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Racialism and the Media

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

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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 Ten: Science Fiction and Fantasy: Going Where Few Blacks Have Gone Before

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CHAPTER TEN

Science Fiction and Fantasy: Going Where Few Blacks Have Gone Before

Representation can help us understand the world around us, particularly how and why it works the way it does (Hall, 1997). Media programs are specifically designed to represent our world. Orgad (2012) explains that media programs and products are constructed to produce meaning through representation.

Representation refers to the process of representing, the process by which members of a culture use systems of signs to produce meaning. This highlights that representation is an active process of meaning production, the products of which are media representations, that is texts and images. (p. 17)

The constructionist approach to representation argues that selected depictions and specific meanings tend to become significant in society (Lacey, 2009). The production and consumption of media depictions, images and messages, involves the consistent negotiation of meaning. That negotiated meaning demarcates much of our experience and understanding of the world.

Silverstone (2007) defines representation as a site of power based on the symbolic production and reproduction of difference. Hall sees difference as binary oppositions. Binary oppositions are the way that words and images are used to play off of each other. For example, using opposing categories or ideas such as black/white or good/bad to classify or identify something. According to Hall, the impact ←139 | 140→of representations on societal structures marks a place where difference is used to explain things like normal/deviant or acceptable/unacceptable.

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