The negative and stereotypical portrayal of Black people in news outlets and media is a historic and ongoing form of oppression. From Jim Crow era blackface images to Black people currently being overrepresented as criminalistic, the media has been a powerful tool used to enforce Black stereotypes and persecution.
Boundless Blackness has a mission to break these false depictions through uplifting authentic Black stories and voices while highlighting the multi-dimensions of our culture. We focus on holistically and accurately representing Black lives and spaces.
While Black people are misrepresented in various ways, research shows three main strategies used to overrepresent Black people in the news media, while under-representing white people in negative areas.
The media over-represents the association between Black people and criminality, while significantly under-representing white peoples’ association with criminality. For example, 37% of those represented as criminals in news and opinion media are Black family members. Though, according to crime reports, Black family members constitute only 26% of family members arrested for criminal activity. While 28% of those represented as criminals are white family members, white family members constitute 77% of those arrested for criminal activity.
News media also largely over-represents Black people as being impoverished. These distorted and inaccurate portrayals reinforce various stereotypes of Black people. While 59% of poor families are depicted in the news as Black, only 27% of families living below the poverty line are Black. White families represent only 17% of the poor in news and opinion media but constitute 66% of the poor. Furthermore, 60% of portrayed families relying on welfare are Black, even though only 42% of families on welfare are Black.
3). Absentee Fathers
The media excessively depicts Black fathers as absent and uninvolved in the lives of their children, often through imagery. Images are powerful because the brain processes them at a deeper, below-conscious level compared to narration. Black fathers are shown spending time with their kids in news images almost half as often as white fathers. Furthermore, news and opinion media are more likely to identify Black fathers as not present for their families compared to white fathers. In reality, evidence shows that Black fathers are more involved in parenting than white fathers.
These are just a few of many ways news and opinion media have reinforced racist myths and subsequently negatively impacted Black lives through racially biased laws, politics, finances and institutions. The media has been commonly and historically used to justify the ways Black people have been suppressed, by depicting us as animalistic, lazy, dangerous and much more.
Boundless Blackness is not a news outlet, but a community movement built to shed light on the limitless impact of Black culture and the authentic, multifaceted stories inside Blackness. We are not defined by the structures implemented to oppress us, we will stay alert to the tactics used to misrepresent us and our real stories and voices will be heard.
“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” - Malcom X
MacDonald, J. Fred. Blacks and White TV: African Americans in Television since 1948. Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1992
Dixon , T. L. (2017, January). A Dangerous Distortion of our Families . Retrieved from https://colorofchange.org/
Kulaszewicz, K. E. (2015). Racism in the Media: A Textual Analysis . Racism in the Media: A Textual Analysis . St. Catherine University