Monday, March 1, 2010

In light of last week's discussion of the Harlem Renaissance I am reminded of a book I am reading for a Political Communication course. It's called Black Image in the White Mind.

One part of the authors' theory is that the news media perpetuate negative stereotypes about black people, through their heavy focus on crime stories involving Blacks in local news.

They rest their theory on data gleaned from a survey of the racial attitudes White Americans. The survey data shows that most White people are ambivalent toward Blacks. That is, they would be classified somewhere between "animosity" towards Blacks and "comity or brotherhood" with Blacks.

The authors say the most dangerous characteristic of many White Americans' racial attitudes is their denial of anti-Black discrimination. If people don't think discrimination even exists, the authors say, there is no hope of improving things, because these people will oppose changes and policies seeking to achieve racial equality.

What do you think?

What would Zora and Hughes think?


  1. I think this is a really interesting point. I was walking by a TV playing the news and the channel was I think at least, discussing something similar. It had a still of the Vogue cover with Gisele and Lebron James.
    The cover has the black man as a violent King Kong and the white woman as a damsel in distress. Scary.

  2. Well, everyone, welcome to You Made Me Theorize's own version of the WayBackMachine!

    Check this post (and comment) from a few months back. Is Black Image outdated now that we have a black president? Also, could Gisele's smile undercut whatever threat James is said to pose?

  3. I definitely don't think that just because we have a black president that the "black image" is outdated or that we live in a "post-racial" environment. The very idea that we think we're post-racial because we have a black president demonstrates that we still think about race ALL THE TIME.

    I work at the New Yorker and actually came across a blog entry the other day by Hendrik Hertzberg about Rush Limbaugh. Apparently he went on a rant on his radio show the other day because Obama pronounced the word "ask" as "ax." Lilmbaugh then said, "Obama can turn on the black dialect when he wants to and turn it off." Clearly, some Americans still carry around these stereotypical racial characteristics even almost a century after Langston Hughes and some of these other Harlem Renaissance writers were first published.

  4. The turning on and off of dialogue is something I don't believe we connected to present day during class discussion. We spoke a lot about the reasons for dialect, prose, or plain old english. I don't think anyone in the class thought that the author was being disingenuous by doing so.

    And yet we love to say that people who use varying degrees of an accent or dialect in their speech are pretty much lying about who they are. So what if the speaker is playing to the audience? Isn't the author as well?

  5. I'd say these points are probably mostly true; Denial of the existence of racism is definitely a bad thing, but does that mean that not discussing racism on a regular basis is ignorant? I think there is a big difference between turning off dialogue and choosing other topics.

    Racism is a very, very touchy subject in people of all races and ethnicity. The fear of being called racist is almost as strong as anti-racism, I think, and I also think that an awful lot of anti-racist commentary is spun with a lot of generalizations. Good discussions are important but it's important that people, black white or otherwise, aren't too thin skinned, both in response to racism and anti-racism.

    As for the reliability of the news, that's kind of something to explore the validity of.