Introduction: media's influence on our lives.

Dewey (1997) argued, “education is necessary to enable people to participate in democracy, for without an educated, informed, and literate citizenry, strong democracy is impossible" (qtd. in Keller and Share 382). We live in a culture with rich diversity. We experience this diversity every day in our life and see it in the media we watch. Because of this common experience, it is essential that our understanding of race, gender, and the diversifying qualities of each human be stabilized with one another. This understanding of race and culture is the operating form of our civil democracy and is centered on this unity, which keeps us a strong and ethically healthy nation. According to Monique Ward, "Adolescence is a critical time of self-reflection and self- definition in which youths must work to determine both what kind of person they would like to become and how well they are meeting this goal. In making these judgments, teens draw on those around them, both for models and for feedback" (284). When we view education and its use, adolescence is an essential period to help them think critically about how they should act in a society of diverse cultures, and how they should perceive race appropriately with respect. Teens are in constant interaction with media every day, and there is an essential vitality in how we teach adolescence to perceive race and ethnic stereotypes in mass media.
We are surrounded with technology in this modern era. As adults we will come into contact with technology in some sort of manner. Even more specifically, we are in an age of media. What is even more astonishing is the amount of media intake adolescent of this and the next generation experience. Media shapes our culture. It shapes what we perceive, how we define ourselves, and how we live. With this influx of media, there is influence that coincides with it. According to Mastro and Greenberg, “Cultivation theory assumes that portrayals are so frequent as to be unavoidable, and their frequency, one will be comparatively invariant of presentations of attributes” (700).When looking at Media literacy, it is essential to be able to analyze the unavoidable messages that teenagers face each time they turn on the T.V. In Digital and Media Literacy Renee Hobbs states, “an important dimension of the literary universe is the capacity to analyze messages, considering the author's, purpose, and point of view to understand how they are constructed and the assumptions that underpin them” (14). It is this ability to analyze messages that establishes critical thinking and discussion that, as Hobbs explains, “encourag[es] true dialogue that is necessary for civic action” (Digital and Media Literacy 19).
Media has been helpful in the past few year to enhance race relations, but historically, it has been even more devastating in its perpetuation of stereotypes and the negative view it can direct towards minorities. In the book “Racism, Sexism, and the Media” by Clint c. Wilson II, Felix Gutierrez, and Lena M. Chao, the authors look at the damaging effects of racism and sexism in the media. There are three ways they propose to combat Media’s negative influence on society, “develop and maintain their own alternative communications media; seek access to media through employment, and advocate for change in mainstream by applying pressure techniques of various forms” ( 202). Though these forms are essential and should be promoted, they do not get to the root of the matter, which is the principle of racism and sexism. Society should believe racism is wrong not out of fear or obligation, but because racism is intrinsically wrong. In order to do this, the next generation must be taught how to interpret and digest the media’s portrayal of minorities and gender through media literacy, transfer that skill to the analysis of literature, and connect it to society. This is where the most drastic change will be: in people’s perception of one another.

Historical Racism in the Media
When looking at how Media Literacy combats racism, we have to look at why it should be used. Essentially, media has formulated the way we perceive minorities which establishes stereotypes in our minds. The value of approaching these films with a critical analysis is because it helps to dissect what "truth" is being portrayed. As Rothenberg states, "To adopt this approach to multiculturalism is to return to its earliest incarnation as a radical way of interrogating traditional knowledge in order to expose the way in which a particular point of view had been constructed as 'truth' throughout much of recent history" (68). The past hundred years of media has conveyed a message about minorities. Because of this message, the general populace has unconsciously accepted portrayals of minorities as "truth", and applied them to society. Looking at how minorities have been displayed throughout media is a venue of discovery in how we have developed stereotypes and fighting against it with critical thinking.
Here are a few:
The Birth of a Nation (1915). A fundamental film that, according to Wilson, Gutierrex, and Chao was an essential influence for the portrayal of American Blacks as inferior (69). It is also consider a master piece in cinema due to it being a landmark in cinema.

Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 6.29.33 PM.png

Amos ‘n’Andy: Two white men who perpetrated the version of “blackface” to the American culture in the 1930’s. According to Atkins, Cummings and Fife, this show, as well as the majority of shows during the civil right era, perpetuated and “reinforced many of the negative, stereotypical images developed in early films as well as radio serials (qtd. in Greenberg, Mastro Brand 336). This show particularly is a representation of the films of this time period, “Throughout the 1950s and earlier, Blacks were shown on a repeated basis in pre-Civil Rights-era roles including servants and overweight mammies (Greenberg, Mastro, Brand 336).Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 6.35.46 PM.png

I love Lucy ( 1951-1957): Desi Arnaz was one of the biggest television personality during this era; however, due to being a minority, his “Latin temperament, which exploded into a torrent of Spanish diatribe was classic imagery” (Clint c. Wilson II, Felix Gutierrez, and Lena M. Chao 88).;_ylt=A2KLqIOEkKVVCzIALOT7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTByNDY3bGRuBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDBGdwb3MDNQ--?p=i+love+lucy+ricky+gets+annoyed&vid=7d22d7b248ec0af3a05b1ad392182dd9&

The Jeffersons (1970): Though the seventies mark an era as progress for most minorities in the media, the shows during this decade centered on an “oversimplified portrayal of Blacks” (Greenberg, Mastro, Brand 336), which influenced societies perspective of the black family. Essentially, these shows were groundbreaking because they centered around black families; however, the lack of other shows portraying black community gave a narrow insight; thus these shows became symbols for minority culture.
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 6.47.17 PM.png

Shaft (1971): Begun the era of “blaxploitation” that threatened the Black image as a militant position. It was Hollywood’s attempt to “purge its conscience as urban Blacks took revenge against Whites” (Clint c. Wilson II, Felix Gutierrez, and Lena M. Chao 80).
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 6.49.13 PM.png

Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman (1990): The only depiction of Native Americans to appear on Television. Besides most westerns, “Native Americans are not seen as part of contemporary U.S. society” (Greenberg, Mastro, Brand 338). According to researchers, “The few roles given to Native Americans include images as lazy, pensive simpletons who are tied to ancient, mystical religions” (Greenberg, Mastro, Brand 338).
Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 6.51.53 PM.png

1990’s: There were an equal distribution of roles given to blacks, but they were “found to be more provocatively dressed and unprofessional than their White counterparts ( Mastro, Greenberg, 336)

How does the Media create Stereotypes?
The way we perceive and process one another is a vital factor in our society. Stereotypes are probably the most prevalent form of racism found in our culture, and it manifests itself in a culturally diverse society like America. The concept and idea of stereotypes began to be addressed by Lippmann in his book Public Origins who defined it as, “pictures in our heads" (qtd. in Seiter 16). Seiter elaborates on this definition by saying that based on these images, "we use [them] to apprehend the world around us. They result from a useful and not necessarily undesirable “economy of effort” ( Seiter 16).
Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 4.18.57 PM.png

Lippman's definition of stereotypes is a bit outdated, but most modern psychologist agree on his perspective of how stereotypes are created cognitively. When we think of various faces, they become images in our heads, which is formulated by what we see, hear, and believe about a certain people group. When mass media formulates these images, the populace viewing the shows begin to perpetuate the image (for example, an Asian character always acting out in Kung Fu, a Latino women always being seductive, or an African American acting as a servant) this becomes our “image” of the people group. A more modern definition of stereotypes, according to The American Heritage dictionary, is defined as a “conventional, formulaic, and oversimplified conception, opinion, or image of a race or gender." The problem we find in mass media is the use of oversimplified symbols to represent a culture in a diverse nations, “The mass media came to rely on symbols and stereotypes as shorthand ways of communicating to the diversity of people in the mass audience….media images of people of color, such as fat Mexican maids, fast-talking Black street hustlers, noble Indian chiefs, and karate-chopping Asians, have become symbols that trigger stereotypes of the people portrayed and of others who look like them” (Clint c. Wilson II, Felix Gutierrez, and Lena M. Chao 39).
What's the Big Deal?
The big deal is how these symbols are portrayed in popular media, and how an audience can engage critically in order to interpret them without racial prejudice, which can create a negative effect on society. As Brown states, “The major concern with the presentation of stereotypes on television is that the result of such portrayals may be the acquisition of negative attitudes towards certain groups by the audience and the solidification of sexual and racial stereotypes” (qtd. in Seiter 19). Though we live in a progressive society that attempts to diversify roles, which can avoid stereotypical symbols, we cannot always rely on the safety net of organizations to convey proper racial representations. This is due to the amount and frequency of racial symbols found in the media. According to T. Ford, “The findings indicate that televised portrayals of racial/ethnic minorities influence majority group members’ real-world perception about minority groups as well as minority group members’ evaluation of self” (qtd. Greenberg, Mastro, Bran 344). Because of the mass perception and inability to filter these symbols, training adolescents, who are defining the way they perceive the world, to analyze these symbols and apply them coherently in the world is a vital task. As Seiter states, “We have generally failed to teach or research the history and analysis of individual stereotypes and their relationship to social and economic power” (23). Media literacy is an attempt to correct this problem.

