Negative Portrayal of African American Males by the Media`s In Crime Number

NegativePortrayal of African American Males by the Media’s In Crime


NegativePortrayal of African American Males by the Media’s In Crime

Themedia have become an important tool in human life, and the massivetechnological advancement has been a breakthrough towards the accessto information by people throughout the world. However, despite theabolishment of the slave trade in the country many years back, theissue of racial abuse has been experienced many at times in thecountry. However, in modern day, the issue of racial profiling hasbeen the disturbing cases as many African Americans.

Ina nutshell, racial profiling is the use of a person’s racialidentity or ethnicity in deciding whether using force. Despite thepractice being against the law, in the United States, there have beenreported cases of racial profiling where black men have beensubjected to racial discrimination in the society. On the other hand,the media have equally been blamed for negatively portraying theblack men as lesser human compared to the white Americans. This paperis an analysis of the negative portrayal of the African Americanmales by the American media in crime, with a focus to the cases suchas the shooting of Trayvon martin, Michael brown as well as the onein the North Carolina case. The main focus of the of the paper willbe guided and focused on “Domedia portrayal of negative stereotypes of African American Malespertaining to crime influence people of authority to use excess/brutal force, and does the media use these stereotypes as ajustification for the resulted deaths?

Themedia have been regarded as a powerful tool in the community, interms of informing the globe. According to Jim Morrison, he saidthat, whoever controls the media controls the minds of the people.This is recognition of the power of the media among the people, andaccording to Morrison, he had recognized the immense power andinfluence that the media has in our day to day lives. The media playsa very important role in the society as the source of information forevery person. Hence, it is very hard for the modern society to livewithout the media. As a result of the media being the major source ofinformation in our society, it is an undeniable fact the media shapespeople’s opinions, attitudes and actions on particular issues(Czopp&amp Monteith, 2006).

Beinga key tool in the American community, the media also plays a key roletowards promotion of some negative attributes and stereotypes in thesociety. A good example of stereotypes is the way African Americanmales are described. The media normally depicts them negatively asviolent, cruel, criminals as well as having other antisocial behaviorthat the causations don’t have. “These negative representationsof dark guys are promptly obvious and passed on to general societythrough the news bulletin, films, music features, realty TV and otherprogramming and manifestations of media (Abraham&amp Appiah, 2006).As a result, the media has created a crooked and damaging perceptionof black African Americans in the public’s eye thus promotinghatred and racism which all affect the lives of the blacks (Holt,2013)”.

Researchin communications has identified the media as an important source ofinformation regarding African Americans (Czopp&amp Monteith, 2006).Research has shown that depicting African Americans negatively by themedia as violent has contributed to negative public perceptions ofAfrican Americans. This is due to the excessive media coveragefocusing on crime, drug abuse and gang violence as well as otherforms of hostile social behavior among the blacks gaining a distortedand vindictive impression of African Americans (Oliver,2003).This not only affects the public, but the law enforcement personnelas well despite them being constitutionally mandated not to be biasedin delivering their duties. The media’s portrayal of negativestereotypes of African American males pertaining to crime influencespolice officers or people of authority to use excess force againstthem, and the media do use these stereotypes as a justification forthe resulted deaths as seen by the recent shootings.

Themedia have the freedom to choose the kind of stories that they wantto air or discuss without any restrictions or rules. This is to someextent has an advantage to the society as they get to know what ishappening (Moore, 2011). However, the freedom given to the media hasbeen devoted to detailing the criminal nature of the black racewithout focusing on the background problems such as poverty andilliteracy that the African Americans encounter. Experts havediscovered that African Americans in numerous occasions are distortedon TV. Most studies have demonstrated that African Americans are moreprobable than Caucasians to be depicted as a criminal suspect(Johnsonet al., 2009).

Thisdisproportionate coverage of African American events, mostly focuseson crime affecting the perception of the public on the AfricanAmericans. The unfavorable depictions of the African Americansreinforce stereotypical images of the blacks and create a racialatmosphere against them (Dixon,2008).These have effects on the viewers some of them being the police andas a result, they treat the blacks differently with the use ofexcessive force sometimes even without their conscience being aware.The violence used by the police is in most instances seen as adefense mechanism by many individuals justifying the actions of thelaw enforcement officer since the blacks are already stereotyped asviolent (Johnsonet al., 2009).

