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The Destruction of the African American Woman's Image in the Media

Updated on October 18, 2013

Thank you to one of my Sheroes who tackled this subject. Melissa Harris-Perry, thank you for your discussion pertaining to the question:Is Reality TV Damaging the Image of Black Women?

There are two sides to this coin. The media will only produce what they believe will work, ratings are king absent of social responsibility and producing ratings are the bottom line. Are people electing to “laugh at others” rather than see the effects of the negative stereotypes portrayed by the media?

We can consider the history of African American's in the media and film-making. There were some African Americans that chose their roles carefully, for what was available at the time; Sidney Poitier and Cicely Tyson come to mind when you consider African America Actors that were responsible for the images and messages sent.

Cicely Tyson was quoted as saying:

''I found a lot of people had no knowledge of who I was as a person,'' she said. ''They made it very clear that they did not think of me as a human simply because of the color of my skin. That was a rude awakening, and it was obvious there was some work to be done.''

''I decided to make a contribution by enlightening some of the ignorant people in the world,'' she said. ''I used my career as a platform to make a statement.''

''The fact of the matter is that I have, over the years in my career, been extremely selective about the kinds of roles I would do,'' she said.

''There's no question but that one has to wait for a role to be written for a woman, and then I have to wait for one to be written for a black woman, and then I added the additional problem by waiting, by being selective. So I sort of had three strikes against me.''

Sidney Poitier:

the first African-American to win Best Actor at the Academy Awards

He had a philosophy to live by: “I decided in my life that I would do nothing that did not reflect positively on my father's life.”

When he accepted his Academy Award in 2002, Sidney Poitier made the following remarks:

"I arrived in Hollywood at the age of 22 in a time different than today's, a time in which the odds against my standing here tonight 53 years later would not have fallen in my favor..........Yet, here I am this evening at the end of a journey that in 1949 would have been considered almost impossible, and in fact, might never have been set in motion, were there not been an untold number of courageous, unselfish choices, made by a handful of visionary American filmmakers, directors, writers and producers. Each with a strong sense of citizenship responsibility to the times in which they lived; each unafraid to permit their art to reflect their views and values, ethical and moral, and moreover acknowledge them as their own. They knew the odds that stood against them and their efforts were overwhelming, and likely could have proven too high to overcome. Still those filmmakers persevered, speaking through their art to the best in all of us, and I benefited from their efforts; the industry benefited from their efforts; America benefited from their efforts.

Perhaps there is not enough opportunity or representation of women of color in the media to allow for today’s ignorance on television. Perhaps that is why the repeated image of ghetto, loud, stereotypical single-mothers, thug image illiterate men, ignorant, angry, ebonic speaking gold-diggers dressed like prostitutes, and women unworthy to be anyone's role-model (let alone parent) is so damaging. I literally cringed when I witnessed previews of Love that Girl. I've never watched the show and never will when I witnessed a caricature (caricature) as Imunique on TVOne. (Sidebar, does the name Imunique not say a thousand words?) If you can go from the office to the club then you are going nowhere in the real world. I can't take time to watch this show for the fact that I tuned out after witnessing this character: loud, no-class, dressed promiscuously for an office position, with every color in the rainbow in her hair as if this is professional. You wonder why the youth is lost believing they can wear rooster high high in yellow purple and green and be acceptable in corporate america.

The First Family comedy show advertisement showing a parody of the president of the United States ordering a chicken wing meal also made my list of shows I will never watch. At a time when we have intelligence in the White House, I can't condone a mockery of African Americans in the white house based on stereotypes.

TV Shows:

Good Times: The reason why I'm mentioning Good Times is because there was a family unit present. Although it was the “typical” story of African American's in the projects trying to make ends meet there were still messages provided in that show. Florida did her best to turn water into wine for the benefit of her family. James had the task of being the main breadwinner and was respected as head of household. Morals and values were displayed in the household. It was made clear that the family was not going to “short cut” or conduct themselves any kind of way with such a strong family unit present.

The Cosby Show: The show focused on the Huxtable family, a middle class African American family living in Brooklyn, New York. The show was universal in color as the writers and actors allowed it's audience to experience raising a family in a married household coupled with two educated career professionals.

