Media Companies Continue To Perpetuate Deadly Stereotypes Against Black America. Isn’t It Time We Make Them Pay?

By Dr. Brooks Robinson \BlackEconomics.org 

Photos: YouTube Screenshots

We will not waste your time with this commentary, which beats the drum on the injurious and insidious nature of adverse stereotypical media images of Black Americans.

Important questions to pose are simple and straightforward: (1) Why are Black Americans unable to unify and launch litigation against American media operators concerning the egregious harm they impose through the creation and proliferation of adverse stereotypical images? (2) Are we failing to observe and respond to the flood of transparent and recent litigation where the media is ordered to compensate injured parties? (3) Are we leaving this compensation on the table, or have some among us already arranged to inure easily available and related benefits to themselves?

Briefly and somewhat cryptically:

• As a starting point for approaching this issue, please read Black American historian and author Donald Bogle’s 1989 book Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks, and educator Camille Cosby’s 1994 book Television’s Imageable Influences.

• Please see our media page (https://blackeconomics.org/index.php/media/), which broadens the lens through which to view the issue, and extend due consideration to two 2023 open letters, which are cited in footnote [1.1]

• Just two days back, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post featured stories concerning “blood on your hands,” in which the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is skewered in a US Senate public hearing about the dangers and injuries imposed by social media run amuck.[2] Our nation and the broader nation should ask: Is the blood of a few White boys and girls more important than untold Black blood that has been spilled throughout this country’s history; much of it in response to the media’s engendering of hate crimes and racial discriminatory acts (economic and otherwise) against Black Americans?

Importantly, senators conducting the hearing suggested that Zuckerberg’s Facebook should compensate victims.

It may be a stretch for Black American John and Jane Does to initiate litigation on behalf of Black Americans concerning the massive injuries already imposed, and still being imposed, by the media.

However, given the sophistication of our “talented tenth,” it seems reasonable that this issue could be (should have already been) addressed successfully. Therefore, we ask: Why have Black Americans, who were and are able to address the issue, failed to seek compensation from the American media for our pain and suffering? The answer is: Certain Black organizations and institutions have already acted on the matter.

The logical follow-on question is: If action was and is being taken, then why have outcomes and conditions not changed substantially and favorably enough for Black America—especially on the adverse stereotypical media image front?

In other words, and without being accusatory, we ask: Have important and leading Black American organizations and institutions such as BLM, HBCUs, NAACP, Rainbow PUSH, etc. already collected, and continue to collect, benefits from media operators in exchange for near silence, placidity, or listless feigned attempts to resolve the issue?[3]

Should not all of us seek answers to these questions and then, with answers in hand, plan and implement appropriate responses?

Dr. Brooks Robinson is the founder of the BlackEconomics.org website.

References:

[1] “Open Letter to Black Americans Concerning the Media” (https://www.blackeconomics.org/BEMedia/oltbacm.pdf, 203 KB)); and “Open Letter to HBCU Law School Deans: Reparations for Black American Defamation” (https://www.blackeconomics.org/BEMedia/olthbculs.pdf, 155 KB).

[2] See John D. McKinnon and Ryan Tracy (2024), “’You Have Blood on Your Hands’: Senators Say Tech Platform Hurts Children,” Wall Street Journal (January 31st); https://www.wsj.com/tech/meta-tiktok-ceos-to-defend-against-claims-their-platforms-hurt-children-2c966c2b (Ret. 020124) [Be certain to view the related video.] Also see, “Graham Tells Zuckerberg he has ‘blood’ on his hands,” The Washington Post (January 31, 2024); https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/technology/graham-tells-zuckerberg-he-has-blood-on-his-hands/2024/01/31a5694ea8-47c6-4ad1-9f52-9108354f0c3a_video.html (Ret. 020124).

[3] For example, the NAACP has a long-standing relationship with television networks and with Hollywood. Consider Greg Braxton (2020), “TV Networks Pledge to Improve Diversity in 1999: Will This Time be Different,” Los Angeles Times (July 27th); https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2020-07-27/tv-networks-diversity-pledge-naacp-boycott-1999 (Ret. 020124). Important questions to ask are: Have Black organizations that have negotiated agreements with media operations ever released openly the associated agreements? Do the agreements include cash or in-kind benefits from media operators to these organizations?

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