Friday, December 19, 2008
Racism in the news often goes unnoticed. It is so subtle that most people never pick up on it, but when you look beyond the surface and truly examine it, you will find it. A man by the name of Robert M. Entman performed an analysis on the portrayal of blacks versus whites in network news and wrote and article on his findings called “Representation and Reality in the Portrayal of Blacks on Network Television News.” In this he analyzed the popular news stations ABC, NBC, and CBS. Entman found through his analysis that “Network news appears to convey more stereotyped impressions - a narrower range of positive roles - for blacks than for whites. Representations of whites in network news are more varied and more positive than of blacks, not because of conscious bias, but because of the way conventional journalistic norms and practices interact with political and social reality.” Entman also used local television news to compare with network news in which he found that “In crime stories, local news tends to depict blacks as more dangerous than whites accused of similar crimes. In political stories, local news makes blacks appear more demanding of special government favoritism than whites.”
Network news differs slightly from local news. Network news tends to cover more political stories. However, network news does not differ from local news in the way that they portray whites different from blacks. When network news chooses to cover crime stories, the results are a bit uneasy. Entman found through his analysis that when dealing with stories of people accused of a certain crime, 77% of the stories involving blacks were crime stories, where only 42% of the stories involving whites were crime stories. The local news study results were no different-29.4% to 10.5%. Another thing to look at is the employment of blacks in news. Local news does in fact employ black news anchors, but none of the network news stations have any black news anchors. Of course, probably none of this is intentional, but regardless, there should not be such significant differences occurring. These things are influencing the people that watch news on their televisions.
Racism exists in newspapers as well as in the news on television. Just like in television, it is quite difficult to pick up on. According to Lori Dorfman and Vincent Schiraldi, “While many crime stories do not identify race, there is some evidence that newspapers are more likely to identify race in a crime story when an African American is the suspect. In nine of 12 (75%) studies, minorities were overrepresented as perpetrators of crime. Six out of seven (86%) studies that clearly identify the race of victims found more attention was paid to White victims than to Black victims.” There are tons of people that read the newspaper, so things like this could easily influence them without them even realizing. This is one reason why one of the worst places for racism to be is in the news.
The disaster of Hurricane Katrina brought with it a lot of news coverage. There has been a lot of controversy dealing with the portrayal of whites versus blacks in the Katrina news coverage, especially with the news on the internet. In one news story by “Yahoo News” concerning Hurricane Katrina, many people found the photo captions to be racially biased, or in some cases, racist. “The captions on two photos from flood victims show very clearly the sinister and subtle ways that racism thrives in this country. The caption next to a photo of a young black man reads, "A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleanson Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005." Whereas, the caption aside a photo of two young white people reads, "Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana." What's the difference between "looting" and "finding?"Apparently it's as simple as the color of your skin” (Wheeland). Although this quote may seem a little exaggerated, when you really look at the pictures and think about it, Wheeland is right. The people in both of these pictures appear to be doing the exact same thing, so what makes the black person a looter and the white people just finders? This definitely appears to be racially biased, perhaps even racist. These little things influence the people that read the news on the internet.
Racism exists in the media whether people like it or not, and even though it really seems like the last area of the media that it would be is the news, it is still there. The news is one of the worst places for it to be because everyone in the world gets their information about what is happening in the world from the news. The people that watch news on television, read it in the newspapers, or look it up on the internet are all influenced by what they see. So when there is racism in the news reports that they are watching or reading, it influences them. It has been proven that there is some racism in every form of news. Racism is such a terrible thing and for it to be kept alive like this is extremely detrimental to the human race. Racism needs to be taken out of every form of media, starting with the news.
Dorfman, Lori and Vincent Schiraldi. “Off Balance: Youth, Race and Crime in the News.” Building Blocks for Youth. April 2001. http://www.buildingblocksforyouth.org/media/media.pdf
Entman, Robert M. “Representation and Reality in the Portrayal of Blacks on Network Television News.” Journalism Quarterly. Autumn 1994. 509-520 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 1994 http://people.stu.ca/~mccormic/3263/articles/Entman1994.pdf
Wheeland, Matthew. “Racism on Yahoo News.” AlterNet. August 31, 2005. http://www.alternet.org/blogs/themix/24863/
“Dark-skinned Man Photograph.” Associated Press. 2005 http://www.resonant.org/20050903-racism-in-news-coverage
“Light-skinned People Photograph.” Agence France Presse, 2005 http://www.resonant.org/20050903-racism-in-news-coverage
When the topic of racism or stereotypes comes up, many people like to turn their back, or not be associated with those words. If those who are willing to talk about the subject are asked where they think they pick up on racist and stereotypical ideas many of them may say that they learn from talking to their friends or family. That is not always the case however. With how much technology has entered into the lives of people, the media is often overlooked as a place for racism and stereotypes to be picked up on. Of all the different types of media, the one that is probably most overlooked is what people can learn from watching movies. Racism and stereotypes is a big issue in our culture. What we are shown in movies can have a negative effect on people as they may believe what they see in movies, especially younger kids.
