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Messages about Race in the Media Essay

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Updated: May 12th, 2020

Introduction

Racism is perception that traits and capabilities can be linked to people from a particular race. This can also be used to depict a situation where people from one racial affiliation are seen to be more important than others are.

Prejudice and segregation have for a long time been used as potent weapons promoting apprehension or disgust of other people in times of civil unrest, and even during financial depressions. In America, the issue of racism is a thorny issue for many people. To some people, uttering a racial sentiment against someone should be categorized as free speech that most Americans believe in. on the other hand, some other people point out that uttering such kind of words can bring about serious ramifications.

In America, race is seen as a dominant idea and a persevering conception, coined by the society. Race is also seen as having fostered inequity and segregation for many years, as well as determined how we associate with other people. Although the U.S. has taken key and important steps to ensure that all people are treated equally regardless of their race, it is still sad to notice that there are many instances of racist utterances in our country. (Snyder, 2010)

The saddest thing is that these utterances are being carried out from the most unlikely quarter- the media. Over the last one year, I have noted numerous messages carried out by the American media that had explicit messages about race. These were carried out through magazines, sitcoms, advertisements, movies, among others. Although the messages could have been unintentional, they nonetheless contained racial elements in them. (Shah, 2010)

One form of media that has been used to convey racial messages has been sitcoms. For a long time, sitcoms have been used to entertain the whole family regardless of age. Despite sitcoms making us laugh, they have a knack for portraying ideas in a racial manner. The worst thing is that this is done by showing black people to be lesser than their white counterparts. One sitcom that has elements of racism is Lopez Tonight.

The sitcom by George Lopez that premiered on TBS on November 9, 2009 contains nothing but racial insinuations all through. Lopez’s creation that the people who came out for the opening night were like “a rainbow of people” who had a common goal of bringing change into late night TV is catchy but cynical. A rainbow as we know it is supposed to have colors that are both appealing and equal to the viewer. (Casares, 2009)

Immediately after the opening remarks, Lopez follows up by claiming that no matter how long one is married, their spouses will always be ‘black in bed’. As though this is not bad enough, he aggravates the matter further by claiming that the ‘longer one is married, the darker that the room will get’. (Casares, 2009) Although this is supposed to be funny, one does not fail to notice that it has an element of racism to it. Today, it is evident that the marriage institution is not as smooth as it used to be.

Today, couples who have been married for long are experiencing numerous problems in their marriages. When Lopez claims that people who have been married for long get black in bed, it is a simple way of saying that all black people are bad just like an old marriage. Lopez aggravates the matter further when he claims that rooms occupied by married people get darker with age. Referring wearing out as getting darker is an outright racial utterance. (Casares, 2009)

Another part of the media that still contains racism is the advertisement segment. Despite almost everyone trying to appear politically correct, the advertisement segment is still lagging behind.

Today, most companies take advantage of minorities and women in their advertisements. Billboards no longer display goods, but rather contain publicity stunts meant to attract the masses. One such advert is the one by Black & Decker that is seen to degrade women. In the advert, the company promises to offer beauty treatments for the wives whose husbands bought goods totaling to a certain amount.

Although this might sound like a company that is concerned with the welfare of its buyers, the truth of the matter is that the advert contains an element of gender discrimination. By making this offer, the company perpetuates the view that women are supposed to stay at home while men go about working to provide for the woman. After all this was the traditional view by the society and Black & Decker was only trying to reinforce this dogma. This advert not only degrades women but men as well.

This happened at a time when everyone in our country and elsewhere in the country is trying to stay politically correct. This shows that despite the concerted efforts to ensure that all people are treated equally regardless of their gender affiliation, companies are yet to adopt this trend. This can best be demonstrated through adverts as the one carried out by Black & Decker. (AFP, 2008)

Another area of the American media that I have found to be awash with racism is the movie industry. While Hollywood has done so much to keep the whole family entertained, I find some of their contents to be outright racial. A good example of this is a movie called The Jungle Book. While this movie is entertaining, some of its contents have made me to questions my ideals about racism. In the movie, a character known as Mowgli finds a group of monkeys going about their business.

Once the monkeys saw Mowgli, they begin expressing their wish to be human beings. I agree that this part in itself is humorous. However, what I find demeaning is that the group of amusing monkeys is the only characters in the whole movies played by African Americans. To me, this is way beyond being a coincidence but a planned thing. While all the characters speak in nice accents, the monkeys hop from tree to tree not speaking, but chattering just as monkeys do.

Considering that even the other animals in the movie speak in a refined language, the monkeys are depicted to be half-human. This clearly brings out the idea that black Americans are less human compared to other people. To me, this is a clear example of how moviemakers continue preaching racism in the guise of entertainment. (The Milwaukee Drum, 2010)

Another segment of the American media that is awash with racism is radio talk shows. Although some radio talk show hosts utter their racial slurs in a concealed manner, others do so in a manner that leaves listeners with no doubt as to their motives. One such example is Dr. Laura Schlessinger who made obvious racial slurs in one of her radio shows.

The radio talk show host while answering a question from one of her listeners who was angered by being referred to as “black” in most conversations claimed that there was nothing wrong with one being referred to the color of their skin. Although this might be true, it rubbishes the efforts that have been made in trying to create a community of equal citizens. In the show, the host claimed that she hired black bodyguards simply because white men do not have the ability to jump as their black counterparts.

While this is supposed to be funny, it is a clear way of saying that the lesser things in life are reserved for the black race. The worst part was that when the host was called upon to explain if it is right to call someone “nigger”, all that she offered was that it depends on the context that the word is said. This coming from the experienced talk show host can only be construed to mean that she was speaking out her mind. (Media Matters for America, 2010)

Conclusion

The issue of racism has been a thorny issue in America for a long time. However, the recent past has seen people become more conscious of their choice of words. This has seen a sharp drop in the level of racial attacks against Black Americans and other people of color.

Although this has been the case, the American media, which is supposed to be on the frontline in preventing racism, has been the one fronting the attacks. This is done in the guise of entertainment through sitcoms, radio talk shows, magazines, movies, songs, among others. Although this might be unintended, it nonetheless ranks as racism and should be treated as such.

References

AFP. (2008). . Web.

Casares, C. (2009). The Lopez Premiere Episode: So How Did We Do, Hmmm? Web.

Media Matters for America. (2010). Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s Racial Rant Latest in History of Incendiary Remarks. Web.

Shah, A. (2010). Global Issues. . Web.

Snyder, D. (2010). 10 Random Racial Slip-ups by Radio Show Hosts. Web.

The Milwaukee Drum. (2010). Racism in the Media Pt. 1. Web.

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