Critical race media studies is defined as the interventionist research frame, with methodological variability, that examines the intersections of culture, race, law, and power in the media. The creation of Critical Race Media Studies comes from the combination of Critical Race Theory and Media Studies.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a critical examination of society and culture, to the intersection of race, law, and power (Gordon 2006). CRT began in the 1980’s by the early work of Alan Freeman and Derrick Bell as a response to critical legal studies, a critical theory school whose beliefs were that laws are used to maintain society’s power structures and class systems (Oremus 2012). CRT has a complete understanding that racism is built in the system of American culture and society (Gordon 2006). The goal of those who work with CRT is to expose the roots and preservation of white supremacy and employ in social justice.
As the world constantly makes new advancements in technology and creative endeavors, media continues to have positive and negative effects on race. It is a social construction that is incorrectly thought of as a universal or essential category of biology. Media does an excellent job of producing meanings of race and structuring the way the world understands race, whether positive or negative.
Impacts of Media on Race
While some see her as a complete detriment to the image of women of color and the success of black culture, Beyoncé Knowles (American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress) has become an icon and has arguably had one of the largest effects on race through the media she produces. Throughout her career, Knowles has released numerous projects that have inspired the minds of African Americans and boosted the integrity of black culture. “When Beyoncé speaks, people listen” said Washington Post reporter Andrea Peterson when discussing Beyoncé’s powerful effect on the Black Lives Matter movement (Peterson 2016). Beyoncé’s online presence has incredible results. Her Instagram account has 77 million followers and she uses the social media platform to address constant dilemmas with racial inequalities in America. (Peterson 2016). One of her latest music videos titled “Formation” was filled with inspirational messages and themes that deal with overcoming racial discriminations (Wortham Morris Caramanica 2016). New York Times titled their review of the music video “Beyoncé in ‘Formation’: Entertainer, Activist, Both?” (2016).
Black Twitter is another example of a media that has a positive effect on race. Black Twitter is a cultural identity on Twitter, and social media platform, that focuses on issues in the black community. One of the most recent examples of Black Twitter’s effect on race is the response to the announcement of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s engagement. Meghan Markle will become the first African American to join the Royal family. After the news, Black Twitter immediately expressed its enthusiasm and positivity towards the engagement (Fischer 2017). This link shows several posts and reactions towards the engagement.
Media has had an incredibly large effect on the preservation of stereotypes that exists in modern day America. Since the 1990’s, shows such as “In Living Color” and “Martin” have had many negative effects to race and the stereotypes that exists in America. While they have proven to be entertaining and popular during their times, these shows confuse ignorant viewers on certain aspects of race. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Derrick Adams, African American artists on black culture, claims that “There’s nothing wrong with featuring so many over-the-top personalities, but for some people watching these shows, that’s the only representation of black people they have. These characters become representations of the black personality” (Frank 2016). Shows such as these, that deal with over exaggerated African American characters, reinforce stereotypes of black culture that have the ability to negatively affect race relations and the overall goal of racial equality.
Caramanica, J Morris, W and Wortham, J (2016, February 06). Beyoncé in ‘Formation’: Entertainer, Activist, Both? Retrieved December 6, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/arts/music/beyonce-formation-super-bowl-video.html
Fischer,M (2017, November 28th) Twitter is already celebrating its Black ‘princess’ Meghan Markle. Retrieved December 5, 2017, from http://www.revelist.com/internet/black-princess-meghan-markle/10619
Frank, P. (2016, June 16). Artist Explores The Vibrant, Complex History Of Blackness On Television. Retrieved December 04, 2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/artist-explores-the-vibrant-complex-history-of-blackness-on-television_us_5761be5ee4b09c926cfe1423
Gordon, L. (2006, August 26). Backup of A Short History of the ‘Critical’ in Critical Race Theory. Retrieved December 05, 2017, from https://web.archive.org/web/20120301005859/http://www.habermas.org/critraceth01bk.htm
Oremus, W. (2012, March 09). How Radical Was that Law Professor Obama Hugged? Retrieved December 6, 2017, from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2012/03/derrick_bell_
Peterson, A. (2016, July 10). Beyoncé is a powerful voice for Black Lives Matter. Some people hate her for it. Retrieved December 05, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/07/10/beyonce-is-a-powerful-voice-for-black-lives-matter-some-people-hate-her-for-it/?utm_term=.2bed192c08d9
Race & Ethnicity. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://www.criticalmediaproject.org/cml/topicbackground/race-ethnicity/
Image Attribution: The image used in this post is in the Public Domain
Written by Mark Christie, 2017