the misrepresentations of black men in the media

by Tolstoy24 on December 2, 2015 - 5:13pm

From TV shows, movies, radios and the numerous social media platforms; the media is a huge part of our lives and thus has a great influence on ours actions, opinions and attitudes. Regrettably, the media does not always represent people accurately. Specifically black men who are wrongfully being portrayed as dangerous, violent, aggressive and uneducated in numerous spheres of the media suffer from its impact on our society. The bad representation of black men is a much known problem; the hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown went viral recently criticizing this situation.

Recognising the immense impact the media has on our society, are the current representations of black men in the media ethical?

Judging from a deontological point of view, the way the media represents black men is not ethical and if they had a set of rule they had to follow more precisely a duty that force them to treat people equally, misrepresentation of black men would not occur. Indeed, treating everyone equally also means to portray them for whom they really are not someone more educated or less violent than the other. If each individual working in a sphere of media had that duty to truthfully represent people from all gender, race, or sexuality, people would not have these false idea about black men that lead to many racial and societal problems.  

Others would argue that the truth is relative to each individual and that from a utilitaristic point of view making it an obligation for the media to represent men of colour a certain way is a limit to free speech and in order to have the greater good for the greatest number of people there should not have any limitation to free speech. Indeed, even though black men (a minority) suffer from the misrepresentation of themselves in the media if we start limiting what is supposedly true or not we will end up depriving the majority of people of way to fight oppression.

However, “these portrayals, constantly reinforced in print media, on television, the internet, fiction shows, print advertising and video games, shape public views of and attitudes toward men of color”, Leigh Donaldson, an writer for The Guardian, explain in a recent article. He also described how “The lives of black men in the US have long been adversely affected by negative public perceptions. We are often turned away from jobs because we are not the “right fit”. While on the streets, we are regularly treated by police as dangerous suspects”. Accordingly, we were recently able to comprehend the harmful effects of these portrayals on people when Michael brown an unarmed black teenager was brutally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson who believed he looked dangerous. A 2011 study conducted by the opportunity agenda also prove that theses constant representations make these stereotypes seem natural and inevitable to most people. (Donaldson, “When the Media Misrepresents Black Men, the Effects Are Felt in the Real World”).  

In addition, even when using a teleological framework such as utilitarism, the misrepresentations of black men is not ethical because Dr. Dana E. Mastro from Harvard University concluded after two studies, "Media Representations Of Race, Prototypically, And Policy Reasoning: An Application Of Self-Categorization Theory” and “The Influence Of Exposure To Depictions Of Race And Crime In TV News On Viewer's Social Judgments.”, that the representations of race in the media really did leave an influence on the public’s view; which creates situation just like in Ferguson. Theses cases create tensions within the society where everyone feels involved in and lower the amount of happiness in the society; since utilitarism focus on giving the most happiness (greater good) to the greatest number of people not representing black men truthfully is not ethical.



Work Cited

Scholarly sources

Mastro, Dana E., and Maria A. Kopacz. "Media Representations Of Race, Prototypicality, And Policy Reasoning: An Application Of Self-Categorization Theory." Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 50.2 (2006): 305-322. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

Mastro, Dana, et al. "The Influence Of Exposure To Depictions Of Race And Crime In TV News On Viewer's Social Judgments." Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 53.4 (2009): 615. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

News articles or blogs

Donaldson, Leigh. "When the Media Misrepresents Black Men, the Effects Are Felt in the Real World." Theguardian., 12 Aug. 2015. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

Smith,  Darron T. "Images of Black Males in Popular Media." The Huffington Post., 14 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

Primary sources


The reason why I have decided to comment on this post is because this topic relates exactly with the oral presentation that I did in my myth and racism class. Just like you, I also believe that social media is a big problem when it comes to portraying black males. Like mentioned in your article, I also agree with the fact that these negative portrayals are having a ,major impact on black men in society. In work places such as job interviews they are seen as "unqualified" and on the streets they are seen as "dangerous suspects". I realized that this toxic way of thinking towards black males was becoming more of an issue when I was having a dinner with my family at my house, al though my parents are very opened minded and are not racist what so ever, my grandparents on the other hand is a different story. Already they grew up in an era where racism was much violent and wide spread, now with the media, it has reinforced their stereotypes on "black people" because the media only links them to negative themes such as violence, crime, rape etc. While writing my oral I asked myself a question and maybe you should also ask yourself this, if social media had never existed, would racism be as wide spread as it is today?

About the author