How does Film Literacy help analyze stereotypes?
Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 4.30.33 PM.png

The NCTE defines Media Literacy as, “the capacities to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate messages in a wide variety of forms” (qtd. in Tate 182). This form allows students to not be spoon fed information and forced to accept truth, but to analyze a message and compare it to reality and their own experiences: applying interpretive analysis and critical. John Golden states that teaching his students film analysis help them apply this analysis to any form of information students encounter, "We are isolating skills that our students can apply to any text they encounter" (41). Film Literacy then is a way to create Cross-Discipline in students. Establishing a form of Cross-discipline helps students to critically think through information given to them using their real-world perception of culture. Media Literacy is not brainwashing or simply viewing aesthetic qualities of a film, but a deep analysis of what the film’s purpose, audience, rhetoric, symbolism, and ethical value is conveyed to the viewer. An analysis of this helps students to question what is being displayed in front of them, and what is the ethical value beyond this analysis. As Kellner and Share write, “Critical media literacy thus constitutes a critique of mainstream approaches to literacy and a political project for democratic social change. This involves a multiperspectival critical inquiry, of popular culture and the cultural industries, that addresses issues of class, race, gender, sexuality, and power and also promotes the production of alternative counter- hegemonic media” (4). This critique allows for adolescents to formulate ideas surrounding various racism or stereotypes given to them through the Media. The formulation of critique would then help them apply this into society and others real-world perception of minorities.

Media Literacy is essential to properly inform against racial stereotypes because of the way audience perceive information from the Media. Though Media Literacy is complex and requires much attention, Renee Hobbs gives five core concepts for Media Literacy in Reading the Media: Media Literacy in High School English. These concepts, according to Hobbs are, "linked to ideas from film study, semiotics, media studies, and cultural studies" (41)

1.) All Media messages are constructed.
2.) Media use symbol systems with codes and conventions to shape messages.
3.) Media messages have embedded values and points of view.
4.) Different people interpret the same media message differently.
5.) Most media messages are constructed to gain profit and power.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 4.42.13 PM.png

According to Bazalgette, "these concepts are not intended to constitute a list of knowledge or specific content that should be delivered to students, but an initial way of organizing one's thinking about the media" (qtd. in Reading the Media 41). It is not "Brainwashing", but helping students to develop critical thinking skills in order to interpret correctly the way racial images are displayed on T.V.
Think of all the times you’ve watched the food network and thought to yourself, “man, I’m really hungry now.” This is because Media is such an influential form of communication, and it holds persuasive power that can affect society. As Wilson II, Gutierrez, and Chao put it, “ the effects of the media on members of society have found that the influence of the media is large and complex...the audience is a complex set of groups and individuals who actively make decisions about which media to use, what to remember from the media, and how to interpret what they remember” (40). This influence means that, tentatively, the populace will not be automatically changed by information given to them by the media, but it does shape their perceptions and interpretation. These perceptions and interpretations is then how the individual will apply it to the real world. Media Literacy is then a close reading of the media messages, and how it affects our views as a society. Analyzing a diverse range of text helps students to analyze and discuss the “truthfulness” of images and portrayals of race. Rothenberg states, "Students who have learned to see issues of race, class, and gender in their experience and to identify hidden messages and implicit perspectives in the way 'reality' is constructed are well equipped to continue to think critically about the changing terrain of dominance and subordination" (69).

How do we Use Media Literacy against Racism?

In Reading the Media: Media Literacy in High School English, Postman states, “media literacy reflects the acknowledge task of the schools to assist the young in interpreting the symbols of their culture (qtd. in Hobbs 6). It is no doubt that learning to interpret the symbols of various races is an essential element in living intelligently in a diverse society. When Students think about the various races represented on Television and Film, it is important that they learn to interpret it correctly as they interact with the plethora of cultures in reality. According to David Buckingham, “very different conceptions of morality and very different cultural traditions exist side-by-side” (qtd. in Reading the Media Hobbs 29). Using Literacy to analyze and write about how race is represented, how it deviates from the truth, and how it should represent different cultures, is an essential element to train students to play a healthy, active role in society.

