Media Portrayal of Blacks: Myth vs. Reality

It certainly used to be true that news and entertainment media in the US portrayed blacks either not at all, or only as criminals, servants, or bafoons. Now it seems that the national cable news and print news media focus on crimes committed by whites: wealthy white kids shooting up schools, honkey deviants (including priests) kidnapping or raping children, corporate misconduct, runaway brides, parents killing their kids, cops beatings, celebrity misbehaviors, etc. Perhaps local news in black-majority cities such as Detroit contain lots of black-on-black crime... but such cities are, well, black majority.

Considering that black men comprose just 6% of the US population but commit about half the murders and a quarter or so of the burgleries and rapes, you would think that you would see even *more* of these "negative images." Even TV shows and films no longer exclude blacks, and nor do they depict them exclusively in negative terms -- except for black music videos and youth-oriented films, which earn hearty black viewerships.

Notes righty commentar Larry Elder: "
Researchers Linda and S. Robert Lichter watched hundreds of hours of television. They found that networks portrayed blacks as doctors, lawyers or other professionals far more often than occurs in real life. The networks also showed blacks as criminals far less frequently than occurs in real life."

In another article, he cites a study claiming that "roughly 12 percent of film and movie jobs go to blacks. Black directors get about five percent of the jobs, up dramatically from ten years ago. And blacks account for nearly 12 percent of all roles in commercials."

A third Elder essay claims that:
"According to the Screen Actors Guild, blacks, who comprise 12 percent of the population, are cast in 14.8 percent of all roles on television and in movies. ABC says that 33.6 percent of new network hires went to minorities. Forty-one percent of Fox's prime-time series actors are minorities. CBS says that 29 percent of its actors are black." In this article he notes that despite these claims of both discrimination and negative portrayal, blacks watch 50% more TV on average than honkies, which is more consistent with an inclusive, positive media portrayal than with an exclusive, negative one.

I remember watching TV and the movies in the '70s. No films other than "blaxploiotation" or the occasional "Sounder" contained any black folks in meaningful roles; TV presenting nothing except a few shows like Good Times and Sandford & Son, which presented blacks in projects or a junkyard, respectively; and news media had only the rare anchor or correspondant. Times have changed indeed as I flip the channels now, or survey the movies.


uptownseteve said...

This is ridiculous Hue.

Elder, a black man, is upset because the media no longer portrays blacks exclusively as buffoons, criminals and ne-er do wells?

What about shows like Maury Povich and Jerry Springer which feature black stereotypes and caricatures at least 50% of the time even though whites are are far more than half of the American population?

Or the various "Judge" shows which always have black participants acting the fool?

This is why I'm convinced that you are a racist.

You are just determined to prove that blacks are inherently screwed up.

I don't see any censorship of black criminality in the media.

It's displayed every friggin day.

You just seem to be offended by reports of white criminality which is far more prevalent, despite your supremacist fantasies.

I have not been rude to you here.

Just keepin it real.

Paul Hue said...

Steve: Elder is *NOT* upset that the media no longer confine black roles to minstrals and other negative charactorizations. To the contrary, he is happy to find that this is no longer true, and upset only that anybody continues to propagate what he considers to be an accusation that has lost most of its validity (if not all of it).

I do not watch shows like Povich and Springer. You may have a point if in a nation of 12% blacks their procession of idiot guests comprises 50% blacks. However, data may show that their audience is 50% black and this is what they want. I do not know. Do you? The same may be true of those wretched judge shows, but at least some of the judges are black.

Meanwhile, flipping channels during those broadcasts will surely take you to Oprah, who I believe reaches more viewers -- and probably attracts a higher percent of whites -- and makes more money and gets more respect than the idiot shows.

I am not "offended" by reports of white criminality, and I lack any "supremacist fantasies". I freely admit (as I do all facts) that for some crimes such as mass murders, child abductions, DWI, school shootings, etc. white culprits exceed the honkey fraction of the US population. And these crimes seem to me dominant on the national broadcast and print news. The formal academic study cited by Elder confirms this impression. The national cable broadcast news certainly does not create the accurate impression that black men commit half the murders and a quarter of the rapes in the US.

