Opinion: Is the Gangster Life the Life for Me? How African Americans are portrayed in the media

Tabitha Awoniyi

On the popular Disney Channel show Good Luck Charlie Charlie is a young, white female girl who is rich, smart and beautiful. Like on many other popular teenage shows, Charlie has a best friend, who happens to be the total opposite of her: she has a hard, sarcastic attitude, she’s overweight, and she just happens to be black. Many teenagers agree that this character, named Mercedes, brings a lot of wit to the hit TV show, but are many African American characters on several other TV shows portrayed the same way as her? The answer is yes.

Mass media is a powerful force in American pop culture. Images seen on billboards, television, magazines, and the big screen create lasting impressions. Sometimes these impressions have a negative impact. Mass media can be very detrimental to society if it is not criticized. Many groups of Americans are negatively affected by the images and content of mass media. And African Americans are at the top of this list. 

Images of African Americans in television are relatively the same. Black men are often portrayed as drug pushers, pimps, thugs, and dead beat dads, while black women are portrayed as poor, lazy, and promiscuous. Even African Americans portrayed on kids’ television shows like Nickelodeon and Disney Channel don’t have much of a say as to what attitude their character must exhibit. Even at a young age, many of these actors have blunt, strong and confident attitudes, and are experts in using slang. Rarely will you find an African American on television that plays someone wealthy, smart, and who isn’t fond of hip hop and rap music.   In a wrap up, the main problem with images of African Americans is that they are one-dimensional. And because of this unchanging problem, it is easy to assume that this could be the reason for  people in our own society to draw the same conclusion that the media constantly pushes every viewer to see: that the majority of African Americans think this way and live these types of lives.  The media has yet to notice that just like any other culture we see in society, African Americans are diverse and come from a variety of backgrounds. If an African American is portrayed as a druggie or a convict, then there should be some reasoning behind that.

Several steps should be taken in order to prevent these negative images in the media. First off, the origins of these images need to be examined. African Americans have historically had a disadvantage when compared to their white counterparts. This should not be exploited for entertainment purposes.

The media needs to rewrite the scripts, thus, creating new roles and lives that they want their characters to have. And as the audience to these television shows and advertisers, we must be more aware of what they are doing, and perhaps draw better conclusions ourselves of the significance of this person’s role on TV. And afterwards, we need to show these TV shows that we have become aware of that they’re doing. We need to stop watching these shows in general, and well as Toon Disney, which works in partnership with Disney channel. We must stop supporting what they are doing by also stopping ourselves from distractions like  Disney World and Disney Land, which brings in loads of money for the TV station to continue.

African Americans, as well as every one else from different cultures,  needs to stand up against this awful act  and fight against the media. That is the only way things will change.