It's a Different World: There we watched future creative professionals, doctors, attorney's, and activists being created as we watched African-American men and women strive to be successful and prepare for their lives. Issues such as domestic violence, paying homage to pioneers, the obstacles of college life, and consequences of decisions were explored.

Then things changed with television shows but they still had values and presented a different image for young people. Shows such as:Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Living Single. Still a positive message and images of young lives being shaped and career professionals living in New York pursuing their dreams.


Reality TV came and the executives had the idea of promoting foul mouthed women with psychological issues gone array that chase a lifestyle. We'll (the network) can make money off of their desire for the spotlight while being exploited to the world. We'll allow the participants to portrait (and/or perhaps even script) conflict so the world can laugh at how “they” conduct themselves. A reality television soap opera series which is what reality tv truly is in it's rawest form.


Do you say, let's not over analyze watching a few television shows?

Do you say this feeds into the negative stereotype of absentee fathers, gold-diggers, and women that portrait the only asset they think they have: their body?

Do you rage against images of hostile angry black women that act as if they are operating like live grenades?

Do you realize that tuning into this foolishness is entertaining the presence of drama in your life and realize that it is important what you feed your brain?

Do you realize that young people are being misled by thinking you can have success or fame by living the lifestyles of such people without repercussion?

Reality television shows where you dress like a prostitute at any given moment, throw designer shoes, and literally act like a wild animal for the cameras. I can only imagine the souls of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Coretta Scott King turning over in their graves to see the African America woman's image reduced to this perception displayed to the world. I know they are in disbelief with the new generation disrespecting the legacy of our ancestors. An image of the African-American woman running after men, degrading yourself by displaying your body distastefully, running to harm/sabotage/disrespect others, neglect your brain, and carry oneself in this manner degrading to your race. Unacceptable. Unacceptable. Unacceptable!

I'm not going to name all the shows that bother me. Yes, I do understand that we want to be entertained but at a time when racism is on the rise and people operate in polarized circles; can we afford such images? Reality televisions shows that glamourize sleeping around to get “paid” or shows that glamourize men disrespecting women coupled with women disrespecting themselves. (The New Atlanta) Oh, that's right, I said I wasn't going to say names. The world watching how we disrespect one another for the entire world to witnessed a dysfunctional lost people. While I acknowledge that is not the majority of the African American race, statistically speaking, it certainly isn't a minority.

At a time where Oprah exists and influences the world, challenging all people to be their best and is one of the most powerful women in the world, the African American Woman's Image is Attacked. A woman that didn't “marry or baby momma” her way to the top or believe that taking your clothes off for a living and popping your backside on a pole is a legitimate career. A woman that applied hard work, challenged herself, and achieved her goals while being conscious of spreading light to others. Brave.

For the first time in history we are experiencing real love in the White House. An accomplished woman, Ivy League educated, who had her own career and fell in love with an bright accomplished man at her law firm and embarked on a journey with the destination White House. What would Michelle Do by Allison Samuels gives a light book of advice of how to be your best person Michelle Obama style. This is the reality and what Mr and Mrs Obama have is intelligence, love, common purpose, real people concerned with their society and others.

There are so many others that seem to understand the sacrifices of our ancestors and why we can not afford to have an image of foolishness. Every dress you wear has your backside shown, breasts at the top of your neck, and you can barely read properly-buffoonery. No brain capacity of intelligence, just a street hustle played out on television.

Maya Angelou.....................Cicely Tyson.........................Oprah.................................Thank You

Although many of us have watched the shows or the rating would not be what they are, one must ask oneself: Am I feeding into the ignorance? When you tune in and people of different races feel they can relate to you in ghetto speak even though you are forming intelligent thoughts property articulated; do these shows allow others to feel this is acceptable? What are the effects of such images on television? How many times do people engage African-American women in dialogue believing that they all are like this? How many times do people see an African-American woman and believe they are all violent, ignorant, money chasing gold-diggers that spend more time buying purses than exercising their brain?

Are reality television shows ruining the African American Female Image?

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    • PositronWildhawk profile image


      5 years ago from London

      Great hub! Voted up.

      I really do agree I feel shows like Real Housewives of Atlanta, Love and Hip Hop, and Basketball Wives reinforce harmful racial stereotypes and teach viewers to disrespect black women - especially with the number of children now watching these shows.


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