The Manifestation of Black Stereotypes in Today’s Media

Media representation of black people has often remained skewed towards gratifying preconceived notions of black inferiority by whites, presenting stereotypical tropes to uphold institutionalized slavery. Although the production of more black created television series such as “Atlanta,” “Insecure,” and “Dear White People” have surfaced, inciting viewers to be cognizant of the plight of the black community and to critique white privilege, these stereotypes persist and often manifest themselves in subtle ways.

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These stereotypical personas, ranging from “Jezebel,” “Sapphire,” “Mammy,” “Brute,” and “Uncle Tom,” are memorialized as the misrepresentation of black people and are constantly scripted into films and predominantly reality television series. These titled personas were devised as a means to disseminate ideals of white superiority as the norm and stigmatize people of color. More often than not, these portrayals of black people in the media—where the women are sassy and hypersexualized, and the men are perceived as thugs, pimps and wayward fathers—further exacerbate negative perceptions that engenders a cycle of violence and prejudice against people of color.

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The “Sapphire” persona manifests itself as the “Angry Black Woman” trope, whose primary appeal seems to be emasculating the black man through rude, aggressive and sassy remarks. This trope justifies and precipitates violence against black women as it worsens the position of an already undervalued and severely misrepresented minority by remaining a popular role in films such as Tyler Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married” or well-known reality television shows like “Basketball Wives” or “Love and Hip Hop.”

The “Brute” persona appears consistently throughout the media as the savage, violent and hypermasculine black man, whose criminality appears innate and without reason nor explanation. The character is simply an archetype that emerged as a political weapon employed to demonize, incarcerate and lynch black men. This persona appears in the television series “The Wire” or comedy film “Get Hard,” whose premise is based upon the assumption that black men are inherently prone to violence and criminal activity. Moreover, the brute or criminal persona’s prevalence within today’s society reiterates the false belief that not only black men but women as well, are superathletes and “superpredators,” as Hillary Clinton so famously indicated.

Without more dynamic representation of the black identity to combat these personas, these static images of black women and black men are problematic. This is especially true as they bleed into public perception and are used to rationalize “stop-and-frisk” routines, undermine black intelligence and hinder social and economic advancement within the black community. In order to stop portraying these static misrepresentations of the black identity, more black writers and producers must be afforded the opportunity to present more accurate and dynamic depictions.