The pure enjoyment, popular culture also serves as

term of popular culture has a wide range of meanings. However, in sociological
perspective, it is usually referred to the mass culture or what John Storey
(2009) describes as “a hopelessly commercial culture that is mass produced for
mass consumption, and its audience is a mass of non-discriminating consumers” (p.
8). Most common products of popular culture include major forms of
entertainment such as film, music, television show, video, art, fashion, and
radio. Despite its contributions for pure
enjoyment, popular culture also serves as an effective agent for cultural
expression. However, numerous research show that much of its content can be
quite problematic in shaping our images of race and otherness, as it often expresses
racist ideas and negative stereotypes. Whether by an intentional harm or
exclusion act, this can become a source of marginalisation and prejudice around
race, ethnicity, colour, and gender. Through this, it is important that we reflects
on stereotypes that put members of minority ethnic groups in less pleasant experiences
and realities due to extensive misrepresentation that take place in the majority
media in the past (Downing and Husband, 2005).

these limitations, popular culture also plays a significant role in shaping how
we define our own identity and others. As Storey (2006) states, “we need to
see ourselves—all people, not just vanguard intellectuals—as active
participants in culture: selecting, rejecting, making meanings, attributing
value, resisting and, yes, also being duped and manipulated” (p. 171). From
this perspective, he encourages people to be more active and critical when it
comes to media images, so that “we understand the worlds in which we live, and through
communicating our understanding, we transform these systems of values, ideas
and practices into a social reality, for others and for ourselves” (Howarth,
2011, p. 7). This suggests that the acknowledgement of the process of
representations in and of itself can be an effect of power, thus popular
culture invites wide audiences to pursue knowledge and meaning for the strategy
of legitimating social hierarchies and constitution of identities. As Street
(1997) explains, popular culture can become a form of resistance, as it provides
“a form of defiance, the weapon with which to deny power” (p. 12). This essay
tends to exemplify the ways in which popular racism has shifted through time
and place and their potential role in challenging dominant stereotypes and presenting
more realistic and accurate portrayals of people of colour, particularly Blacks.
Several examples will be provided to support the notion that popular culture
can be used as a site where racist images can be challenged, however, in some
cases can be quite ambiguous.

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The Representations of
African-American in Popular Culture

popular culture continues to be present as a resources of amusement,
expression, and socialization. The term of ‘race’ can be seen as a concept under
continuous contestation, giving it no final fixed meaning in defining racial
boundaries, hierarchies, and images (Guerrero, 1993). Before we begin, it
is important to highlight that ‘race’ is certainly connected to its historical
contexts, social and political aspects, and meanings of power structure and
domination. It is undeniable that United
States has a long history of exploitation and discrimination towards particular
groups or non-whites for their political and economic benefits. Though the
slavery system ended in 1865, according to Guerrero (1993), there are still
little existence that “Blacks have been subordinated, marginalized, positioned,
and devalued in every possible manner to glorify and relentlessly hold in place
the white-dominated order and racial hierarchy of American society” (p. 2).

Generally, the production of images in the media have
the power to communicate its meanings, beliefs and identities with audiences. Visual representations in the media tend to portrays Blacks
in a very one-dimensional mode and unfavourable roles within the white supremacy system in
American society. In the early stage, the dominant representations of African-Americans as servants, gangsters,
criminals and drug dealers have appeared frequently in American popular culture, addressing what Lippmann (1956) describes as ‘one
mode of characterization’, a common cliché narrative in Western mass production.
The notion of propaganda can be defined here as “the transmission of ideas and
values from dominant groups who control the means of communication, with the
intention of influencing the receiver’s attitudes and thus enhancing and
maintaining their positions and interests” (Solomos and Back, 1996, p. 159). Consequently,
this effects societal perceptions of African-Americans in the real world. However, popular culture are not necessary depicting African Americans with negative
stereotypes, but also offering alternative and multi-dimensional perspectives of
African American communities. Perhaps some
media cultures have reinforced inappropriate norms regarding Blacks, others
have not.