Activity #1: Addressing the issue by Discussion.

The first component is to begin to discuss student's’ view on race and various culture in the media. Hobbs states, “Listening and asking questions are the most important practices that activate critical thinking in the high school classroom” (Digital and Media Literacy 33). Understanding students’ views allows teachers to distance from their authoritative perception of what to believe. It allows students to articulate their understanding, their lack of experience, and their desire to learn. Establishing this mode of critical thinking is an essential step to autonomous thinking about accurate depiction of race and stereotypes in the media. Rothenberg states, "if educators avoid discussing issues around race, class, and gender, there will be little hope of coming close to working toward a just and equitable society" (qtd. in Kaa Vonia Hinton 63).

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 4.55.51 PM.png

Transition by reading the Boston Globe article Skin Tone and Racial Stereo Types by Gareth Cook. A link to it can be found here:

Discuss the issue of race and people's perspective of race elaborated in the article. Be open and honest about it.

1.) From the article, why does skin tone affect our perception of others?
2.) The article states that we should talk about these issues in order for us to get beyond them. Why is this so essential?
3.) How have your attitudes been shaped towards race and skin color by shows and other media forms?

Activity #3: Analyzing Stereotypes in Ads.

Is It Racist? Many Ads that are considered racist tend to walk a fine line between innocent advertisement and vivid stereotypes. Many of these commercials depiction of racism are subtle and tend to be rooted out of ignorance; however, they can still affect perception and offend others. Due to their subtle nature, these commercials tend to be a bit more controversial, so there is much argument surrounding the question if it really is racist. Use these Ads to introduce and continue the discussion of race and stereo
1.) what is a stereotypes?
2.) What are your experience with stereo types
3.) When you first experienced these ads, what were your impressions? Are these ads racist or are we just a hypersensitive culture. Why should we care?

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 11.46.11 AM.png

Activity #2: Addressing the issue by film analysis

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 9.52.34 AM.png
1.) Use Soapstone to help students analyze, map, and compare the film. (Golden 83).

SOAPStone Chart
Subject: Paraphrase the text
Occasion: What are the issues involved? What are the racial issues at play?
Audience: To Whom needs to hear/watch this? How do you know?
Purpose: What is the point or the message of this piece?
Speaker: Who is the speaker? What can you say about the speaker's age. situation, social class, etc?
Tone: What is the attitude of the speaker to the subject? What words reveal this?
Analysis: Choose one or more of the elements above and explain them with supporting examples, and/or contrast them with another text.

Use activity to look for not only racial symbols, but literary symbols as a whole. Allow student to analyze the piece first as literature, but keep in mind the distinct racial and class symbols. These allows them to filter and apply these skills as a cross-discipline for other forms of media

Activity # 3: addressing the issue through post viewing discussion:
After the film, analyze the perceptions of race with these questions by KaaVonia Hinton

1. How are the interlocking oppressions of race, class, and gender at work in the lives of the characters?

2. How do characters resist race, class, and gender oppression?

3. How do characters express a philosophy of liberation by assisting and encouraging themselves and others in efforts to prevail over multiple oppressions (racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and so forth)?

1.) Have students map in their notebook the story of Paul with these questions and thoughts in mind to help them write.

*what is his journey through various communities?

*how do the various communities in the film perceive the minority?

*how far/similar is his experience from reality?

*how accurate is the director's view in regards to the depiction of the minority?

2.) Throughout the film and discussion have students keep a journal. Allow the students to write in the journal how they have perceived various races in media and in their lives. If students feel comfortable, allow them to read it out loud. The activity of writing helps students, "reflect on their experiences consuming media...[it] encourage[s] students to broaden their reading about topics related to the course and reflect upon their media use at home" (Reading the Media Hobbs 82).

3.) Have students write essays on these questions in order to reflect on their language and thoughts on the issue. As Renee Hobbs states, “ Regular frequent writing that encourages students to demonstrate their analysis skills is an effective approach to learning, which then helps students to reflect on the power of language to shape social and political reality” (Digital and Media Literacy 50).

