Recognizing Stereotypical Images Of African Americans In Television And Movies

Sample essay topic, essay writing: Recognizing Stereotypical Images Of African Americans In Television And Movies - 2189 words

Contents of Curriculum Unit 96.03.05:* Narrative* Lesson Plan* Lesson Plan* Lesson Plan* Notes* Films* Television Shows* Children's Reading List* Teachers BibliographyTo Guide EntryThe practice of racial stereotyping through the use of media has been used throughout contemporary history by various factions in American society to attain various goals. The practice is used most by the dominant culture in this society as a way of suppressing its minority population. The Republican parties use of the Willie Horton image in the 1988 Presidential campaign, is a small example of how majority groups have used racial stereotyping in the media as a justifiable means to an end. The book Unthinking Eurocentrism by Stam and Shohat supports this notion when they write "the functionality of stereotyping used in film demonstrates that they (stereotypes) are not an error in perception but rather a form of social control intended as Alice Walker calls "prisons of image."(1)The modern usage of the word stereotype was first introduced in 1922 by American journalist Walter Lippman in his book Public Opinion. The major thesis of this book is that in a modern democracy political leaders and ordinary citizens are required to make decisions about a variety of complicated matters that they do not understand.

"People believe that their conceptions of German soldiers, Belgian priests, or American Klu Klux Klansman for example are accurate representations of the real members of those classes. . . the conception in most cases is actually a stereotype acquired by the individual from some other source other than his direct experience."(2)Historically the "other source" people developed racial stereotypes were from literature and then radio. In 1933 Sterling Brown the great black poet and critic, divided the full range of black characters in American literature into seven categories; the contented slave; the wretched freemen: the comic Negro; the tragic mulatto; the local color Negro; and the exotic primitive

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. speaks of Dr. Brown's work in the article TV's Black World Turns but Stays Unreal. "It was only one small step to associate our public negative image in the American mind with the public negative social roles that we were assigned to and to which we were largely confined."(3)In contemporary American society the most affective way in which stereotypes are perpetuated is through the mediums of film and television.

Images from these mediums constantly bombard American children with negative and unrealistic portrayals of African-American life or deny the existence of African-Americans in a "true" American society at all. The use of racial stereotyping is destructive to American society on two fronts. First it connotes to the majority population of America that the negative actions of a few minorities sum up the collective values of the whole minority community. For example, in urban America to be a mugger is synonymous with being African American or Hispanic. As a result of media images, the immediate image we accept as norm is that of whites being mugged by blacks and Hispanics.

While of course, black and Hispanic men have mugged whites, to have this be a dominant image goes against many national and local crime statistics. Discussing racial imaging in the book Questioning the Media, Ash Corea explains "stereotypes seek to portray African-Americans as a "problem" in an otherwise harmonious country."(4)Stam and Shohat explain "the mark of the plural" in Unthinking Eurocentrisim. They explain how "the mark of the plural" projects colonized people as all the same, any negative behavior by any member of the oppressed community is instantly generalized as typical, as pointing to a perpetual backsliding toward some negative essence. Representations thus become allegorical."(5) They further explain how stereotyping "of other communities participate in a continuum of prejudicial social policy and actual violence against disempowered people placing the very body of the accused in jeopardy."(6) The nationwide manhunt for the fictitious black killer of Susan Smith's children supports their assertion. The second effect of stereotyping is that the group being stereotyped begins to internalize the negative images and actually mimic some of the behavior and attitudes portrayed in the negative imagery. One of the most famous examples of internalization of stereotypes is the experiment first used in the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education.

In this experiment black children were shown almost identical dolls, the only difference being skin color (one black, one white). When the children were asked which dolls were pretty, nice, smart, clean, etc. child after child pointed to the white doll. However, when asked which doll was ugly, dumb, dirty or evil the black doll was almost always selected. I have been a 5th grade school teacher in the New Haven public school system for three years. As a result of close interaction with and observation of my students I have become painfully aware of how negative stereotypical images from television, movies and to a lesser extent literature affect young black children.

All to often, children imitate negative stereotypical behaviors exhibited in these mediums. For example, many children now imitate the dress, dialect and violence associated with the "gangsta" lifestyle portrayed in the currently popular, "in the hood" movie genre. In these films, violence is used as a means of solving problems, sometimes without repercussions and is often glorified. Mothers are on welfare, fathers are unemployed, drunkards, or absent altogether. If taken individually, some elements may be present "in the hood" but are no means the norm. An educator would be foolish to suggest that viewing images is the major cause of negative behaviors present in some of today's school aged children. Unemployment, poor housing, and lack of education are some of the ills which heavily shape negative behavior patterns.

However, it would be absurd to assert that these portrayals have no effect at all. Many studies have documented the time children spend in front of the television (I assume that a significant amount of time is spent watching movies on the VCR). The Washington Post of June 23,1996 reports, "In a 1994 survey, nearly one of two black forth graders said they watched six hours or more of television daily, according to the National Center of Education Statistics, the research arm of the U. S. . Department of Education.

