Pages:12 (3547 words)
Document Type:Research Paper
Representations of Black Culture in the Media
Culture theory is one theory that can be used to explain domestic violence. As Serrat (2017) notes, culture is the set of “distinctive ideas, beliefs, values, and knowledge” that define the way people behave and think (p. 31). This theory suggests that the way people act is based on the inputs they receive from their environment; and peers, groups, and media all go into shaping their perception of themselves and those around them (Bandura, 2018). If the culture in which they grow up signals to them that treating people in an inhumane way is acceptable, then those individuals are likely to engage in domestic violence acts as they feel or believe that it is an acceptable mode of behavior, sanctioned by the culture in which they live. The culture of media, friends, family, schools, churches and other organizations may all play a part in explaining domestic violence situations. The African American culture has been affected by a number of different issues, such as low socio-economic status, stereotypical media representations that reinforce negative images, and a problematic criminal justice system that appears to target this population unfairly, seeing as how the number of people in prison is disproportionately black (Davis, 2012). Culture in this sense helps to explain why and how domestic violence festers in the African American community as it does and why nearly half of all black women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2017). This paper will discuss the impact of culture on domestic violence in the black community and what the implications of this issue are for policy, practice and research.
Every minute in America approximately 20 people experience a domestic violence situation (NCADV, 2017). The majority of those who experience this type of violence, are, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (2017), black women: the Institute shows that 40% of black women experience domestic violence, which is defined as the problem of abusive behavior towards another in one’s household. This behavior can be physical, mental, financial, emotional or social. The issue of domestic violence is a problem because it breaks up the stability of what should be a comforting and safe space—the home. As Candace Owens and Angela Davis have both pointed out, black communities with broken homes are broken communities.
Culture plays such a large part in how blacks view themselves and treat one another. The culture that black communities have been inundated with for years, however, has been one that promotes the degradation of women and the irresponsible and violent behavior of black men. A stereotype of blackness as being akin to criminality has been perpetuated to the extent that even the black community now seems to think this is all it means to be black. Thus, it is no surprise that almost half of all black women are victims of domestic violence.
Stereotypes exist because of pre-conceived ideas that are formed for a variety of reasons and propagated and perpetuated through groups and individuals. People tend to view their own groups better than they do others. The reason for this is that they have a sense of pride in their group (Hilton & Von Hippel, 1996). Social Identity Theory (SIT) posits that individuals develop a sense of who they are based on their group membership. So if a person belongs to a group, like a counter-culture group such as Black Panthers or Black Lives Matter, one is going to be perceived differently by those with power. That perception begets a cycle of anger and resentment, which is compounded by other media depictions of black activities especially those in hip hop, rap and music videos by artists like 50 Cent or Lil Wayne. Blacks are portrayed as womanizing drug addicted hoodlums. Kanye West confesses that he too used to portray and play up these kinds of black stereotypes without realizing how hurtful it was to black communities, degrading to women and harmful for black men (Schmidt, 2019).
The research of Breger (2017), Cramer, Choi and Ross (2017) and Klingspohn (2018) describes the ways in which culture impacts domestic violence. Culture determines the extent to which one has a developed network of support that one can turn to for aid in a domestic violence situation. Culture can also cause one to remain in a domestic violence environment because it is what one is taught to accept growing up or because one’s own culture is different from the mainstream culture and one risks being isolated with nowhere to turn if one were to leave (Cramer et al., 2017). But as Breger (2017) shows, the law of the land plays a major role in shaping cultures and if anything is to be done to address the cultural impact on domestic violence it should start with reformation of the law so that it becomes “a positive agent of change” (p. 170). Culture can prevent victims of domestic violence from seeking help; it can create an environment in which domestic violence is accepted; and it is shaped by those who write the laws.
Culture is also taught by media (Bandura, 2018). This is especially problematic in the black community because of the way black culture has been propagated over the years. Blacks have been depicted as wild creatures for decades, going back to Van Vechten’s Nigger Heaven (Coleman, 1974). When strong cultural values are not determined or enforced, domestic violence increases, especially for minorities or marginalized groups who are not valued by the society’s culture (Klingspohn, 2018). To stop the rise of domestic violence among minority and marginalized groups, the overall mainstream culture has to become more humane in terms of how it sees others and what it can do to help others. Yet with so many negative black stereotypes portrayed in the media there is little chance of this happening. To stop the rise of domestic violence…
…getting to know another, one should look for what that person brings to the table, so to speak. What this means is that one should look for ways in which the person brings something positive to the plate. It is a way to think positively instead of negatively and to turn the tables on stereotyping and labeling by relinquishing some of the power tripping that one engages in when one is labeling others and instead thinking about actually getting to know the person because there is probably something good to know. Black men need to see the women in their lives as bringing something positive rather than as merely being like animals or like rag dolls that one can beat to show one’s so-called manliness.
This leads to seeing others as human beings first and foremost instead of as stereotypes. Seeing another person as a person is a huge final step in overcoming stereotypes and violence. Overcoming stereotypes in this way is important because it could ultimately be the difference between life and death as well. For instance, Hehman, Flake and Calanchini (2018) showed that implicit bias can lead to the deaths of more minorities at the hands of police who rely on stereotyping to determine who is a bad guy and who is a good guy. The “bad guys” end up being gunned down more frequently and their study showed that implicit bias scores could serve as a predictor of violence towards minorities by police. The researchers pointed also that there are really two ways that stereotyping can occur—consciously and unconsciously. The authors believe that explicit bias is purposeful, deliberate and conscious and that implicit bias is unconscious and represents a worldview that the person is not even aware of possessing (Hehman et al., 2018). Thus it can be seen that in order to reduce the risk of implicit bias and stereotyping people need to be made more aware of the problem. Explicit bias is an even worse problem, however, because in these cases the person is aware of stereotyping and believes the stereotype is justified. Culture is a two-way street and those who buy into the stereotype can be just as violent as those who perpetuate it.
What is required today is a total cultural approach to education. People should be raised to see how wrong negative stereotypes of black culture are and how they are never true no matter how justified they may seem. People are still people at the end of the day and though they may fit a stereotype to a “t” it does not mean the person is any less of a human being. Thus humane approaches to education are needed and the humanities especially need to be promoted in education more regularly. That way people we see that everyone should be treated with respect and kindness because everyone is a human being and we all have the same faults and failings and good points and bad ones—so to judge others…
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