Activity #5: Connecting symbols to literature.
As a post-viewing activity
Give time for students to share their stories and their journey. This is essential since, "students can be assisted in gaining a broader understanding of themselves and others if we create space in our classrooms for their experiences are woven into the fabric of the school community." (Mallan 135).

Literary connection: To Kill a MockingBird
Though this is a classic novel addressing civil rights issues, and the movie, there are still racial stereotypes and issues of racism that, though is more intense due relative to the historical context, can still be seen in the depiction of race in mainstream media. Read the book and analyze the individual characters.
1.) Are there any similarities/contrast between how the book depicts Calpurnia and Tom Robinson and the depiction of Paul, his community, and his friends?

2.) Analyze the perception of the racist, Bob Ewell, Link Deas, Mr. Walter Cunningham.
Are there any similarities/contrast in the perception of the characters in Six Degrees of Separation? Explain.

3.) Analyze the characters and perceptions of Scout and Atticus Finch, Boo Radley, Dill Harris, and Heck Tate.
What are the similarities between these characters and the characters in the film, Ouisa Kittredge, Flan Kittredge and their social class of friends? How do their perceptions of Paul differ from the Atticus's family's perception of Tom Robinson. What changes for the characters of Ouisa, Flan, and how they perceive and accept Paul?

Works Cited

Bryant, Jennings, and Dolf Zillmann. Media Effects : Advances In Theory And Research. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Elbaum Associates, 2002. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 10 July 2015.

Cook, Gareth, and Globe Staff. "SKIN TONES AND RACIAL STEREOTYPING."The Boston Globe (Boston, MA). N.p., 30 Apr. 2002. Web. 15 July 2015.

Golden, John. "Film and Reading Strategies." Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2001. pg. 41. Print

Golden, John. "Appendix B." Reading in the Reel World: Teaching Documentaries and Other Nonfiction Texts. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2006. 269. Print.

Hinton, Kaavonia. ""Sturdy Black Bridges": Discussing Race, Class, and Gender." The English Journal 94.2 (2004): 60. Web.

Hobbs, Renée. Reading the Media: Media Literacy in High School English. New York: Teachers College, Columbia U, 2007. Print

Hobbs, Renee. Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2011. Print

Kellner, Douglas, and Jeff Share. "Toward Critical Media Literacy: Core Concepts, Debates, Organizations, and Policy." Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 26.3 (2005): 369-86. Google Scholar. Web. 5 July 2015.

Kellner, Douglas, and Jeff Share. "Critical Media Literacy Is Not an Option."Learn Inq Learning Inquiry 1.1 (2007): 59-69. GoogleScholar. Web. 2 July 2015.

Mallan, Kerry. "Storytelling in the School Curriculum By Kerry Malan."Language Awareness in the Curriculum. By Witold Tulasiewicz and Joseph I. Zajda. Albert Park, Australia: James Nicholas, 1998. N. pag. Print.

Mastro, Dana E., and Bradley S. Greenberg. "The Portrayal of Racial Minorities on Prime Time Television." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 44.4 (2000): 690-703. Web.

Rothenberg, Paula. "Beyond the Food Court: Goals and Strategies for Teaching Multiculturalism." Feminist Teacher 13.1 (2000): 61-73. JSTOR. Web. 20 July 2015.

Seiter, Ellen. "Stereotypes and the Media: A Re-evaluation." J Communication Journal of Communication 36.2 (1986): 14-26. Web.

Six Degrees of Separation. Dir. Fred Schepisi. Perf. Will Smith, Stockard Channing, and Donald Sutherland. 1993. DVD.

"Stereotypes." The American Heritage Dictionary. N.p.: Turtleback, 2012. Print.

Tate, Stacie L. "Media Literacy." Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts Co-Sponsored by the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English (2013): 182-187. Web.

Rothenberg, Paula. "Beyond the Food Court: Goals and Strategies for Teaching Multiculturalism." Feminist Teacher 13.1 (2000): 61-73. JSTOR. Web. 20 July 2015.

Ward, L. Monique. "Wading Through the Stereotypes: Positive and Negative Associations Between Media Use and Black Adolescents' Conceptions of Self." Developmental Psychology 40.2 (2004): 284-94. J. Store. Web. 6 July 2015.

Wilson, Clint C., Félix Gutiérrez, and Lena M. Chao. Racism, Sexism, and the Media: Multicultural Issues into the New Communications Age. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2013. Print.