Racism is a prominent issue in the modern political and social landscape, especially in the United States. While the Black Lives Matter movement continues to attract attention to the problem by protests, many people look back at history to reflect on how racial injustice became so influential and widespread. This essay will examine the meaning of lost African American history, racial stereotyping within media, and the social implications.
Point of Contention: Black History
The video “Black History, Lost, Stolen, Strayed” showcases that historical events can be rewritten to suit the authors’ agenda. White-centeredness of the modern historical perspective is a global debate (Petty, 2017). The issue shifts focus from the well-rounded and multicultural historical background to a narrative that emphasizes one dominant race (Franklin & Higginbotham, 2011). The video serves as a prominent example: Black inventors, scientists, and engineers have been eliminated from the public eye in favor of a stereotypical image of African Americans (Franklin & Higginbotham, 2011).
Instead of a well-rounded account of how slavery destroyed African cultural heritage and transformed people into involuntary laborers, historians portray slavery as an act that brought savages to become servants.
Furthermore, the video discusses the entertainment industry’s influence on race and its perception. Cinema had allowed people to spread their propagandist messages to the masses without directly persuading them but planting an idea into their minds. That way, one of the most notable films of the era, “The Birth of a Nation,” created a biased image of African-Americans (Petty, 2017).
The video describes how the widely popular and iconic film depicts Blacks as incapable of reason and logic, uneducated, frivolous, and childish (“Black History,” 2018). Although this portrayal might seem overtly racist today, at the time, it became an influential piece of entertainment that imposed an image of servant Blacks, which stayed in society for years (Petty, 2017). Therefore, this video is meaningful in a way it narrates the fallacies of the historical depiction of Black people and the development of the demeaning image of a race in media.
Lost and Rewritten: Historical Analysis of African Americans in Media
Portrayal of African Americans on screen has a dramatic effect on society’s negative perception of the Black race. As the video showcased, the prevalence of blackface actors, derogatory comedic perspectives on Blacks, as well as altered historical facts was apparent in 20th-century cinema (“Black History,” 2018). It also ultimately shaped people’s opinions about African Americans, which fueled institutional racism’s systematic development.
For example, early cinema did not allow Black people on screen; instead, White people in blackface represented them (“Black History,” 2018). As a result, the movies reflected who a White person perceives as Black: an obedient and stupid servant (Petty, 2017). Another example is a famous Black actor, Lincoln Perry, who significantly contributed to creating the African American image. He starred in movies that depicted Black men as lazy, fearful, dangerous, and incapable of intellectual work.
These images became deeply engraved into people’s minds since they reinforce the already existing stereotypes (Franklin & Higginbotham, 2011). Thus, it can be stated that the media ultimately crafted the negative image of the Black race that perpetuated the issue of racism.
As it concerns how African Americans act out the stereotype in real life, it dramatically relates to the inequalities they struggle with in modern society. For instance, one of the points that racist people make against African Americans is that they are uneducated and unable to learn. On the one hand, this statement is fundamentally wrong since Blacks can be as academically successful as Whites (Oyserman & Lewis, 2017).
On the other hand, rates of people without college education showcase that African Americans are a majority (Oyserman & Lewis, 2017). However, this statistic links “systematic bias in college admissions, lack of financial stability, and social discrimination” with inability to attend colleges rather than Black’s lack of intelligence (Oyserman & Lewis, 2017, p. 164). Therefore, it can be stated that Black people suffer from the consequences of racial profiling and institutional racism instead of acting out the stereotype.
Role of Bias in Media and Its Effect on Racial Minorities
The film industry of the 20th century reflected negative American racial attitudes in its productions with a detrimental effect on African Americans. Referring back to the example of “The Birth of a Nation,” it is an iconic movie that reflected the attitudes of White people towards racial minorities. The film showed the imagined scenario of African Americans overtaking governmental power (Coleman, 2019). It portrayed them unable to govern themselves and others due to their irresponsibility and alcoholism.
This perception was not grounded in real-life facts but a biased view of a minority by predominantly White Hollywood producers (Franklin & Higginbotham, 2011). The film industry’s impact was and continues to be detrimental in the United States by perpetuating issues like police brutality and its justification.
For instance, the news reports of police brutality murders shift blame from the police to the victims. The media covered an assassination of unarmed Michael Brown as an act that he deserved due to his previous offenses (Dukes & Gaither, 2017). In that case and many others, the media consciously ignores the overarching issue of racism, contributing to the increase in racist depictions of African Americans in media.
In conclusion, it can be said that racial injustice is a systematic issue that has been perpetuated by media depictions of race for centuries. African American history has been majorly rewritten and shifted in order to repress racial minorities and favor the Whites. This social dynamic has resulted in a detrimental impact on Black people by disrupting their ability to seek education and imposing police brutality.
Dukes, K., & Gaither, S. (2017). Black racial stereotypes and victim blaming: Implications for media coverage and criminal proceedings in cases of police violence against racial and ethnic minorities. Journal of Social Issues, 73(4), 789-807. Web.
Franklin, J., & Higginbotham, E. (2011). Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans. McGraw-Hill.
Oyserman, D., & Lewis, N. (2017). Seeing the destination and the path: Using identity‐based motivation to understand and reduce racial disparities in academic achievement. Social Issues and Policy Review, 11(1), 159-194. Web.
Petty, M. (2016). Stealing the show. University of California Press.
Reelblack. (2018). Black history: Lost, stolen or strayed [Video]. YouTube. Web.