“Bureauof Justice Statistics investigation demonstrated that if currentimprisonment rates stay unchanged, 32 percent are black guys. Thiscontrasts with just 6 percent of white guys who will go to jail.African-Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. populace, howevertoday make 40 percent out of all jail detainees and 42 percent ofthose sentenced to death”. Questions have however been raisedwhether these statistics are as a result of racism in the criminaljustice system, especially due to the misconceptions that mostcriminal activity are by the blacks.

Theexcessive use of the police force towards the African Americans issometimes not necessary. A good instance is the media’s reportingof the February 26 shooting of Martin, a 17 year old teenager inSanford, Florida. He was shot by a neighborhood guard GeorgeZimmerman. The way that the media reported the story represents thenegative treatment of dark young people in the media. Zimmerman wasnot arrested by the people protested, showing the presumption ofMartin’s guilt by the authorities since he was black. There was ageneral assumption that Zimmerman acted in self-defense, therefore noactions or investigations were done, at least not before the protests(,2015).

Themedia also focused more on the on the cuts and bruises sustained byZimmerman after the encounter instead of the deceased(,2015).Most of the coverage overshadowed the shooting of the boy paying moreattention to the violent nature in which he handled Zimmerman. Otherissues such as firearm rights and whether Zimmerman was acting inself-protection were not given as much coverage as his bruises. Thisfocus on Zimmerman’s contusions together with the negativestereotypes of the blacks to some extent created a justification ofthe officer’s actions by the media. In most of the media reportingof the shooting, the autopsy results showed that Martin`s blood hadhints of THC, which is a drug constituent of marijuana. Thiscontrolled all the other information with an associated Press reportfrom Orlando starting: &quotMartin had cannabis in his framework. Hewas shot through the heart at short proximity.&quot This justifiedthe shooting by portraying Martin as a drug addict who was under theinfluence of marijuana. The more pressing and important issues suchas the age of the boy were not given the weight that they deserved bythe media. As a result, the shooting was seen as a necessary measuretaken by the officer.

Finally,the arrest and charging of Zimmerman as well as the investigationswere as a result of the mass unrest. However, despite the protests,George was set free by the jury of second degree murder on thegrounds that there was not enough evidence that refuted theZimmerman’s claim of self-defense as well as the right to defendhimself using lethal force. This shows that not only are the policebiased against the blacks, but other persons in authority tooincluding the jury. This proves how negative perceptions of theblacks created by the media make it difficult for the AfricanAmericans to obtain justice. Another recent case of excessive use bythe police on a black African American is the shooting of MichaelBrown. He was an 18 year old teenager from Fergusson in Missouri.Brown was shot by a white cop, Darren Wilson, who fired 12 times atthe teenager. In this event, the media played a huge role in thecivil unrest that followed. The media also held various debatesregarding the use of excessive force when dealing with AfricanAmericans (Greenberget al., 2014).

However,the media played another role that led to the justification of theshooting. Most media stations covered the wrong doing of the boy moreovershadowing the actions of the officer. More of the media storiespainted the boy as one who deserved to be shot. The fact that MichaelBrown had stolen prior to the shooting some packets of cigarillosfrom a nearby convenience store became the major highlight for themedia (Greenberget al., 2014).This helped in painting him as a crooked teenager who was terrorizingthe neighborhood. This was seen as the point at which the mediajustified the shooting of Brown.

However,the killing sparked a civil unrest with peaceful and violentprotests. Following this, the US department of justice conductedinvestigations which proved the Ferguson Police Department had majormisconducts attributed to their discriminatory nature against theAfrican Americans. At the end of the investigations, the USdepartment of justice concluded that the Ferguson Police Departmentapplied racial stereotypes in dealing with black people. This racialstereotype seemed to be deeply rooted in the minds of the officersand more so the white officers (Greenberget al., 2014).However, the way in which reported the case, it regarded to the blackAmericans as lesser Americans. During most of the killings, thesuspects are normally unarmed and teenagers. This shows that thedecision by the law enforcement officer is influenced by otherbeliefs and not merely the feeling of fear. The police does not showa lot of care when dealing with the African Americans, thus they shotto kill (Moore, 2011). Even after the use of such lethal force, thepolice officer is in most of the times not convicted. Coupled withthe negative stereotypes about the blacks, this encourages the use ofexcessive lethal force among fellow officers. However, the medialooks at the justification of the action against the blacks, and inturn deploying black men as criminal, who needs force to be dealtwith.

