Why the Portrayal of Blackness in the Media is so Important

While we’ve definitely come a long way since minstrel shows, there is still progress to be made in the portrayal of blackness in the media. While representation is still a problem, another issue that I’ve noticed is that black people only tend to have one version of themselves: the sassy sidekick, drug dealer, single mom, etc. Think about the last time you saw a happy white couple grace your television. It was probably sometime today. Now think about the last time you saw a happy black couple. Do we not deserve love, too?

Representational issues aren’t limited to just TV. Growing up, I loved to read books. I went through my little young adult romance novel phase like everyone else did, but was always bothered that I never got to read books about girls that looked like me getting the boy at the end. It was rare to find a book that even included a black character at all. Black kids shouldn’t have to use their imagination to put people they look like into a book. 

Television is slightly better in a way because black actors and actresses are beginning to be recognized, but at the same time, a lot of roles that blacks fill depend on racial stereotypes. Along with this, black characters are also used as comic relief to distract from the “serious plot." Typically (unless the movie or tv show is written by a black person that isn’t interested in using stereotypes as a selling point), instead of falling in love, planting flowers, or establishing healthy connections like everyone else, we’re often selling drugs, leaving our families and making jokes. I’m not saying that none of these things happen in real life because that would be a falsity, it can just be depressing to see your race being put into a box that you know does not do it justice. This can lead to self-identity issues, as kids can and will find role models anywhere and it’s a shame that the only potential black role models are portrayed as common falsehoods. Black kids shouldn’t have to feel this type of exclusion from the movies they watch growing up because they can’t relate to the characters. 

What’s interesting is that there used to be an abundance of shows on the air that portrayed blacks in a more realistic way. Shows such as “A Different World," "The Cosby Show," "Martin," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (the list goes on and on), but they were canceled due to a shift in who companies wanted to market to. However, in recent years, shows such as “Black-ish” have reawakened the black “happy family” sitcom era, and I don’t think people realize how important that is. The more accessible portrayals of healthy black familial units there are, the fewer people will feed into the many stereotypes that have been given to us.

Black love exists, black family units exist and they should exist in the media at the same frequency as they do everyday life.  

Photo Credits: Cover Image, 1