Stereotypes and Racial Bias in Social Media

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Much of the world has become a different reality for most individuals. Being marginalized, targeted, or socially put down is something that happens almost every day in media. The reality we live in is constantly changing and learning from its diverse people, so why hasn't media learned thus far? Stereotypes and racial bias can often have negative or positive impacts depending on the individual. Both of these terms are often used together and simultaneously when dealing with certain situations. We can see many stereotypes and racial bias of Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, Armenians and many more if we analyze through American history. However, the stereotypes that we created subconsciously just to fill in the blanks about the information we are lack of, lead unjust racial discrimination. According to these stereotypes, all Irish people seem easily angered, all White people seem sort of racists, and all African Americans seem lazy, violent or trying to cheat the system. In creating these stereotypes, the media has played a crucial role in creating and distributing this information across many platforms. Not just television, but media has played a role in the way in which the audience perceives and understands these two terms. The media enhances and projects many inaccurate stereotypes and racial biases about various races and or groups of people relating to culture, religious backgrounds and racial differences.


Stereotypes and Racial Bias in Media

For much of American history, the United States media focuses on specific races and negatively represents them. In particular, African Americans, are mostly reflected as being less intelligent, ghetto and more aggressive than the Caucasian citizens when we go through American history. In the book called Cognitive Process in stereotyping and Intergroup behavior by David Hamilton ( 1981), he states that intergroup behavior is a reason behind these judgements. Hamilton (1981) describes intergroup as any perception or behavior that is influenced by society's members of distinct social groups. The world has begun to build up mostly false ideas and interpretations of people which are called stereotypes (Hamilton 1981). With many ways to communicate these implicit thoughts such as: television, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and many more, it makes it hard to stop or take control of these harmful slurs and or phrases.

Many users of these types of media, don't realize that they are subconsciously taking part in justifying and making generalizations about others. With the many stereotypes and racial bias surrounding citizens daily, it's unsure how some might react to hearing or seeing negative comments towards ones ethnicity, origin or etc. According to Racial Bias, Unspoken but Heard by Dovidio (2009), an individual's implicit prejudice, ingroup racial identity, and current state of intergroup relations can increase his/her sensitivity to nonverbal cues of bias which can be displayed on televisions across the nation. Most viewers are unconsciously enjoying the negativity placed on certain ethnicities and origins. Our source of entertainment focuses on how media plays a role facilitating and inhibiting stereotypes via tv race related news stories, commercials, movies etc (Dovidio 2009).

For quite some time now, besides media, television has also portrayed many negative images of groups of people. Television often can mold the mind of many viewers and create tension between certain groups. Often, characters that are illustrated in these tv programs are created by the writers with images and perceptions that go a long way with how they view certain minorities. For instance, the show Everybody Hates Chris is a perfect example about how a family is shaped to fit the stereotypical family who lives in New York. The family lives paycheck to paycheck, the lie or steal to make their profits at times and or use coupons at grocery stores because they're seen as cheap or poor. The neighborhood is portrayed as being dirty and ghetto and many characters preform illegal acts to make a living and act like the stigma that many people believe already. From an academic journal I debriefed named Media-based Strategies to Reduce Racial Stereotypes Activated by News Stories, written by Srividya Ramasubramanian (2007), she states that most networks are aware of the insensitivity and do little to stop it and or make any changes. For most people, they see television as a way of understanding society and also providing what are good or bad behaviors for the most part. By allowing continuous racially insensitive media to be portrayed, it actively instills their bias perceptions furthermore. In another article titled, Everyday connections between online and offline: Imagining others and constructing community through local online initiatives by C. Hine and A. Rufas, they describe how when media is positively portrayed, people will absorb and take in the information at a faster rate. When information being provided is accurate and presents a good face, then consumers tend to focus on the good and have a better chance at spreading the knowledge while also being socially competent ( Hine & Rufas 2002). As a society, people need to focus on talking about people in a uplifting format and instill this for generations to come so they can learn at an early age how to accept one another.

Stereotypes and Racial Bias's Negative Effects

Stereotypes and racial bias often can cause damage to not only the people but a society. People are often mislead by what is going on around them and are lead to believe the worse. When negativity is repeated and engrained in the mind, it's hard to take reverse or take away the initial thought. In an academic journal I read that is titled The Environmental context of Racial Profiling by P.Warren and A. Farrell (2009), the authors give background knowledge saying that back in the 1990's is when racial generalizations and discriminations came to the for front especially between citizens and police. These attitudes transpire, and start to reflect images that incorrect of certain groups, religious affiliations and ethnicities and can teach the wrong message to our youth. Based off prior knowledge that can be acquired from a class that I took at Cal Stat La named the Gender Welfare Queen in the Pan African Studies department, blacks and latinos have the highest stereotypical rate. Which means, many young children and growing teens will project these negative prejudices and or form their implicit bias.