Theuse of excess force by the police on the blacks can be attributed tothe following reasons. The fear of intimidation by the blacks is oneof the leading factors that make the police use lethal force on them(Williams, 2014). The media has portrayed a history of runningbattles between the blacks and the police with each party trying tointimidate and disgrace the other. This is majorly in the drugbusiness run by the blacks. This has resulted in the perception of anenvironment of hostility between the two parties and as a result,prompting the police to use excess force to defend themselves againstthe blacks as they view them as violent.

Policealso fear black people more than they do white people. This fearnormally results from prior stories and stereotypes that have beencovered by the media. They therefore use these fears to justify theirdecision to shoot the black person in need of self-defense(Williams, 2014).Most police officers who extra judicially shot dark individuals,around 47 %, asserted they felt undermined, dreaded for their life,or were compelled to shoot to ensure the safety of themselves orothers. George Zimmerman, the furnished self-named neighborhoodgatekeeper who shot Trayvon Martin asserted precisely this to justifyshooting Martin. Different legitimizations incorporate suspectsescaping (14%), professedly going after waistbands or thrusting, orpurportedly pointing a firearm at an officer. Just 13% or 42individuals discharged a weapon before or amid the officer`s arrival(Williams, 2014).

“Racialbias that is normally created by the media is another factor thataffects the decision by a police officer to use excessive force amongthe blacks” (Abraham &amp Appiah, 2006). A study done at theUniversity of Colorado in 2002 proved that white people were morelikely to shoot an unarmed black person than a white person. In asimilar study, the police were found to be 21 times more likely toshoot a black teenager than a white teenager between 2010 and 2012.“Police enrollment, training, activities, and general prejudice inthe society take black individuals to be violent. This prompts thepolice exaggerating their actions in circumstances includingAfrican-American suspects. It likewise clarifies why such a largenumber of police asserted black suspect looking suspicious” (Moore,2011).

Themedia also concentrate most of its coverage on the majority groups inthis case being the whites. The media doesn’t allow for thefulfillment of the interests of under-represented people. Therefore,the stories that are told in the media about the blacks are mostlystereotypes (Moore, 2011). This leads to the dehumanization ofAfrican Americans as well as regressive decisions that lead toviolence against the blacks such as the stand your ground law whichgives the police a right to use lethal force if they feel threatenedand not run. This stand your ground rule has been the reason for someof the recent shootings. Unfortunately, during the coverage, thestory is normally turned around by the media concentrating more onthe bad behavior of the individual.

Inorder to curb these types of stereotypes against the blacks, themedia should first evaluate their coverage on the African Americans.If any stereotypes are identified, the media should be fair and actquickly to clarify any misconceptions. They should also find out waysto avoid any stereotypes about the blacks by engaging them innegotiations, thereby giving them a platform to be heard. The mediashould also incorporate more stories about the blacks into everydaynews. These stories give the African American people a voice to beheard. “The media should address issues affecting them and thereasons behind the high crime rate among the black communities. Theyshould try to involve the police and the blacks in dialogue toclarify issues that affect them such as fear of each other”(Williams,2014).

Themedia should also know that they have a social responsibility tobring to light stories of excessive use of force by the policeagainst African Americans. They should cover these injustices intheir bulletins and discussions in order to discourage suchinjustices in the criminal justice system. They should also lobby forthe arrest, sentencing and punishment of the police officers who useunwarranted excessive force in dealing with blacks.

