Essay: Stereotyping Minorities in Medica

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Stereotypes (Media)

The media has an influential presence in society. The images that are seen through the media are often not an accurate reflection of the true nature of people from various ethnic and/or religious minorities. Over the past two decades there has been a concerted effort to draw attention to the stereotyping of minorities in the media. The minorities that are usually targeted in such stereotypes are African-Americans, Italians and Jews. The purpose of this discussion is to explore the phenomenon of the of minority stereotypes in the media. The research will focus on the types of stereotypes that are projected about various minority groups and how these stereotypes effect these groups in daily life.

Stereotyping of Minorities in the Media

The United States is often characterized as a melting pot, unique for the incredible diversity of ethnicities, nationalities, races and religions that are represented across this nation. And yet, in many ways, its populations remain largely segregated, voluntarily inclined toward communities of their own kind and into social circles, organizations and institutions where such is similarly the case. This is an experience which is common for many Americans, who have viewed other groups through the homogeneity of their own experiences. This contrasts the experience of the dominant culture, a white ethnic spectrum which in total constitutes somewhere in the range of 70% of the population. (Day, 1) This is racial dynamic which facilitates a hegemonic approach to defining and conceptualizing other ethnicities, races and cultures. The result is a set of cultural artifacts perpetuating stereotypical composites of various minorities. These are constructed through various media to confirm hegemonic thinking and used to sustain existing racial power dynamics.

Literature Review

According to Ramasubramanian & Oliver (2007) racists sentiments are remnants of shared cultural norms as opposed to individual characteristics (Ramasubramanian & Oliver, 2007) . The article also asserts that there are socio-cultural influences including friends, family, leaders and the media help the create, maintain, and communicate cultural stereo-types to viewers. The authors further explain,

"Mediated communication such as news, in particular, plays an important role in creating and reinforcing cultural stereotypes about people and places when there is very little contact (Armstrong, Neuendorf, & Brentar, 1992; Fujioka, 1999).

Through continual habitual exposure across genres and media types, media stereotypes become part of symbolic dominant ideologies…Exposure to even a single or a few media exemplars can often be powerful enough to create impressions about issues, peoples and places, especially when little or no first-hand, non-mediated sources of information are available (Ramasubramanian & Oliver, 2007)."

Negative stereotyping is typically a product of limited interaction with members of another ethnic or cultural group, which accounts for the correlation between its presence in the media and the segregation which is generally pervasive in American culture. Indeed, according to Fiske (2004), "stereotyping entails applying to an individual one's cognitive expectancies and association about the group. As such, stereotypes represent one specific kind of schema." (Fiske, 398) Such schema are only made necessary by an absence of true understanding or awareness. In a society where segregation does not occur so consistently as is the case in America -- where races and ethnicities are often divided along socioeconomic and geographical lines -- the tendency to appeal to such schema is likely to be reduced.

According to the study by Cuddy et al., (2007) "emotions predict behavioral tendencies more strongly than stereotypes do and usually mediate stereotype-to-behavioral-tendency links." (Cuddy et al., 631) in a very real and problematic way, media outlets tend to exploit these emotions by representing minority cultures in ways that either appeal to our expectations or which manipulate our fears to greater heights. These effects suggest a reciprocal relationship between our media and our own racial and ethnic biases as a culture.

African-Americans in the Media

The well-known inequality faced by African-Americans is carried out not just in the judicial system and through economic exclusion, but also by the delivery of negative stereotypes through the media. These have the effect of both informing a negative self-image for African-Americans and of perpetuating unfair assumptions by the hegemonic culture regarding the cultural characteristics of the particular group. These abuses were psychological and would help to keep a degrading racist picture of African-American people in the public eye. This racist picture would help the reigning political order to justify the oppression of African-Americans. In the Kern-Foxworth (1994) article, the author considers the way that advertising after the Civil War would help to keep negative stereotypes and ideas about African-Americans alive even after slavery had ended.

Two popular ways of showing the African-American which were used liberally in the years around the turn of the century would depict him either as very simple or as a backwards and dangerous savage. By the early 1900s, it had become normal for cartoons on products that were for sale and in advertisement illustrations to show African-Americans in the negative ways that whites preferred to view them. The Sambo stereotype was used quite frequently and, with serious reflection, remains evident in the self-deprecating humor of many African-American humorists today. This image has allowed for the idea by white people that the African-American is naturally simple and obedient. This idea facilitates advertisements which show the black man as being ignorant in a way that is meant to be funny. An insulting description of African-Americans which comes with a coffee product discussed the article states that "the banjo is the favorite instrument of the Negro and adds to gaiety of his home life in his cabin. Here while thrumming the notes, and beating time with his foot, he teaches his young pickaninnies to make their crude steps in harmony with the music." (Kern-Foxworth, 34)

The advertisement uses degrading and condescending words like 'crude' and 'pickaninnies.' But also, it shows the African-American as being happy without addressing the stark inequalities in his life. This is a false and ironic way of showing African-Americans, casting a sharp counterpoint to the lynching's and other crimes still perpetrated against African-Americans. These associations demonstrate the destructive potential of media stereotyping which today frequently casts African-Americans as the criminal villains in a law and order society. Depictions of other groups seem to reflect a similar desire to cast the social 'other' in a villainous role. With respect to the depictions of Jews, for instance, recent cases in popular culture illustrate, there does genuinely exist an often unspoken but continually relevant mistrust of the Jews amongst other cultures. The inflammatory notion that the Jews were responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a mythologized over-simplification of history that has helped to sustain an unwavering if often invisible image problem for the Jews. The spotlight created by the situation of conflict in Israel has been very pertinent to this conception of the Jew as deceptive, combative and imbued with a sense of superiority. (Patterson, 1) This notion has been a long-standing provocateur of resentment against the Jews.

Jewish Stereotypes in the Media

Schrank (2007) explains that the portrayals of Jewish people in the media have sinister intentions as it pertains to the ethnic features of Jewish people. The article explains that many images of Jewish people in the media tend to be of Jewish people who have non-Jewish noses. The author refers to this phenomenon as the de-Semitized view of Jewish people in the media. The article explains that Jewish immigrants have felt a great deal of pressure as it pertains to assimilation. The media, in an effort ot emphasize a homogenous society has encouraged the idea that people of different ethnic groups should look as close to the way the majority of Americans look even if doing so is a denial of their heritage.

In addition to perpetuating these notions concerning the way that people should look according to the standards of the majority, the media often presents negative stereotypes about Jewish people. Jewish people are often presented as greedy, money hungry and only loyal to one another. According to Brown (2002) the stereotyping of Jewish people has been present since the inception of American film. The author explains that

"Films in the 1920s codified an "architecture of Jewishness," framing images in the metaphor of the city -- the embodiment of capitalism, urban exploitation, and power on one hand, and swarthiness, exotic practices, and ghetto sensibilities on the other. The "rich Jew" represented the thriving industrialist, the modem capitalist, the slumlord who manipulates the poweriessness of his fellow citizens and who dominates physical, financial, and political exchange (Brown, 2002)."

Over the years these images have become synonymous with Jewish people in daily life. These negative images contributes greatly to the manner in which Jewish people are perceived. In some cases this leads to anti-Semitism. According to Brown (2002) these stereotypes are quite often perpetuated by so called Christians. Brown (2002) asserts that even though some Christians often come to the defense of Jewish people, there is often an underlying tension between Christians and Jews. The author explains that "Although anti-Semitism… [END OF PREVIEW]

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