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Race and the Media. Dates and Mascaro. 2005. African Americans in Film and Television . Journal of Popular Film and Television. Film and television is potentially a powerful agent for change. For civil rights movement it was “the chosen instrument of the revolution.”

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Dates and Mascaro. 2005. African Americans in Film and Television. Journal of Popular Film and Television
  • Film and television is potentially a powerful agent for change.
  • For civil rights movement it was “the chosen instrument of the revolution.”
  • But despite gains racism still exists

Why has the media failed to be an instrument of change?

  • “Striking difference between the representation of African Americans by white authors as opposed to black authors”
  • Sterotypes: contented slave, wretched freedman, tragic mulatto, comic negro.
dates and mascaro
Dates and Mascaro
  • Need to expose the racial bias depictions of blacks
  • And replace them with more authentic characterizations, which can only be done by black authors.
  • Gramsci: culture itself becomes a contested historical arena
dates and mascaro1
Dates and Mascaro
  • Stereotypical symbols become familiar and accepted
  • Racial representations help mold public opinion, hold it in place, and set the agenda for public discourse.
  • 80% of Hispanic characters on TV fall into a few categories. What are they?
  • Drug dealer, gang banger, domestic, newly arriving immigrant, Latin Lover
dates and mascaro2
Dates and Mascaro
  • Coercion is used only as a last resort, instead ruling class maintains power by cultivating consensus.
  • Cultural imperialism: depictions of whites, blacks, minorities, of history controlled by dominant class.
  • Media: “explain, instruct and justify practices and institutions.”
dates and mascaro3
Dates and Mascaro
  • Who are the owners of the means of production.
  • “If minority groups in general, and African Americans in particular, cannot gain access to the seats of media decisionmaking, institutional racism will be perpetuated.
How will this be done
  • Consumer boycotts?
    • Difficult since media consumption is passive
  • Self-selection bias: women in science example
  • Capitalism
    • The desire to sell products to diverse population will drive the hiring of diverse writers, produces, executives
    • Talented people get noticed by decisionmakers

Pantoja, Adrian D. 2005. “More Alike than Different: Explaining Political Information among African Americans and Latinos.” In Diversity in Democracy: Minority Representation in the United States, ed. Gary Segura and Shaun Bowler. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press.

the media and information
The Media and Information
  • Are African-Americans informed?
  • Are Latinos informed?
  • Who are the most politically informed goup?
  • Cubans?
  • Who are the least informed?
  • Mexican-Americans?
  • Why is this important?
  • Electoral accountability is often weak in historically black districts because of inadequate information.
explaining variation in knowledge
Explaining Variation in Knowledge
  • Knowledge = ability + opportunity + motive
  • Ability = education
  • Opportunity = news consumption + church
  • Motive = political interest + voting (reciprical)
  • Control variables: gender, age, homeowner.


  • television doesn\'t help
  • Newspapers do
  • political church doesn\'t help
  • voting does (a lot)
  • gender matters
  • age matters


  • television does matter but newspaper doesn\'t
  • English media matters


  • TV doesn\'t matter
  • Newspaper reading does


  • media doesn\'t seem to matter

Gilliam, Franklin D., Nicholas A. Valentino, and Matthew N. Bechmann. 2002. “Where You Live and What You Watch: The Impact of Racial Proximity and Local Television News on Attitudes about Race and Crime.” Political Research Quarterly 55(4, December), 755-780.

How does the media influence attitudes?
  • “Lacking such firsthand information, whites must base their responses on whatever information they may have at their disposal”
  • Media: Local News relies heavily on crime reporting. Media message: crime is violent and perpetrators are nonwhite, victims are white
  • This is consistent across states, cities and media markets
  • Hypothesis: individuals from heterogeneous neighborhoods will be more likely to possess non-violent crime schemas for blacks and therefore be less susceptible to the negative influence of local news

Does segregation interact with media messages to influence opinions?

  • Yes, in a good way: integrated friendships, churches, workplaces reduces prejudice and increases tolerance.

No: often groups are in competition with one another which can create hostility. Or unequal levels of resources and Power cause resentment. Group threat theories suggest racial proximity increases prejudice, heightens fears.

  • Yes: even if interaction is competitive and negative, contact erodes monolithic stereotyping, creates multiple subcategories for members of a particular group.


  • 2 Experiments - 289 whites shown 12 minute news selection. News clip was manipulated to change type of crime and race of suspect.
  • Second study: gang or non-gang crime; race of suspect.


  • Context matters. White respondents that live in more homogeneous areas are more likely to be affected by the black cue.