Whetherthe media believes in the black Americans or not, the American’sare aware of the stereotypes and the numerous images relating to theblack American’s image as portrayed by the media. These negativeprofiling of the black American men is readily visible and exposed tothe society through news, music videos, films as well as other socialmedia. One of the negative impacts of the negative portrayal of theAfrican men by the media is that, it influences people’s personalopinion, racial attitudes and ideas. To some extent, the stereotypinghas resulted to the numerous unrest among the black Americans, in anattempt to fight for equality and against the abuse. The restlessnessthat followed in the Ferguson area was a clear way for the Africancommunity against the unjustified shooting of Brown. Finally, themedia remains a key tool in the society, and the emergence of thesocial media platforms has brought along increased challenges towardsthe fight against racial profiling cases in America. There has beenan increased response in the social media in response the abovecases, with the African community condemning the killings, while thecases resulting in a heated debated as whether the killings arejustified. The social media has brought a clearer view into how thecolored people are treated in America.


Theportrayal of African American in the media as violent has affectedthe way they are dealt with by the authorities. This has made justicefor the black Americans difficult to be attained in the light of suchstereotypes to the extent of justifying a murder of a teenager by thepolice. To curb this, the media should embrace their socialresponsibility to treat all races in the same way without painting abad picture of one and avoiding stereotyped story. These would changethe false beliefs held by the public about the blacks thereforepromoting fair treatment for all despite the skin color. One of themedia images that has also brought along division between the blacksand the white American’s is the reference to which the mediaportrayed the actions of the people affected by the Haiti earthquakein 2010. At some point, there was looting that took place, however,when a white was seen emerging from the shops from the affected areashops, he was searching for food, however, blacks was portrayed aslooters in the same incidents. This is a case of media biasnesstowards the black community.

Withreference to the cases discussed in the paper, it’s clear that, theAfrican community, most notably men are related to negativeattributions in the community, such as use drugs, crimes and othernegative actions in the community. For example, the Brown case, theshooting of Michel brown is justified by the media on the groundthat, Brown had engaged in a criminal activity prior to his shooting.From one side, the media is seen as a supporter of his shooting, andthe chaos that follows later, is not justified. Media’sportrayal of negative stereotypes of African American malespertaining to crime influence people of authority to use excess forceagainst them, and the media does use these stereotypes as ajustification for the resulted deaths as seen recently in the TravonMartin and Michael Brown Shootings.


NarissraM. Punyanunt,(2015). ThePerceived Realism of African American Portrayals on TelevisionRetrieved 6 May 2015. From

Abraham,L., &amp Appiah, O. (2006). Framing News Stories: The Role of VisualImagery in Priming Racial Stereotypes. Howard Journal ofCommunications.

Costly,A. The Color of Justice – Constitutional Rights Retrieved 6 May 2015, from

Czopp,A. M., &amp Monteith, M. J. (2006). Thinking Well of AfricanAmericans: Measuring Complimentary Stereotypes and NegativePrejudice. Basic and Applied Social Psychology.

Dixon,T. (2008). Network News and Racial Beliefs: Exploring the ConnectionBetween National Television News Exposure and StereotypicalPerceptions of African Americans. Journal Of Communication,58(2), 321-337.

Greenberg,J., Qiu, L., Sanders, K., &amp Tsang, D. (2014). 6 May 2015, from

Holt,L. F. (2013). Writing the Wrong: Can Counter-Stereotypes OffsetNegative Media Messages about African Americans? Journalism &ampMass Communication Quarterly, 90(1), 108–125.

Johnson,J. D., Olivo, N., Gibson, N., Reed, W., &amp Ashburn-Nardo, L.(2009). Priming media stereotypes reduces support for social welfarepolicies: the mediating role of empathy. Personality and SocialPsychology Bulletin, 35(4), 463–476.,.(2015). Digication e-Portfolio :: Media Ecology :: PORTRAYAL OFAFRICAN-AMERICANS IN REALITY TV. Retrieved 6 May 2015, from

Moore,C. (2011). Social Science Literature Review: Media. MediaRepresentations and Impact on the Lives of Black Men and Boys, 11-47.Retrieved May 6, 2015, from

Oliver,M. (2003). African American men as “criminal and dangerous”:Implications of media portrayals of crime on the “criminalization”of African American men. JournalOf African American Studies,7(2),3-18.

Sanders,J. (2012). MediaPortrayals of Black Youths Contribute to Racial Tension | The MaynardInstitute for Journalism 6 May 2015, from

Williams,J. (2014). WhenIt Comes to Police Brutality, Fear is Also a Factor – US News.USNews &amp World Report.Retrieved 6 May 2015, from