Kevin Kai-Wen Wu, better known as kevjumba, is one of the many people who has successfully become a celebrity by posting videos on Youtube. His videos are usually on topics varying from girls to stereotypes to his dad, Mr Wu. The video above is about how his dad gets awkward around his African-American friends. (Check out his dad’s reactions to his friends. It’s hilarious!)
What caught my attention in this video was how Kevin’s friends were seen by Mr Wu. We all know that certain stereotypes still exist about particular groups of people, including African-Americans. I’m sure the world likes to think that it has progressed nicely past all these stereotypes but sadly, stereotyping still exists.
In this case, specifically, ethnic stereotype.
Ethnic stereotype is defined as a generalised representation of an ethnic group, composed of what are thought to be typical characteristics of members of the group. (Wikipedia)
For example, in the “Awkward” video, it shows Mr Wu’s reaction upon seeing his son’s black friends. He was clearly uncomfortable and the video then shows how he sees Kevin’s friends to be like. It shows one of them drinking and the other with a gun, and these are some of the characteristics that people usually relate to black people.
Mr Wu’s reaction follows the social constructionist model. His association of alcoholism and gun violence with black people is built around the fact that this is how they are usually portrayed by the media. When something as influential as the media starts to portray a group of people in a certain way, other people are bound to believe this portrayal, whether they be true or not.
Of course, I’m not saying that the media is solely responsible for the stereotypes of African-Americans. These stereotypes date back to the colonial years of settlement in America, when black people were made to be slaves to the whites. So as you can see, the African-American stereotypes have existed for many years. You would think that now, being in the 21st century, these stereotypes would not be common anymore. People are more educated and we have learnt that all races are equal and no one race is superior to the other.
However, the fact that we can still see this stereotype happening on television shows or movies just proves that the world has not made much progress at all. According to the Entman-Rojecki Index of Race and Media, 89% of black female movie characters are shown using vulgar language, compared to only 17% of white women. In addition, black women are portrayed as being violent in movies 56% of the time as opposed to only 11% of white women.
Now tell me, how do you expect the stereotypes of African-Americans to be eradicated when the media continuously show them in a negative light?
This can also be linked to the cultural studies perspective, where there is a close relationship between acts of communication and power. Television shows and other media forms that encourage these stereotypes persuade people to actually believe in them, even though they are false. This is not only in the case of African-American stereotypes but also other forms of stereotypes such as gender and sexual stereotypes.
Hence, people should be aware that the stereotypes that may exist of a particular group should not affect the way we see them. Everyone should be treated equally in this world – it just makes for a better place.