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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 Four: Black-ish and the Changing Nature of Black Identity



Black-ish and the Changing Nature of Black Identity

Black-ish has proven to be a very successful black situation comedy. The show won a number of awards including several NAACP Image Awards, the AFI TV program of the year, the Television Critics Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Comedy, a Peabody Award for Entertainment and Children’s Programming, plus Tracee Ellis Ross won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Series—Musical or Comedy (Black-ish, 2017).

The storyline explores the struggle that many black people experience in order to maintain their sense of culture while at the same time progressing in the American mainstream. This chapter investigates how certain representations and narratives in Black-ish are designed to deconstruct the changing perspectives surrounding blackness and authenticity. Black-ish offers a look at how black identity operates in direct opposition to the signification of white identity in American society. This analysis provides a relevant examination of black culture’s changing role and meaning in the 21st century.

In the media, various notions of blackness are perpetuated through commodified products. For example, there are black cable channels like BET, TV ONE, and Centric that primarily play programs with a black focus. There are popular television and film producers like Shonda Rhimes and Tyler Perry who create films and television shows with leading black characters. In the music industry Beyonce’s message album “Lemonade” won an Oscar for best urban contemporary ←55 | 56→album (McDermott, 2017), while...

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