Over the decades, black actors have fought tirelessly to gain a seat at the table. It was unlikely for black actors to have lead roles unless they were portraying a stereotype that negatively depicted the black man/woman. For instance, their roles were limited to being “the help” to upper-class white families. These roles have been diminished due to more black individuals taking on roles as writers, producers and directors. Today, we see so many black actors flourishing with lead roles that they undermine the negative images that still remain in the media. The images of black culture in media has and will continue to impact the black community.
There are many roles of the black individual in media. Some of the most common roles are black women being the sassy individual who stirs up drama or the black man being viewed as a thug. We see these in predominantly black television shows such as Basketball Wives, Love and Hip Hop and Power. Cast members on these reality shows are seen as dysfunctional and rowdy individuals. The audience rarely sees them uplift one another or simply do encouraging things. For the black man, no matter how hard they try to rewrite their destiny, they are sucked back into the gang/drug life. Imagine the thoughts of the black boys and girls that are watching these shows. If all they see are negative depictions, then that is all they think they can amount to. Rewriting their story is hard to do when they can’t find the motivation to do so.
The images of black culture unconsciously influence the behavior of the black community. As stated previously, children pick up on these depictions and embody what they see. Luckily, we have witnessed more positive images of black culture recently. Black people are redirecting the narrative to make sure the story is right. Ava Duvernay and Lena Waithe are producers who have given the black community the opportunity to tell their own story. Their work has proven that it is possible to see members of the black community succeed and people are realizing that now more than ever.
Social media has become the portal for reality meaning it is easily accessible to see the work and success of others. Social media has allowed us to see the strides that others take in order to make sure the black community is appropriately represented. Actors/actresses are taking on roles that discourage the stereotypes that we are used to. They are hoping to inspire writers to create more opportunities as well. Media is a powerful tool when it is used to seize every opportunity to empower those around you. When positive images are embedded in your brain, there is no other option but to replicate those things. With more black people in the media who have this agenda, it is more likely that the black community is destined to gain a new representation in a positive light.