We see many things today that can cause individuals to feel like an outsider or many causes where negativity can lead to violence. When people feel as if they are a target, they may react in ways that don't seem relevant to their behavior or the person they are. Many hate crimes arise and transpire into killings, fights, or people fearing their lives. In the academic journal titled, Traditional versus Social Values as Antecedents of Racial Stereotyping and Policy Conservatism by J. Hurwitz and M. Peffley (1992), they focus on how racial attitudes are rooted from the beginning of America, especially in the beginning of slavery. They found that social values-conformity and social intolerance-are much stronger predictors of racial stereotypes and racial policy attitudes then traditional values of individualism and equalitarianism ( Hurwitz & Peffley 1992). This translates into people find it hard to accept other cultures and races beliefs or values, so they project false perceptions to make it easier on one's mind to understand what is taking place. It can thank sprinkle down into our government system where we can witness certain groups or ethnicities being treated unfairly and facing the consequences of it. When people like our law enforcement also believe in the stereotypes and racial bias that is being projected onto society, it can trigger or enhance their decisions to make the arrest, shoot, or detain the individual in aggressive ways.

Stereotypes and Racial Bias within finding an Identity

Finding an identity or being able to understand oneself is an important aspect to growing but also life. As humans, there are many identities and social categories that are a part of a person's becoming that will affect the ways in which they view themselves. For instance in the texted named, Power effects on implicit prejudice and stereotyping: The role of intergroup face processing by P.C Schmid and D. M. Amodio ( 2017), they elaborate on how power can filtrate and or change a person and how they represent themselves. When somebody obtains power or feels like they are empowered, they will reflect their ideas and perceptions onto others which can be negative and positive ( Schmid & Amodio 2017). Too much power can shield who they really are and fall into a false reality. Not limited to just this, one can persuade others to feel the same way and reduce their self-esteem drastically because they want to feel a part of the ingroup. Trying to maintain the status of a particular group or culture can hinder ones purpose in life and result in feeling loss or hopeless at times. Many of the stereotypes and or racial bias that has been carried throughout history can create confusion and misunderstanding for the youth. Instead of engaging in a self-learning process that can allow them to freely think and make assumptions on their own, we are feeding them negativity that can backlash and hinder their future self. Instead of questioning the validity of these stereotypes and implicit biases, we teach the young to accept and find a way to live past the generalizations. Accepting false images as the truth is ignorant and society as a whole is responsible for allowing certain groups and people to feel as if they are a target and or are unwanted by the world.

When a person has a strong and healthy identity, it can allow them to seek lifelong goals and feel happy internally with what is to come. Since blacks are the most targeted and typically are stereotyped the most, it's hard to reverse the initial prejudice and to overcome such deficits. In an article written by D.Gibson (2018) named, When Empathy is Not Enough: a Reflection on the Self-Experience of Black Boys in Public Spaces, the author elaborates on a project that took place in Chicago dealing with the social identities of young black boys and their voices within their communities. These boys were examined and asked questions about life, how they are treated, what is expected out of their life and how they feel being black in a community that can be filled with violence at times. One of the boys states in the article that sometimes he wished he wasn't black therefore he could have more opportunities and feel like he will be successful (Gibson pg. 620). He also states how he has heard so many negative things about his culture that he feels unwanted by not just his community but the world and how he isn't sure if speaking up will fix or damage the situation more ( Gibson pg. 614). The way these black boys view themselves at this moment, only sets them up for failure and or to be a statistic of the system. Their identity is being set up to believe they either going to be criminals, drug dealers, or at the mercy of the government for aid assistance. By grouping people or making generalizations about them, ultimately is taking away their individual characteristics and causing distress that will prevent them from realizing the truth. Pressuring many to conform to these stereotypes or to accept them, builds boundaries and creates anger within people and can steer them down a wrong path. There is no such thing as being normal and or the perfect person, but stereotyping and being racially biased will drive many insane to the point of feeling accepted and doing outrageous things to prove they are better than what society is giving them credit for.


How does social media portray stereotypes and racial bias to the public?


Going into my study further, I would analyze content from other journals, documents, interviews, and literature on databases and other platforms to gather my answer. I feel as if conducting interviews with random people with questions pertaining on how they think society views them, would allow myself to dig deeper and help identify the different ways in which social media is portraying these stereotypes and racial biases. It is important to gather information and answers from all perspectives and point views because typically no answer would be right or wrong. I would ask questions along the lines of: Have you ever felt victim of a stereotype? Do stereotypes or racial bias negatively or positively influence your use of social media? Are you aware that you view discriminatory media almost every minute of every day? How do you respond to inaccurate generalizations about people and or do you fall guilty or creating false perceptions yourself? I want to find a connection between how people really view their content media vs how they mask what they feel behind these negative stereotypes or implicit biases. Not only this, watching videos from scholars or people who have been victim to such negativity will show that it is relevant and still effecting others around us.

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Stereotypes and Racial bias in Social Media. (2019, Apr 10). Retrieved July 13, 2024 , from

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