Black People on TV: Real People or Entertainment

12 Feb

At the Tracing the Civil Right Movement 1848 – 1968 exhibit at The DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, there is a photo of a black male slave performing for white soldiers.  Essentially, he was their entertainment; probably not by choice.

As I saw this exhibit, I had to wonder: is this how media conglomerates and white audiences view black people today? Not as real people with real problems and feelings; but as entertainment and amusement?

Minstrel Show

I ask this because when I do watch television, there are very few black people on my screen. (I feel that all minorities are under-represented by the media, but I’m not of those races and ethnicities, and therefore cannot speak for them).  However, when African Americans are shown, they are in the most stereotypical and horrible roles.

Contrary to what is seen on TV, we are real people with real problems and feelings.  Almost all shows starring African Americans are comedies, even when story lines contain serious issues.  WTF?  Do they not think we are capable of good dramas that do not include stereotypical messages and portrayals?  Can black people live “normal” (whatever that means) lives on TV and in movies?  Can there not be hip hop music and booty shaking in the background to make people think that we are all musically inclined?  And, we are all not “ghetto”;  we are all not poor; and we do have morals and values.

Another interesting observation about media practices is that when they attempts to show African Americans in a positive light, underlying messages are almost always negative or stereotypical.  I don’t have any examples right now, but I’ll be sure to share when I see them.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my wonderment on how media conglomerates and white audiences view black people today.  Do they see us as real people with real problems and feelings or as entertainment and amusement?

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