NAACP discusses skewed portrayal of blacks on television

Stephanie Olmedo

The negative portrayal of African-Americans in the media was discussed at a forum hosted by the CSUN chapter of the NAACP at the Grand Salon on Wednesday night.

The panel consisted of Bobette Jamison-Harrison, a prominent musician, Kameron Green a program assistant for KLHJ 102.3 FM, actor Brandon Fobbs and CSUN journalism student Saharra White, who is also the publisher of “Say It Loud,” the only African-American newspaper in the San Fernando Valley.

Adilifu Nama, Pan-African studies professor, mediated the discussion and chose the topics of music, television and film.

Nama began the discussion with the subject of reality television.

“I want to deal with the notion of reality TV, ‘Flavor of Love’ and ‘I Love New York,'” said Nama in reference to two VH1 reality television shows with African-Americans as protagonists. “In the past, one could argue these negative images were forwarded by the white media, but sometimes we don’t do something different when we have the chance.”

Nama said African-Americans in reality television don’t take advantage of the notion of “reality” to portray themselves and their communities in a positive light. He added that people watch these shows thinking they are seeing “real black people.”

White says it is the need for television shows to gain ratings and hold onto viewers as well as the way shows are edited that lead to the negative portrayals.

“They’re not going to show you everything, only what will give them ratings,” White said.

Green said the media is not always to blame for the negative portrayal of African-Americans. She said it is also the fault of those who watch and support those television shows that continue to fuel stereotypes.

“Hollywood is going to disseminate these images,” she said. “We’re depending on you guys to take some responsibility for your participation.”

Green said there are shows with positive images, such as “Girlfriends” and “The Game,” which pertain to the African-American community, but the problem is that no one is supporting them.

The panel addressed music and the ways in which the message of music has changed through the years.

They addressed that music held great artists like Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind and Fire, but now there are artists like Souljah Boy who are singing lyrics with no message.

“I’m trying to figure out where that notion came from: killing people, sex and big pimpin’,” said Harrison. “The responsibility of black artists is to uplift and inform.”

Harrison said people need to begin making a conscious decision and listen to music with a positive message.

It is necessary in today’s society for students to acquire various skills so they don’t “sell out,” she said. Harrison added that often times people are drawn to money and they are willing to sell their values while taking on roles that continue to feed stereotypes.

“It’s important to become multi-faceted. Learn to wear different hats, if it doesn’t work out as a train conductor, you can always be a pilot,” said Harrison.