That's more than three times the rate at which their white classmates reported spending that many hours in front of the television. It is nearly double the 27 percent of Hispanic forth-graders who said they watch at least six hours a day. . . "(7) To help resolve this problem educators have to develop programs that teach children how and why television and movie images are manipulated and how these manipulations affect them.

This curriculum unit will provide elementary school teachers with a framework to begin to help their students understand and define a stereotype. Recognize common stereotypes and stereotypical themes in film and television and illustrate some damaging effects perpetuating stereotypes through behavior. Finally, how to constructively deal with others stereotyping them. Teaching these skills are it essential considering the recent decision in the Sheff vs. O'Neill case. In the not to distant future inner-city children will be forced to interact with white children in the suburbs. They must understand that their behaviors could significantly shape white Nutmeggars perceptions of African American people in the future. The scope of this paper is limited to stereotypical views of African-Americans in film and television.

This is a function of my school and class demographics. L. W. Beecher Elementary School is an inner-city school servicing approximately 450 children from ages five to twelve years of age. Beecher's racial makeup is 92% African-American, 7% Latino, and 1% Caucasian. StrategiesMy unit will be taught within the context of film and television. All of the unit's activities will revolve around watching selected movies and documentaries and discussing these materials in small and large groups. Preceding each discussion students will perform various writing assignments on topics being discussed. Assignments would include but not be limited to journal writing and essays from various writing prompts.

In addition, problem solving activities such as role playing will be included. Math and social science will be integrated into some of these activities. The curriculum unit will be taught over a period of five weeks. It would start at the at the beginning of the academic quarter. Math and writing skills needed to fully comprehend and enjoy the unit will be sufficiently covered by this time. Due to the controversial content within the unit parents will be asked for permission to let their child participate in the unit The activities included in this unit directly correlate with many standards of the New Haven Public Schools Curriculum Framework Document Vision Statements and Standards (April 96). In addition, my choice of activities reflect the need to increase writing proficiency of fifth grade students. According to a report by the State Department of Education, only 7% of New Haven public school students tested, have attained mastery in the skill of writing. I.

Defining StereotypesIn the first unit objective students will be able to define racial a stereotype and the practice of stereotyping. This will be accomplished through nine activities. I will first ask the students their responses to help me fill out the K and W of a K-W-L chart. I will place their answers on flip chart paper. These charts will be placed on a bulletin board to remain up during the duration of the unit. It has been my experience that definitions themselves do not impress children. As a result, students will first be next be asked to brainstorm and list of ideas that come to mind when thinking of defining the word stereotype.

The ideas will be recorded on the chalkboard. Then an academic definition of the word stereotype will be presented. The following definition from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary will probably be used, "A standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and represents an oversimplified judgment." The two definitions will be compared. Next, on large black construction paper there will be placed several photos of stereotypical black images. The class will be asked to divide into small groups. Each group will describe and discuss the image before them.

As they are discussing the images, one student from each group will record his/her group's responses. The groups will have ten minutes to complete this activity. Once completed, the teacher will ask a representative from each group to report their group's responses to the class. as the groups are reporting, the teacher will record the responses underneath the corresponding pictures. Afterwards, the teacher will reveal who/what each picture actually is or represents and point out the stereotypical responses given. Next the teacher will facilitate a discussion among the group of what led them to their responses and why they were taught to think of the images in the way that they did.

The last part will be used to place their responses and discussion back into the context of the dictionary definition, thus giving students insight into stereotypes. The next activity will be integrated with the Addison Wesley 5th grade math textbook lessons on percentages (section 9-8) and graphing (section 7-8). These lessons will be taught in the previous academic quarter but will be reviewed the morning of the activities presentation. Students will be provided with and asked to read a copy of the stereotype entry in the International Encyclopedia of Social Science. This three page entry begins by explaining how the original use of the word stereotype is fundamentally different from its current usage. It then goes on to explain how stereotyping has been used as a social science concept without being precisely defined It then introduces Walter Lippman, who first used the modern usage of the word in his book Public Opinion (1922). The article summarizes Lippman's work and provides the four characteristics of a stereotype. The entry then documents and describe empirical research performed on the subject of stereotyping. It reveals that very little system investigation has been conducted on the subject.

However, that " there have been very few attempts to set up criteria for classifying an individual's concept in a particular area into "stereotypes'' and "nonstereotypes.'' In empirical research, the term stereotype has usually been employed simply as a pejorative term designation for group concept. The entry next describes a study performed in 1933 by Daniel Katz and Kenneth Braly. In this study a group of 100 White American collage students were asked to select from a list of 84 traits those they considered characteristics of each one of ten ethnic groups; then they were asked to chose the five "most typical" traits for each group. The students in the class will repeat a modified version of this experiment. Students will survey 100 fourth and fifth grade students and have them choose character traits of whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. The students will then be asked to list five typical traits of each group. Students will then be placed into groups of four. Each group will then be given copies of the surveys and asked to construct a wheel or bar graph depicting the percentage of responses for the five typical traits for each ethnic group. They will then be asked to discuss and record their r...

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