If you see black criminality "displayed every friggin day", I assume that you are watching local news for DC, which has a black majority, including a large impoverished population with a predictable high crime rate.

Where I see on TV blacks behaving like idiots are on BET/MTV videos that are very popular with young black people, and of course young honkies as well. These networks are giving those audiences what those audiences want.

I will reject any further posts from you that include you accusing me or any other participant on this forum of being a "racist".

uptownseteve said...

"Where I see on TV blacks behaving like idiots are on BET/MTV videos that are very popular with young black people, and of course young honkies as well. These networks are giving those audiences what those audiences want."

And of course you don't see white people acting like idiots on MTV (ever seen Jackass or Wild Boys) or VH1, do you??????

I don't have to call you anything.

Your words speak for themselves.

Paul Hue said...

Yes I do see whites behaving like idiots. I see whites and blacks on TV behaving like idiots. I also see both behaving sensibly. I see them both all over the place. I don't understand your point here, Steve.

uptownseteve said...


That's the point Hue.

You and Elder (that fool) seem to feel that we don't see enough of blacks behaving like fools.

uptownseteve said...

"If you see black criminality "displayed every friggin day", I assume that you are watching local news for DC, which has a black majority, including a large impoverished population with a predictable high crime rate."

No actually The DC metro area comprises about 5 counties (PG, Montgomery in MD, Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William in VA) besides DC.

The majority of people in this region are white, with a large black population in DC and PG, large hispanic population in DC, PG , Montgomery and Arlington and substantial Asian pop in Arlington and Fairfax.

High levels of Asian and Hispanic gangs and criminality in Northern VA, DC (the Mt Pleasant neighborhood) and PG (Langley Park)

So it ain't all about poor black folks.

Yet the electronic media seems to make it appear that way.

Paul Hue said...

If your local news reports street crimes committed by blacks at a fraction that exceeds the fraction of those crimes committed by blacks, then indeed your DC news media are creating a false impression. Is that the case?

uptownseteve said...

I believe it is.

In addition I believe you specified street crimes because more non-whites are proportionately poor and uneducated so commit crimes that require no skill other than drawing blood.

There are plenty of whites committing crimes in DC but they are less likely to do it on the street but in their homes, on their phones or computers.

Or in the church rectory, Boy Scout meetings etc......

Paul Hue said...

I specified "street crime" because that's what people claim blacks get over-represented by in the news media; they are, however, also crimes for which blacks do factually commit at numbers greater than their share of the US population. I agree that this results from increased poverty rates for blacks.

I also agree, as I've stated many times, that whites disproportionately commit non-street crimes, such as scout masters and priests fondling children, hot chick teachers having sex with students, on-line predation of minors for sex, killing spouses and their children, federal legislatures taking bribes, etc. All of that shows up predominantly on TV; I see more of these cracker crimes depicted on TV than the street crimes.

uptownseteve said...

I disagree.

The murder rates are high worldwide among young, impoverished urban males whether they be in Dublin, Moscow, Rio de Janiero, East LA or Detroit.

Race has little to do with it.

I already showed you that when Southern European immigrants were America's urban poor, their rates of street crime were astronomical.

My all black middle class neighborhood is virtually street crime free.

What part of this are you confused with Paul?

uptownseteve said...

Street Crime in very white RUSSIA.


Paul Hue said...

Steve: You keep debating me on points where we agree. White people in poverty commit excessive levels of crime; no "race" of people has any genetic predisposition to crime or to positive conduct.

We agree here. This discussion is supposed to focus on the assertion that the US entertainment and news media portrays blacks as responsible for more crimes than they actually commit, or as less successful than they actually are. The data, however, indicate that this previously accurate claim is now mostly untrue.

On the subject of race and crime, where ever people make poor choices, you will see crime and poverty together. I don't know how free of an economy Russia is, but in the US even poor people can choose to study and respect property and the rights of others; such poor people will tend not to be poor for very long!

Paul Hue said...

