News Stories

Blacks Invisible in Our Society

Newswise - Psychologists and media experts say that African Americans are still nearly invisible in many parts of the news media and the entertainment industry. The media often ignores African Americans, as both victims and heroes, in books, movies and TV shows, even when they are an major part of the story.

Psychologist Rudolph Alexander says one example of this was the media coverage of Jessica Lynch, a White U.S. soldier who was captured while in Iraq and later rescued. Much less attention was given to Shoshana Johnson, an African American woman who was also injured and captured along with Lynch.

Alexander says, "No one begrudges Jessica Lynch the attention and financial rewards that she has received, but I wonder why Shoshana Johnson, as an African American woman, has not received anywhere near the same level of attention."

The same disregard of African American stories goes on in the entertainment media. Alexander says the 1999 Hollywood movie "Boys Don't Cry" is one example. The movie, which won Hilary Swank a best actress Oscar, told the true story of Brandon Teena, who was born a female in Nebraska but decided to live as a man. She was later killed along with two other people, a white female and an African American man. While the white female was part of the movie, the African American man who was killed, Phillip DeVine, was completely cut from the script.

Alexander says, "A common strategy of Hollywood film makers is to take a true story that centers around an African American and change the focus to highlight the role of a white person in the story. African Americans don't often get to play the role of heroes in the media, even when they did in real life." Even the new movie planned about the Black daughter of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, a one-time segregationist, will reportedly focus on the white reporter who uncovered Thurmond?s relationship, instead of on the Black women themselves.

The reason for this used to be that there were few Black stars who could draw an audience, but since this is no longer the case?and Black actors have won a considerable number of Academy Awards?the industry no longer has this excuse.

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