Our modern society surrounds itself today with the media. One may think the media only broadcasts through the television, but there are many sources such as the newspaper, social medias, apps, cell phones etc. Technology is the way of the world now, and how we as humans rely on getting our most up to date information. The media has a vast influence on the ways minorities are viewed by our culture. The media sets the tone for the morals, values, and images for society. Minority groups are defined as “a subordinate group whose members have significantly less control or power over their own lives than do the members of a dominant or majority group”(Schaefer, 2008, p. 7).
The portrayal of minorities on television is especially less than ideal. Broadcasting channels are not promoting stories to the public with concern for the population as a whole but instead with the intent to gain greater ratings. Therefore the objectives of a network are to cater to a specific audience. This results in stories that are geared towards the majority. The majority in the United States are White American males although females have a higher population within the country. Majority of us may not encounter a specific minority group in our daily lives but the media aids with an introduction to these people. This then leads our culture to inherent racism that has been found to exist in newscasts across the country.
One of the most studied minority groups regarding misrepresentation in the media are African Americans. Many studies have shown that African Americans are disproportionately represented in stories.
“A study notable by Entman and Heider (2002) found that African Americans were more often than not portrayed as perpetrators or victims of crime, and that of African-Americans were more likely than white Americans to be portrayed on network news as perpetrators and drug related or violent crime stories. Other studies have also suggested that the media may perceive and therefore portray African Americans with a number of stereotypes including being aggressive, hostile, and poor. For example also found that African-Americans were over represented as criminals on local television news stations in Los Angeles.”
Unfortunately this is something that majority of people are seeing on their televisions daily. You would think that many citizens would come to the conclusion that African Americans are not the only ones committing crimes but the human mind has many learned behaviors. Many attitudes are formed from what we are influenced by in the media and these studies prove that there is racism within the media. The information that is being presented has a major effect of our society. It is common to hear about many protests breaking out throughout the country regarding fake news, or misrepresentation of stories that are extremely upsetting to the people who belong to that minority group. Numerous minority groups in addition to African Americans still struggle with achieving equal treatment from television and other sources of media.
People of Arab decent or other races from the Middle East are often found to be victims of misrepresentation in the media. Since September 11 this minority group is one that is currently among the most insensitive and insulting representations on U.S. culture through the media. According to Shaheen (2001), “there are several stereotypic ways that Arab men are portrayed, all very negative. One is as the terrorist. Although only a minuscule fraction of real Arabs are terrorists. The FBI states that 94% of terrorist attacks carried out in the United States have been by non-Muslims.
One may believe that the news contributes to majority of misrepresentation but it is also found in many television shows that we find ourselves watching daily. According to the USA Census Bureau the total population of Hispanics 17.6%. This number is rapidly growing. Latinos ascend from ethnic origins in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Central America, South America, or Spain. Research shows that people of Latino descent are often “the greasy, dirty Mexican bandit who appear in Westerns of the mid- twentieth century and as drug runners in more recent movies. A second stereotype is the harlot, the loose woman interested only in sex” (Greenberg, 1990). Today, Hispanics overall play part in negative roles when they do appear in television shows.
A pronounced part of American history involves the Native Americans. It is known that the first settlers in America were the Native Americans. Native Americans have had battle through during the years of the white culture becoming dominant in this country. As if what the Native Americans have been through wasn’t enough, they also find themselves to be misrepresented in the media. “Westerns were one of the most popular genres of television and movies through the early 1960s. Indians were usually depicted as vicious killers and, at their very best, as lovable but simple, slow- witted sidekicks to European American men” (Bird, 1996, 1999; Merskin, 1998; Weston, 1996). There are 562 recognized official Native American tribes today, many look different and hold different customs but majority of native Americans are almost always portrayed as just plains Indians who attain behaviors like living in teepees and hunting buffalo. “There is hardly any Native American news and what does appear is usually about land claims litigation or Indian-run casinos. (Geiogamah & Pavel, 1993). It is unfortunate that after their long history with the USA Native Americans are be misrepresented in the media today.
It is evident that minorities tend to see discrimination a lot more than white Americans. The reality of all of this is that these minorities are still people and many American citizens, and this kind of stereotyping in the media affects their daily life. Many fear their life, or losing their job, or being the target of some kind of hate crime. This essay has only discussed a few minority groups who find themselves in the media constantly, but there is potential for many minority groups to feel victimized by the media. We should be asking ourselves as a country, what is being done about this? No one in the great melting pot country of America should feel unwelcomed as a minority. I’m not sure if it is something that can be controlled so easily. Not much is being done to control stories in the media, why? Unfortunately the stories that sell will be told, many involving minorities. Hopefully social scientist continue to study this branch of misrepresentation and will continue to publically post research studies like the ones that have been mentioned in this paper. I personally believe that a change of attitudes can help aid in majority of interpretation of the media that is being presented. People need to have conversations within themselves to modulate their own feeling or beliefs. People also need to be mindful of others feelings who are feeling victimized and practice empathy. I chose this topic because sometimes I feel a personal struggle with what I hear in the media. I find it hard on what to believe, making it difficult for me to come up with my own true beliefs. Since taking this class my views on our society as a whole have opened up. I was never aware as to how many minority groups exist within our country. Now being more socially aware I thought it would be interesting to research a topic that touches a huge part of our population each day.
The media is something that will continue to live on and only grow to be bigger. The portrayal of minorities in television shows, newspapers, news broadcasts, etc. is less than ideal. The media’ portrayal of groups may become a realism in the minds of our society. The misrepresentation that is presented is unrealistic and some nonexistent. With the presented research one can question if we are actually making progress with racism in this country, or are we taking a step back? With some changes with the ways stories are broadcasted, and a change of the viewers mind one can only hope for an improved country.