On Friday, Feb. 10, the Black History Month Committee and Department of Communication Studies hosted an event focusing on “Race and the Media.”
The event was an interactive discussion in the Rutherford Room of the Recreation Center. It was led by Kate Dunsmore, a professor in the communication studies department.
As Dunsmore began her presentation, she created a small group, interactive discussion environment.
Dunsmore led the discussion by introducing the students to what the definition of mass media includes.
For example, for certain types of communication to be considered by a mass audience, the media is produced by large, competitive, complex organizations.
She also mentioned that it is important for these organizations to be able to adapt to the changing market conditions, including technological advances.
Dunsmore also made a point that, since media exist to make a profit, they must use certain representations that resonate with the audience to help with ratings or expenses.
To have people relate to specific media, there is the use of schemas.
Schemas are frameworks of the mind that can represent political and social conditions.
Schemas can become detrimental when they become stereotypes that are reinforced by the media.
After giving this explanation of mass media and schemas, Dunsmore then explained how African Americans fit into the media.
The media often portrays African Americans in an unflattering way.
Dunsmore further stated that a person needed to “create a culture in this dominate culture to give you a place to stand.”
She then cited the work of two African American scholars: Sterling Brown and Patricia Hill Collins.
Brown was a firm believer that the media had a romanticized view of slavery, that it made mixed-race marriages out to be a tragedy and that it portrayed the black man as submissive and the white man as chivalrous, Dunsmore explained.
On the other hand, Collins focused on issues portraying African American women in certain roles: devoted submissiveness, emasculating matriarch, sexually aggressive Jezebel or a welfare mother, Dunsmore explained of Collins’ writing.
After explaining these viewpoints, Dunsmore let the audience split into small groups, in which they came up with relevant examples of African Americans in present-day media.
Some of the examples the students gave included Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey and Waka Flocka Flame.
Dunsmore then asked the students if they felt these entertainers were trapped in the stereotypical view of African Americans.
Some of the students expressed how, at one point during his musical career, Jay-Z included topics such as drug dealing in his music.
However, through his progression as an artist, Jay-Z now speaks about topics that show his maturation into success. It seems he has moved away from typical stereotypes.