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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 Two: Ghettofabulous: How Low Can You Go?



Ghettofabulous: How Low Can You Go?

Not all African Americans live in poverty or in the inner city, yet somehow American society seems to believe that black equals ghetto. In her book Ghetto Nation, Cora Daniels (2007) argues that in the twenty first century ghetto no longer refers to where you live but how you live.

It is a mindset, and not limited to a class or a race. Some things are worth repeating: ghetto is not limited to a class or a race. Ghetto is found in the heart of the nation’s inner cities as well as the heart of the nation’s most cherished suburbs; among those too young to understand (we hope) and those old enough to know better; in little white houses, and all the way to the White House; in corporate corridors, Ivy League havens, and, of course, Hollywood. (p. 8)

Ghettofabulous is a problematic pop culture frame that refers predominantly to a bias about black culture displaying extreme tendencies like loud talking, garish dressing, bling blinging, fighting, and certain levels of ignorance. It has become a repetitive image in pop culture where white college students throw ghettofabulous parties (Wise, 2010), Miley Cyrus’s twerks at a VMA performance (Hare, 2013), Cardi B holds a $500K ghettofabulous baby shower (Heller, 2018), average women flaunt long nails with extreme manicures like Niecy Nash in Claws (Penrice, 2018), and a California yoga studio gives out do-rags for their booty-shaking,...

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