American Media Influences Our Understanding of Race
How has our understanding of ‘race’ been shaped and Influenced by mass media In America In relation to hip-hop? Mass media, through Its selective portrayal of hip-hop has played a crucial role In the way that It has been understood and Interpreted over time. The media’s focus on negative aspects of the genre has led to the establishment of a two-class system. This brings forward the theories of Karl Marx in relation to the two-class system’.The media also portrays the dominance of capitalism, and has a sensationalist view here the high powers have hyperboloids selective aspects of the hip-hop culture with the intention of increasing viewers and readership numbers.
This sheds light on artists such as Biggie Smalls and his provocative messages about the ghettos in Brooklyn, New York and the stereotypes of African Americans. Before attempting to understand racism in relation to mass media, one must be familiar with the history and origins of racism. Race’ has become an institutional aspect of American society from the Founding onwards. Since then, race has played a notable role In the shaping of American consciousness. Robert Antenna argues In The Black Image In the White Mind “the most widely consumed source-?television…
Is both a barometer of race relations and a potential accelerator either to racial cohesion or to cultural separation and political conflict”. Thus, we can understand why the issue of racism is inextricably linked to depictions made by mass media.Issues of race relations in America can be used as a case study in Marxist class theory. Marx emphasized that society is divided into two classes: “the exploited” or Working class and “he exploiters or owners of the means of production” (Marx, K 1975). Moreover, he stressed that one class will ultimately overpower the other using any necessary means. The development of the two-class system’ has become evident in American society. For example, slave owners and slaves used racism as a means to determine the overpowering of the exploited class that being the African Americans.
In the asses, Michael Reich developed the ‘segmentation theory, otherwise known as the ‘divide and rule’. This attempted to explain racism through an economic lens In that society’s main goal is to maximize profits and the exploiters will attempt to use NY means to “(1) suppress higher wages among the exploited class, (2) weaken the bargaining power of the working class, (3) promote prejudices, (4) segregate the black community, (5) ensure that the elite benefit from the creation of stereotypes and racial prejudices against the black community’. McCullough, T. , Reich, M. & Katz, D. M. (2010).
It remains questionable, therefore, whether the media is a tool to promote racism in a volatile society. It can be further questioned whether the elite use the media as a tool to ensure profits are maximized by corporations. So it can be understood that the media has divided the working class and stereotyped young African-American males as ‘gangsters’ or ‘drug dealers’. The media can be held accountable for this social divide, and In turn young African Americans experience difficulty in rising above the ghettos and reaching social advancement.The media engagement in drug use, criminal activity and welfare abuse, maintaining the cycle of poverty that the elite demands. The media has a sensationalist approach to the difficulties associated with African Americans, thus demonstrating the way our understanding of ‘race’ has been shaped by mass media. It is for this reason that racism stands as a major issue in American society as individuals within society are not substantially educated on the historical struggles faced by the African-American community.
Ultimately, why so many young African Americans turn to violence as they have no opportunity and in which have used hip hop as a way of communicating there message. Hip-hop evolved as an alternative to the mainstream, challenging conventional societal values by offering alternative perspectives on urban poverty, racism and the economic abandonment faced by the African-American communities. This could be compared with the confrontation between Elvis Presley and the conservatives in the rock and roll era.New ways of thinking and representations of the disadvantaged in the inner-city suburbs or the ‘ghetto’ were brought to the fore through the music of various hip-hop artists (Rose 1994). Although not wholly a black movement, the hip- hop culture served as an avenue for young African-Americans like Christopher Wallace to communicate and express their ‘stories’ and hopes specific to the black community. Critics have held the hip-hop genre accountable for the destructive tauter of the black community, an up rise in gang and drug related activity and the demeaning of women.Overall, hip-hop was perceived to be a force that contradicted the customary American value system.
Towards the end of the asses, the hip-hop genre became increasingly associated with its negative manifestations. Such music has been used to express “multiple dimensions of politics, religion, comedy, social commentary, urban story telling and social critique” (Hart, W. E. (2009). However, mass media cannot be held fully responsible for the negative perceptions of hip-hop artists as issues of violence and rivalry did in fact occur between ‘East’ and West’ coast rappers Biggie Smalls and Tuba Shaker.The feud led to gangster-related violence and drive-by shootings, which ultimately resulted in the death of both artists. This served as another reason for mass media to attach negative stigmas to the genre, and therefore the African-American community.
The wide and unconscious acceptance of these manufactured images and lyrics by the broader society has led the culture industry to continue production of such one-dimensional, negative forms of hip-hop music.Christopher Wallace or ‘Biggie Smalls’ used his music to capture the essence of real life in the ghettos and further portray his personal Journey from rags to riches in his words was “Considered a fool ’cause [he] dropped out of high school, stereotypes of a black male misunderstood”(appendix). Many of his songs, notably ‘Juicy’ and ‘Everyday Struggle’ offered real life accounts and experiences faced by himself and other African Americans living in the ghetto. The confronting nature of the harsh reality in the ghettos attracted much attention from youth, making Biggie Smalls an extremely popular artist at this time.Biggie, being a second-generation immigrant sought to prove that even he could accomplish the ‘American dream’, an ideology of Declaration of Independence, stressing that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights” including “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (David 2009). Number one hit single Juicy’ tells of Biggie growing up “selling drugs to feed his daughter [&] living in a one room shack” and progresses to “Living’ life without fear Putting’ 5 karats in [his] baby girl’s ears”.Such lyrics express the dichotomy between his disadvantaged years and his attained material prosperity.
Stated by Waters, M. C. (1999), “[For West Indians], America is a contradictory place… A land of greater opportunities than their homelands but simultaneously a land of racial stigma and discrimination”. This is relevant to the music of Biggie Smalls as it entails his personal experiences associated with race, immigration and his troublesome assimilation into the United States as the way our understanding is shaped by media.
To conclude, it is evident that the media has and will likely continue to shape society’s perceptions on the African-American community. To explore and project societal and economic factors of racism have over the years become a profitable industry as the elite continue to manipulate ‘fact’ in order to suppress the lower class. Having a profitable outcome means that the media will continue to selectively portray the troublesome aspects of African-Americans in order to ‘feed’ the already established connotations and stigmas attached to the culture, all in pursuit of profits and economic stability.