Racism is found in many popular movies that are seen by millions of people. The racism is not always easily found though. At times there will be blatant racism while other times the racism is very subtle and not easily noticed. Some movies in which there can be racism found include Rush Hour 1-3, Harold and Kumar movies, and many Disney movies as well. Disney movies which are mainly targeted for an audience of children have a lot of racism. They are very subtle about it however. The racism in their movies is not just shown up front. Due to the fact that many of the Disney movies that have racism are cartoons, it makes it difficult to pick up on the racism.
In the Disney movies much of the racism is aimed towards African Americans. For example in the Disney movie Fantasia 2000, they show\ a servant to white person and the servant is black. Also in the movie Jungle Book, nearly all of the characters speak very proper English, however the monkeys which are portrayed as lazy and good for nothing speak in more of a black accent. In the movie Dumbo there is a group of crows which sing a song when they hear that an elephant can fly. They are black crows and they also talk in black accents. The crows in the movie are seen as loud and ignorant, to the point that they are even rude at times. There is racism seen in Disney movies besides just against African Americans as well. In the movie Aladdin there is racism towards Middle Easterners. In the movie, the lyrics of the song go, “Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place where the caravan camels roam where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face it's barbaric, but hey, it's home” (Pilhofer). These lyrics are showing that people from the Middle East are violent and are calling them barbaric.
Racism shows up in movies that aren’t made by Disney as well. For example in the movie Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay there is a scene which includes the Ku Klux Klan. In the scene the KKK members are having a meeting and everyone is drinking. All of the members are white and they start to talk about what bad things they did to people of other races that week. It makes it seem as though whites are superior to all the other races. Racism is seen in the movie Rush Hour as well. In that movie, Chris Tucker is a black cop. He has been wanting to get promoted for a long time but has never been able to. All of the people who are his superiors are made up of white people.
Aside from racism in movies, stereotypes show up as well, and there are more stereotypes in movies compared to racism. The stereotypes that are found in movies are related to all races, not specifically aimed at a certain race. Just as Disney movies had racism, they have many stereotypes in their movies too. In the movie Lady and the Tramp there are Siamese cats which are characters. They are supposed to represent Asians and they have certain stereotypical physical characteristics such as slanted eyes and they also have a strong accent. Also the song they are in has Chinese music in the background. In the movie Cinderella there is a stepmother and stepsisters. They are very mean and harsh to Cinderella and it stereotypes stepmothers and stepsisters as people who are evil.
Movies besides the ones made by Disney have included stereotypes as a part of the screenplay. In the movie Rush Hour Jackie Chan is Chinese and he knows how to fight with martial arts. He also loves to eat Chinese food. Chris Tucker is also in the movie and he is black. He is shown in the movie to love listening to rap music. He is also shown as loving fried chicken. This stereotypes that African Americans love to eat chicken and listen to rap. In the Harold and Kumar movies the man Kumar, who is played by Kal Penn, is and Indian. He is told by his father to become a surgeon and both Kumar and Harold are very smart. This stereotypes that Indians usually become doctors and that Asians are supposed to be really smart. In the Harold and Kumar movies, there is a scene where they are on a plane going to Amsterdam. On the plane there is an old lady that sees Kumar as a sort of Arabic man with a turban and a long beard and she screams terrorist. This stereotypes that people from the Middle East are terrorists. Also in the movie Hancock there is a scene where Will Smith who is the main actor tries to buy alcohol from a small store. The owner of the store is an Indian man which stereotypes that the owners of 7-11 type stores are usually Indian.
The racism and stereotypes that people are exposed to when they watch movies can have an effect on them. It’s shown that children even as young as two to five years old are aware of race, ethnicity, and gender (Brunette). This means that if they are exposed to movies that include racism and stereotypes they will begin to understand them even if they are that young. According to psychiatrist Michael Brody “Promoting stereotypes can make children fearful of certain kinds of strangers” (Goodale). This quote shows that if kids see these stereotypes in the movies they may actually begin to believe them and become fearful of others. The culture of Americans is has changed considerably from before. Today, kids at a younger and younger age are learning about technology and view the media. As they see the stereotypes and racism in movies and other types of media as they are growing up they may hold what they see. This causes more stereotypes and racism to spread. The stereotypes are basically becoming accepted among the younger generation as what is true when that is not really the case. Then as the kids go to school and actually see some of the stereotypes occurring it becomes more concrete in their head that it’s true. What started from just being a simple movie can have a huge impact on what they believe.
Racism and stereotypes are seen all around us in today’s world. Of all the places that it is prevalent, it is probably seen most through the media. Movies which are meant to be entertainment can have many subtle meanings which impact the way people think. They racism and stereotypes can have a negative effect on people as they begin to believe what they see. The problem is not that they believe however. The problem is that what they start to accept at true is not always the case. Although we can try as hard as possible, the media is something that is unavoidable and will always impact our culture.
Brunette, Libby , Claudette Mallory, and Shannon Wood. "Stereotypes & Racism in Childrens Movies." Types & Racism in Childrens Movies. 10 Dec. 2008
Goodale, Gloria. "Stereotypes bite back csmonitor.com." The Christian Science Monitor csmonitor.com. 1 Aug. 2004. 10 Dec. 2008
Pilhofer, Frank . "Song Lyrics: Aladdin." FPX. 31 Mar. 1995. 10 Dec. 2008