Black criminal stereotypes in television

Subject: Psychology
Type: Critical Analysis Essay
Pages: 2
Word count: 639
Topics: Crime, Media Bias, Prejudice, Race, Stereotypes

An episode of a crime drama show about crimes in the United States was recently aired in one of the television networks in the U.S. The episode stereotypes low-class black males as criminals while putting middle and high-class white individuals as the victims of crime. At no instance are the blacks victims of crimes committed by the whites in the show. I strongly feel that African Americans are offended by this show and it should be taken off the air. Portraying black men as criminals put all black men into a cultural prison; even those blacks who have never committed a single crime are viewed as criminals.

The show is one of the leading perpetrators of racial stereotypes. Stereotyping of blacks as aggressive, rapists, violent, and other crime-related characteristics have existed in the U.S for many decades now. These stereotypes are likely to exist indefinitely given the images the media present to the public. In this show blacks are not victims of crimes, they are the criminals. This portrayal contradicts with the FBI reports of 2000 which indicated that blacks were often the most victims of violent crimes (Escholz 164-165). This indicates that the crime television show did not actually consider crime reports or they just wanted to portray the existing stereotype. This can be explained by the disproportionate representation of blacks in the show. Studies indicate that television networks are two times likely to portray black males as perpetrators compared to white men (Dixon and Linz 150-154). In the eyes of the viewers, such representation of black males makes them believe that the criminal stereotyping of black males is valid. Therefore, most people categorize the African American racial group as violent forgetting that Americans in this racial group are also victims of violent crimes. This is a hurtful assumption perpetuated by the show.

Furthermore, this show could be viewed as part of the system of mass incarceration. Mass incarceration has locked up more blacks compared to whites. A study by Dixon and Linz found that blacks are portrayed as criminals at a significantly higher rate than whites in the media (150-154). This is evident in this crime show where the criminals are black men. Alexander views mass incarceration as locking a stigmatized racial group into an interior position (15). Mass incarceration combined with this crime television show creates an image of black criminals in the eyes of the people. Black men continue to be stigmatized by being stereotyped by the media and the society.

Lastly, the show depicts black children as spies who warn drug dealers of coming police. In the eyes of the viewer, it is a suggestion that black children are introduced to criminal activity early in life. African American boys have always been labeled as aggressive and delinquents and this types of media perpetuate this bad stereotype. Majority of Americans lack personal exposure to crimes and greatly depend on crime television shows and news to learn about crime trends in the U.S (Britto 40). Given that the media portrays black men and boys as aggressive and violent, the public will just believe that blacks are criminals. This perception has detrimental effects as people tend to fear to live with blacks among other social injustices. The white police who shot Michael Brown in 2014 described that Brown looked like a demon (Hawley and Staycie 208). This is an indication of how the portrayal of black men by the media has also influenced the police who are supposed to protect people.

In conclusion, based on my arguments I strongly believe that the crime television show should be taken off the air. The African American racial group has suffered many social and economic injustices and continued portrayal of black men as criminals are offensive. The media should be reformed to help fight racial stereotypes instead of promoting them.

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  1. Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc., 2011.
  2. Britto,  Sarah. “Does  “special”  mean young, white and female?  Deconstructing  the meaning of “special” in  Law  &  Order: Special Victims Unit.”  Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, vol. 14, no. 3, 2007, pp. 40-52.
  3. Dixon, T, and Linz, D. “Overrepresentation and Underrepresentation of African Americans and Latinos as Lawbreakers on Television News.” Journal of Communication, vol. 50, no. 2, 2000, pp. 131–154.
  4. Eschholz, S. “Images of prime  time justice: A content analysis  of “NYPD Blue”  and “Law  &  Order”.”  Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, vol. 10, no. 3, 2004, pp.  161-180.
  5. Hawley, Jamie D., and Staycie L. Flint. “It Looks Like a Demon.” The Journal of Men’s Studies, vol. 24, no. 2, 2016, pp. 208–212.
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