Anyone can spend an hour watching television and flipping through the channels. But some are taking an active role in a normally passive activity, and asserting that the media creates stereotypes of minorities.
“The stereotype is whatever the media creates,” said LSA junior Amar Mutnal.
The issue of stereotypes in the media sprouted as part of Black History Month. The University chose to confront the history of the debate by exhibiting “A Sense of Justice: A Mass Media Perspective” in the North Lobby of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library throughout this month.
The purpose of the exhibit is to “raise awareness of African American depictions through out history,” said Julie Herrada, one of the curators in charge of the special collections exhibit and the person responsible for the exhibit.
The exhibit features images of blacks taken from the 1700s through the 1960s. The collection was started and maintained by Charles Simmons, a professor at Eastern Michigan University, and depicts slaves before the Revolutionary war, black athletes, workers and events which contributed to the civil rights movement.
“It explores the misinformation of slave trade before the American Revolution,” said Wanda Monroe, public relations representative for the library.
While some viewers might not see a connection between the exhibit, which shows distorted, clown-like images of blacks, and present-day media images, recent research has shown that the media”s portrayal of blacks has not come very far.
In television, there is “apparent segregation of blacks having parts in comedies and not dramas. They don”t have serious roles,” said communication studies Prof. Travis Dixon.
“If there is any good character who is black, it”s for the (political correctness). Most of the shows out there feature good white guys. If there are bad guys, they are black,” LSA freshman Joe Rothfarb said. He cited the movie “Shaft” as being an exception.
Many students have noticed a lack of minorities on television, citing the target audience as being the reason more minorities do not have starring roles.
“There are mainly a lot of shows where there are a majority of white people or a majority of black people. There aren”t many shows that I see where races mix. … Networks are probably trying to reach their target audience,” LSA freshman Mychau Nguyen said.
Not everyone agreed that there is a lack of minorities in the media.
“Most of the TV I watch is of black people because my roommate is black. I think it”s hilarious,” said LSA freshman Annie Hartranft.
Dixon also cited the news as unfairly portraying blacks.
“A lot of the time when people think of portrayals of minorities, they think about entertainment, but they are portrayed in the news too. … African Americans are often stereotyped as criminals. Blacks and Latinos are overrepresented in those types of negative roles,” Dixon said.
He added that whites were most commonly depicted as victims.
“The news typically shows only stereotypical blacks people from a poor family and single mothers,” Mutnal said.