BCM310, Emerging issues in Media and Communication, Chapter 9 Race, Ethnicity and the Media

BCM310: BCM310: Emerging Issues in Media and Communication chapter 9 Race, Ethnicity and the Media.

Date: 18 May 2014

In the ninth week of BCM 310, we discussed Race, Ethnicity and the Media, how races and ethnicity are portrayed in the media, and how this impacts the way people view others from different races and cultures.

Although often depicted as the land of milk and honey where opportunities abound and diversities embraced, the US is home to ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is the opinion that one’s own ethnic ways are superior to others or “judging other groups as inferior to one’s own”, culminating in prejudices and stereotypes. Ethnocentrism in the US dates back to the 19th century, when slavery was introduced.


Ethnocentric stereotype of Black People


Minstrel Poster

An Example of “Black Stereotypes” in Media in early 19th Century.

An Example of “Black Stereotypes” in Media in early 19th Century.(Raj 2014)

Image URL: http://tvaraj.com/2014/05/28/blackface-and-the-minstrel-show/


It was a time when the media portrayed black people as thieves, unintelligent, lazy lechers and “pathological liars” (Mahony, 2009). It heralded an era of “minstrel shows”, in which white actors, disguised as “black people” with exaggerated lip sizes donned torn clothes and applied burnt cork or shoe polish to darken their faces (Mahony, 2009). Serious episodes of ethnocentrism have now gravitated towards the Arab and Muslim community (Alsultany 2013, pp161-169; Huesmann et. al 2012, pp556–570).

Today, emboldened behind pseudonyms, racists exploit the Internet to spew hateful racist remarks. American media attitudes towards Muslim Americans can, at best, be described as negative and unappealing, spawning Islamophobia, which translated to “a threat that is generally related to Islam and Muslims.” At worst, Muslims are depicted as “a threat to world peace” (Bodissey, 2011). Fed by the fervors of war, the evils of ethnocentrism have resulted in extreme border surveillance (Perera 2002, p1). Fearing enemies within their midst, “the racialization, criminalization and targeting of suspect groups” is nurtured. What transpired are the ‘Patriot Acts’ in the United States, the White Paper on citizenship in the U.K, new anti-asylum seeker policies throughout the European Union and ‘Border Protection’ in Australia (Perera 2002, p1).


Mini Documentary on Modern Day ethnocentric stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims



Video URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogjm0DC-xAQ

Stereotyping Muslims (This Reality Bites 2007)


Online sites like “The Conversation” exemplify the role of the media in highlighting racial issues. In this site, academic Jon Stratton, contends that many non-white migrants entering Australia’s middle class are gravitating towards “honorary whiteness” (referred to as “model minority” in the US). Asylum seekers who fail to adopt “white values” are deemed “bad migrants”, while those who adopt white mannerisms gain more acceptance.

Post 9/11 saw an increase in sympathetic depictions of Arabs and Muslims on US television (Alsultany 2013, pp161-169). Often depicted as a terrorist, another “positive” portrayal of an Arab or Muslim is added to the storyline to counter the negative representation (Alsultany 2013, pp161-169; Huesmann et. al 2012, pp556–570). The Arabs are often shown as the unjust target of hate crimes or as patriotic US citizens. On one hand, American media project themselves as a unifying force. On the other hand, they propagate blatant racist stereotypes. This is a dangerous game played by the media.

Despite the sympathetic depictions on US commercial television, after 9/11, hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and bias incidents have escalated. (Alsultany 2013, pp161-169; Bodissey, 2011). These senseless yet terrifying events have unfortunately gone unabated in the decade after 9/11 and even spreaded to other Western nations. Bodissey claims “Since 11 September 2001, the epithet ‘Islamophobia’ has increasingly become in vogue in Britain” (Bodissey, 2011), manifested through intolerance, discrimination, unequal treatment, prejudice, stereotyping, hostility, and adverse public discourse.” (Bodissey, 2013). “So, is the media a friend or a foe?”

(507 words)




Alsultany, E, 2013,‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’, American Quarterly, vol.65, no.1, pp161-169, accessed 11/5/2014, http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/american_quarterly/v065/65.1.alsultany.html.


Baron Bodissey, 2011, What does Islamphobia mean?, accessed 12/5/14, http://gatesofvienna.net/2013/10/what-does-islamophobia-mean/.


Huesmann, L, R, Dubow, E, F, Boxer, P, Souweidane, V & Ginges, J, 2012, ‘Foreign Wars and Domestic Prejudice: How Media Exposure to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Predicts Ethnic Stereotyping by Jewish and Arab American Adolescents’, Journal Of Research On Adolescence, vol.22, no.3, pp556–570, accessed 11/5/2014, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/doi/10.1111/j.1532-7795.2012.00785.x/pdf.


Khorana, Sukhmani, 2013, ‘On Being an “Ethnic Killjoy” in the Asian Century’, The Conversation, accessed 11/5/2014, http://theconversation.com/on-being-an-ethnic-killjoy-in-the-asian-century-19833.


Mahony, M, 2009, ‘What’s all the fuss about “blackface”?’, Crikey, accessed 11/5/2014, http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/10/08/crikey-clarifier-whats-all-the-fuss-about-blackface/.


Perera, S, 2002, ‘What is a camp, what is its juridico-political structure, that such events could take place there?’, Borderlands E-Journal, vol.1, no.1, p1, accessed 11/5/2014, http://www.borderlands.net.au/vol1no1_2002/perera_camp.html.


Raj, A 2014, ‘“Blackface” and the Minstrel Show’, weblog post, Impressions, 31 Aug, accessed 3/6/14, http://tvaraj.com/2014/05/28/blackface-and-the-minstrel-show/.


This Reality Bites 2007, Stereotyping Muslims, accessed 3/6/14, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogjm0DC-xAQ.


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