Or, Study Confirms What Feminists Were Saying The Whole Time, News At Eleven.
White men tend to feel better about themselves once they watch media; however, black men and women of all races tend to feel worse about themselves.
And the gender aspect is interesting. Both black girls and white girls tended to see the same roles, which concentrated more than their looks than their abilities. However, black boys tended to see roles where they were depicted as “hoodlums and buffoons” who couldn’t be expected to aspire to anything in life.
Even worse, the black children spent on average ten more hours a week watching TV, so they get even more time to absorb helpful messages about how worthless they are. Yay.
Racism is gendered! It’s gendered in a way that sucks for men (and also, of course, sucks for women. Racism just kinda sucks in general). Because we don’t have a whole lot of characters of color that don’t fit in horrible, embarrassing stereotypes, we don’t have a lot of black men for young black boys to look up to. (Or people of other races– I’m pretty sure Avatar singlehandedly tripled the number of Asian characters on American children’s television.)
Whenever people have this sort of discussion, other people will be all “why can’t you just identify with characters that don’t look like you?” But the thing is it’s a natural urge to want to see your stories, your voices, represented in the media. Just look at the number of people with more invisible marginalizations who end up declaring characters to share their marginalization. Mentally ill people diagnose characters with mental illness. Asexuals cling to Sherlock. And you should see how possessive I get about every character that could conceivably be read as nonbinary.
But it’s not like you can declare “this character over here? He looks totally white, but he’s actually black.” In that case, TV actually has to be diverse, a task which it is by no means up to.
And not only do black boys watch television and feel like hoodlums and buffoons, but people of other races watch television and learn that black boys are hoodlums and buffoons. Even if a black boy manages to escape the self-esteem-lowering barrage, other people have not learned that he’s equally worthy as a person. This is not the sort of thing that can be solved by a lesson about Martin Luther King Junior in February, guys.
Solution: seriously, at this point, I think we’d do better if we literally assigned characters’ races randomly according to their prevalence in the population. At least then we’d stop having to put up with the Thuggish Black Guy. Maybe we could have Geeky Black Dudes! Or Wise, Noble Prince Black Dudes Who Are Just Trying To Do The Best For Their Country! Or Black Dudes Who Are The Villain’s Boyfriend! There are literally infinite possibilities here.