Yes, when honkey immigrants arrived in the US during various such waves, they did commit lots of crimes, similar to -- and perhaps in excess of -- the high crime black areas of today. How did those populations of crackers resolve their poverty problem? I say: by solving their problem of poor choices, including the commission of crime.

uptownseteve said...

Absolute nonsense.

First off, those white immigrants didn't have a government sanctioned system set up specifically designed to KEEP THEM in second classed status like blacks did with Jim Crow.

You guys conveniently forget that.

Also you should read to books that righties consipicuously avoid because it slays all your supremacist canards.

"When the Irish Became White" by Noel Ignatiev and "When Affirmative Action was White" by Ira Katznelson.

Both books showed that the advancement of white immigrants wasn't all about choices and hard work but built in advantages (skin color) they had over blacks who had been here for over a century.

Also how New Deal programs virtually financed the white ethnics ascension into the middle class and totally excluded blacks who had made the same war sacrifices.

Downright criminal.

Paul Hue said...

I think that these are very valid points:

1. No groups of white immigrants ever faced group obstacles anywhere near as high or as numerous as blacks in America.

2. One factor that helped new white immigrants was indeed uniting with "native" whites against blacks.

3. The New Deal did function effectively as "affirmative action" for whites because effectively only whites could avail themselves of these programs.

4. The above factors do count as "criminal"; they violate the US constitution. I would support criminal action against people who perpetrated those factors.

For these and even other reasons I have always supported the federal government using tax dollars to address the vestiges of slavery and segregation. However, I count myself among those who have criticisms of many New Deal programs, and who thus believe that much of that money went wasted and far from helping anybody, actually held back recovery from the depression.

The 1960s had a series of programs known as the "War on Poverty", which rivaled the "New Deal" in scope, and which was skewed towards black folks. Like the New Deal programs, many of these efforts were boondoggles that were wastes, but some of them were helpful.

Perhaps these monies have contributed to what you and I have seen, Steve, which is massive success for the huge fraction of black folks who have made smart choices in this new post-segregation era of the US. I believe that like the Irish immigrants of a certain time, blacks today born into poverty who make smart choices can now expect wondrous success in the US, unlike blacks born into poverty prior to the 1960s.

uptownseteve said...

There was never any "War on Poverty".

The program was immediately derailed by the costs of the Vietnam War.

Name me one program designed to bring jobs and create businesses in the urban ghetto.

Take all the time you need.

As far as welfare and AFDC, whites benefitted in real numbers far more thab blacks.

Paul Hue said...

I will look into this when I get time. I only remember reading that trillions got spent on "War on Poverty" programs, including welfare, WIC, AFDC, Head Start, food stamps, etc. I recall reading both Walter Williams and Milton Freidmen calculating this at about $10,000/year for each person designated as "poor"; these economists have proposed simply giving a check for that amount to all Americans earning less than this from working, as more efficient than funneling through all the various govt agencies. I will try to take some time to read about comparisons between New Deal and War on Poverty.

In any case, like Irish honkies who made smart choices in the 1950s, black folks who make smart choices in the 2000s have great chances. The stunning success of non-white smart-choosing immigrants here prove this, as well as the stats for smart-choosing blacks today. I do not believe that your kids or mine need to wait for any massive fedl program in order to create prosperous lives for themselves.

uptownseteve said...

Welfare, food stamps and WIC were all programs created in the 1930s to help whites adversely affected by the Depression.

Nadir said...

Steve has a good point. Television news broadcasts more coverage of street crime because of the credo "if it bleeds, it leads". White collar criminals are portrayed as upstanding citizens.

Paradoxically, crimes against Black people often don't merit any coverage. Hence the maximum coverage is given to missing blondes and missing Black kids or adults are ignored.

As for Blacks being portrayed in positive roles, it took television a very long time to catch on that they could win over the Black audiences who watch more television than whites by adding more Black characters to their shows. But Black characters are added to majority white casts. There aren't many "Black" shows.

Aside from the CW, name five shows that contain majority Black casts on network television. Okay for extra credit, name one drama on network TV that has a majority Black cast.

It's even worse for other ethnic groups. Latinos got smart and turned Univision and Telemundo into what BET should have been all along. They draw the majority of the Latino audience with Spanish language shows. Name five shows EVER with a majority Latino cast.

