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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 Three: Advertising and Black Folks: Whassup!



Advertising and Black Folks: Whassup!


Advertising is an area where racialism is very prominent. I have collected many examples over the years of problematic images and messages surrounding African American culture. Meaning is constructed in advertising using various levels of knowledge concerning black culture. Those constructions sometimes include racist images along with stereotypes, biased framing, and historical myths.

Barthes (1972) believes that levels of interpretation can present different meanings for different people. For example, the concept of polysemy is often used to explain how the same sign or text can produce a variety of interpretations among the same audience (Edwards, Edwards, Wahl, & Meyers, 2016). According to Barthes, “levels of meaning can be found in tri-dimensional links that are part of a semiological chain of communication. The first link of the chain is the sign or denotative idea involving a literal or common meaning directly from the text. The second link is the signifier or connotative idea where an additional layer of meaning brings enhanced dimension to the communication process. The third link involves myth and with this new layer of meaning there is a deeper understanding usually tied to historical and/or ideological knowledge” (p. 113).

In 1990, Dates and Barlow identified what they considered a major problem with racial stereotypes and media in their book Split Images and that problem still exists today.

Black media stereotypes are not the natural, much less harmless, products...

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