routinely woven into mediated images and messages. This book examines selected exemplars of racialism moving beyond traditional racism. In the twenty-first century, we need a more nuanced understanding of racial constructions. Denouncing anything and everything problematic as racist or racism simply does not work, especially if we want to move toward a real solution to America’s race problems. Racialism involves images and messages that are produced, distributed, and consumed repetitively and intertextually based on stereotypes, biased framing, and historical myths about African American culture. These images and messages are eventually normalized through the media, ultimately shaping and influencing societal ideology and behavior. Through the lens of critical race theory these chapters examine issues of intersectionality in Crash, changing Black identity in Black-ish, the balancing of stereotypes in prime-time TV’s Black male and female roles, the power of Black images and messages in advertising, the cultural wealth offered through the Black Twitter platform, biased media framing of the first Black American president, the satirical parody of Black Jesus, contemporary Zip Coon stereotypes in film, the popularity of ghettofabulous black culture, and, finally, the evolution of black representation in science fiction.

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Chapter One: Contemporary Zip Coons: The Problem with Funny



Contemporary Zip Coons: The Problem with Funny

Many stereotypes are normalized in our society, especially through the media. Stereotypes are generalizations or overgeneralizations of a group or culture (Brigham, 1971). Unfortunately, many of the normalized stereotypes of African American culture confirm accepted distortions. In his research on implicit stereotypes, Hinton (2017) argues that “culture in mind” is key to influencing the cognition of cultural group members. He believes that stereotypes are predictions and the brain uses predictions based on the structures and meanings experienced in the world (p. 6). Therefore, stereotypes become a resource that enables the transmission of cultural information, specifically within a network where common understandings exist (Kashima & Young, 2010).

Burr (2001) identifies three issues concerning stereotypical images of African Americans in the media.

First, these images affect how African American children and adults view themselves … Second, these images affect African American adults because others tend to view these images as indicative of how African Americans really act and respond accordingly … Third, these images harm the entire society in that they create disharmony between reality and perception and decrease the chances of positive interactions between blacks and others. (p. 181)

It is important to remember that stereotypes are not inherently racist. Yet, because of their history, many generalizations come from a negative or problematic ←11 | 12→place. Today, stereotypes are ingrained in our mediated culture as routine. We use them in the everyday process of...

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