Okay. Name ONE show with a majority Asian cast. Arab? Native American?

What we do see more of is Blacks in commercials. Why? Because if you see someone who looks like you in a commercial, you may be more likely to purchase the product.

White folks also see Blacks and other ethnic groups as "exotic" and "cool" so it increases the hipness factor of shows and commercials to be multicultural.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. It's progress. But life certainly isn't like television, and television is not like life.

uptownseteve said...

Medicare and Medicaid were part of the War on Poverty.

Skewed toward blacks?????

Nadir said...

"In this article he notes that despite these claims of both discrimination and negative portrayal, blacks watch 50% more TV on average than honkies, which is more consistent with an inclusive, positive media portrayal than with an exclusive, negative one."

Horse hockey. Blacks watched a lot of television when there weren't many Blacks on TV. They just watched the all white shows.

Again, by adding a Black character or two, a show could increase its Black viewing audience. Place Blacks at the center of a show like Different Strokes, and it becomes a "Black" show even though the cast was majority white.

As much as Black folks hated the antics of Rochester and Amos and Andy, they watched them because they were at least seeing Black folks on television. It was a big deal to see Black folks on TV at all back then. Now, it would be a big deal to see a Black drama on network TV.

Paul Hue said...

Nadir: Blacks compose 12% of the US population. Does that mean that 12% of TV shows should be black-majority? Or that 12% of all roles overall should be black? I don't myself know. The one study cited here indicates that about 12% of all acting roles on TV shows these days go to blacks.

I know every little about what's on TV as I watch only cable news and old movies, plus some HBO programming (Rome, Sopranos, Extras). Blacks are surely under-represented on those shows, and I do recognize that only racism can explain this. My daughter watches TV and most of the shows that she watches have black-majority casts, including Raven.

With blacks watching 50% more than whites, that indicates that whatever is going on, black folks are ultimately happier with TV than white folks today... no?

As for Asians and Arabs, they comprise only about 1% each of US population. And I don't know if they are demonstrating the interest in acting that black folks and honkies are. What fraction do they comprise in the NBA, NFL, and MLB? In hip hop music?

Paul Hue said...

Steve: I accept your description of welfare originating as New Deal programs. You obviously know more about this topic than I do, so I as yet have little to contribute to this particular topic (which I forget how it became part of the Media discussion). Perhaps you are correct that poor white immigrants got enormous federal help in transforming into a prosperous group, and that blacks received relatively little. I don't know enough about this claim to endorse or refute it. But I find it fascinating and I plan to look into it.

Meanwhile, it appears to me that today, smart-choosing blacks all around me are obtaining great prosperity, and the many blacks that I know how are non-prosperous have poor choices to blame.

uptownseteve said...

Who says blacks watch 50% more TV than whites?

Sounds like more rightwing bull$hit to me.

Paul Hue said...

As stated in the referenced essays, the referenced studies include that info.

uptownseteve said...

Asians earn less than whites.




Paul Hue said...

Steve: Your asian-nation stats show that Asians in the US beat honkies in many areas, but the author's analysis downplays these stats. I do not refute this analysis, as I see no logical or factual flaws.

What now? Should Asian Americans immigrate away from the US to Asian countries? How horrible is it here for them? It still seems pretty good. They seem close enough to the success of whites that on an individual basis Asians are doing just fine. If they want to earn more money they can; if they want to live in any house that they can afford, they can; any thing that they want that they can afford they can obtain it.

Where are the stats comparing white and Asian and blacks who have made the same choices in key areas, such as university major, credit score, etc.?

Paul Hue said...

Steve: Your scientist urls are non-working for me.

uptownseteve said...

"The stunning success of non-white smart-choosing immigrants here prove this,"

I know how hard it is to let go of your long held canards but this is simply nonsense.

The non-white immigrants having stunning success here are the ones who come here already equipped with education and money.

I've seen the others, working long hours for little pay, living 5 to a room in cheap apartments, engaging in criminal acts for short term monetary gain, etc....

uptownseteve said...