Local television stations play a vital role in the preservation and transformation of cultural values. Robert M. Entman, a professor of Communications at North Carolina University and Andrew Rojecki, a professor of Journalism at Indiana University asses the role of the media in widening racial conflict in the text on 'The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America.' The authors analyze perceptions regarding race through surveys of several American television shows including dramas, news broadcasts, Hollywood films, and commercials. The fundamental point that the two authors aim to put across in the entire text is the duality of the media as both a causal agent and a yardstick in propagating negative race relations. The authors focus their analysis on the complicated race relations between whites and blacks as presented in whites' perspectives and attitudes. The authors present a comprehensive study, one that is guided by research results from studies probing the current state of whites' emotions and beliefs about the blacks.
In chapter 10 of the text, Entman and Rojecki uncover racist messages conveyed by commercial advertisements. Using nuanced arguments and measurements, the authors go beyond the simple schemes that intend to categorize whites as either racist or not by arguing from a sophisticated framework that reflects more conflicted and complicated racial sentiments (Entman and Rojecki 2001:163). In chapter ten, the authors discover the tendency of commercials to advertise whiteness through new forms of racial discrimination that are different from the traditional characterizations. The commercial ads present blacks as inferior while whites are superior and unintentionally promote the preference for whiteness.
Touching the black skin is currently presented as a taboo. Though there is a more substantial presence of the blacks in commercial advertisements, the television shows still reflect aspects of modern racism. Entman and Rojecki argue that the contemporary racial thinking occurs within a paradigm that stretches from racial comity on one end to ambivalence and animosity in the middle, then to visible racism on the other end. Out of the 465 adds featuring both Whites and Blacks, the authors did not find any aspects of outright racism (Entman and Rojecki 2001:165). However, elements of hidden forms of racial hatred and the advertisement of white color emerge after a close analysis. For instance, the authors find that out of the 68 ads involving kissing and featuring only one race, 59 of them are all whites while only 6 of them are all blacks (2001.168). Unintentionally, commercial ads reinforce feelings of racial disengagement, and they convey messages that blackness is undesirable.
Overt stereotypes associate whites with a high economic status while the blacks are depicted to be poor. The higher involvement of black actors in commercial ads is not reflective of a commitment to achieve racial comity. Increased participation by blacks in advertisements promotes denial of racism, and it facilitates racial comparison revealing blacks to be of low economic status (Cacciatore, Dietram and Shanto 2016:22). Entman and Rojecki find that out of the 105 ads for cars featuring only one race, 100% are all whites, of the 74 perfume advertisements involving either whites or blacks, 98% are all whites, of the 47 ads for cosmetic and jewellery showing either whites or blacks, 100% feature whites (2001:166). A focus on roles played by the whites provides insights to whiteness advertisement by connecting it with affluence.
Commercials tend to ghettoize blacks. The blacks are presented to be dangerous and to be involved in criminal activities. Rarely are the blacks depicted to be making a vital contribution to the economy and to have serious businesses. From the findings of the research by Entman and Rojecki, 47.7 percent of the total ads show a white hand while only 9.8% of the total ads feature a black hand (2001:168). The authors argue that the trend is consistent with stereotype associating blacks with pollution and crime. From the text by Entman and Rojecki, it is apparent that while television ads are featuring whites advertising cars and cosmetics, twenty ads targeting the black population popularise alcoholic drinks within two days. The advertisements depict the blacks to be living in poor neighborhoods surrounded by liquor stores.
Hierarchy of black characters reflects elements of advertising whiteness. Stereotypes relate witness with superiority, and the process of empowerment is depicted to be following a trend of adopting whiteness. Entman and Rojecki recognize the acceptance of characters who portray white traits by the white media audiences, an aspect that serves to separate whites and blacks emotionally. The authors report that out of 408 commercials only 122 ads involving 466 individuals include an identifiable black character. Further categorization indicates that of the 466 black actors, only 44% would fit the definition of dark-skinned while 56 % are light skinned (Entman and Rojecki 2001:177). Stereotypes regarding skin color connect lighter skin with higher social status thus contributing to the involvement of light-skinned blacks in advertising luxury products and dark-skinned blacks in promoting products associated with low economic status.
Whites are depicted to be beautiful, emotional and sexually attractive while blacks are presented to be ugly and inhuman. Though the commercial advertisements are making attempts to show an accurate profile of the blacks, the progress involves a mixture of aspects of racial stereotyping, depersonalization and dehumanization (Garland 2015:5). Entman and Rojecki state that sexualization of black characters is fleeting with most adds featuring black women sexual images for a half a second while sexually appealing pictures of the whites last for seconds (2001:169). Dehumanization of blacks is evident in an advertisement for Hanes women underwear fails to show the face of the sexualized black woman and viewers only get to see her torso and legs.
The decision on racial casting originates from the assumption that whites are likely to react negatively to advertisements featuring too many black characters. Television images reflect the economic and the political conditions as well as the market pressures in the real world. Entman and Rojecki state that while designing commercial advertisements, the composers find themselves in a situation where they have to operate within the existing institutional processes (2001:180). It is critical for the blacks to realize that the market forces and not just the attitudes of the composers of the television ads contribute to the stereotypes in the media.
Commercial ads present African American to have low intelligence and to be unprofessional while the whites are depicted to be professional and suited in public speaking. Entman and Rojecki find that 33.7 percent of the total ads involve a white person speaking to the audience while only 14.5 percent involve the blacks speaking to the audience (2001:168). The limited duration of blacks contact with the whites limits racial understanding. Also, the audience transfers unequal relations as portrayed in the media in real life situations.
Overall, commercial create modern types of racial divisions in the society. Commercial advertisements associate whites with a high economic status by involving them in advertising luxurious products. The high number of black actors promotes denial of racism, and it encourages the audience to contrast the roles played by whites and conveys messages about preference for whiteness. The media has a vital role in reaching the white Americans, most of them who are in the middle between racial hatred and ambivalence.
Garland, Christian. 2015. "Framing the Poor: Media Illiteracy, Stereotyping, and Contextual Fallacy to Spin the Crisis." Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society 13: 5-10.
Entman, Robert, and Rojecki, Andrew. 2001. ''Advertising Whiteness'' in Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America, edited by S. Herbst and B. Page. University of Chicago Press
Cacciatore, Michael A., Dietram A. Scheufele, and ShantoIyengar. 2016. "The End of Framing as We Know It and the Future of Media Effects." Mass Communication and Society 19:7-23.
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