Discussing racism and negative stereotypes of black people in movies and television with Mark Sullivan

I sat down with Dr. Mark Sullivan, an adjunct professor at Towson University who teaches a class called Mass Media and Society, and he gave a very in depth analysis of negative portrayal of African Americans in the media, the stereotypes that are reinforced, and the impact of these portrayals.

I first asked him to simply discuss racism issues and the stereotypes of black people in the media. This led to a talk about Tyler Perry’s opposing depictions of black characters in his movies and shows.


This is only the first part of a rather long interview, but the highlight of this piece can be summed up right here:

“There are a lot of stereotypes out there. And we seem to be… drawn to the most stereotypical depictions: in gangster rap, in movies, in TV shows. We again and again see the pimps, the drug dealers …all of the stereotypical African American depictions.

And we tend to lose the other side. Even though there are tons of professional African Americans on tv, we see tons of cops, doctors, and lawyers, [but] somehow we don’t think of them as ‘black.’ They are also black. And so they don’t really override or outweigh the stereotypes that we see…

We still see the criminal and say ‘yes, that’s the normal depiction’ and we ignore the professional one and say ‘they are individuals.’ Somehow it never undercuts the stereotypical depictions we see.”

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  1. Hi. Can you please tell me where to find the other segments of this interview? I watched them a couple of days ago and cannot find them again. I wanted to show them to my daughter who is working on a 6th grade school project on racism in the media.

    Thank you.

    • I haven’t edited the other two segments yet. But I’m working on it right now. So you can expect to find them on my youtube channel shortly. I am flattered by your interest in the interview. Glad that you liked them and that they’re useful. Good luck with the project. I hope the other half of the interview is just as helpful.

      Let me know if there’s more that I can help with.


      • Kim,

        It turned out to be 5 segments, but they’re now posted on my YouTube channel. Parts 3-5 will be posted on this blog in the near future, but for now, you can find them here: http://www.youtube.com/user/caricrabtree?feature=mhum#p/a/u/2/NjhyktfT4pw

        Again, thanks for your interest, and please feel free to contact me further about this topic. I’ve written a paper on it myself, and I’d be glad to help.


  2. I was born in 1958 at that time there were very little if any black people permitted on TV. Whites dominated TV and they laid the foundation . Or rather the positive image for their race! White women could not come on TV or be in a movie. Without makeup lipstick down throughout the TV program or movie! She could be in a fight in mud and would come up with perfect make up and lip stick down!The nuclear family was promoted in the white TV and movie families! Whites were the good people and the rest of the races were invisible! Sitcom like Ozzie and Harriet showed the perfect white family! The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is an American sitcom, airing on ABC from October 3, 1952 through March 26, 1966, starring the real life Nelson family. Whites brought to the public a image of whites were in authority and everyone else DID NOT MATTER UNTIL WHITES SAYS THEY MATTER!!!

    When blacks were allowed on TV they were white people’s joke……. THE BUFFOON! Dark skin big eyes and white white teeth were whites preferable black people. Horrible stupid ignorant diction is also a preferable at that time for white people. What was crazy was the fact that the real Ozzie and Harriet. The white father was a drunk and a womanizer the white mother a alcohol ! In other words whites in entertainment TV And movie were very concern about the image of white people! This behavior worked for whites in many ways…First it made white Americans feel superior to all other race of America. Second it made all other race of American feel whites are prettier better and superior! This laid the ground for “First fire last fire (WHITE) vs Last hire first fire (BLACK)! AND DWB..Driving While Black)….WWB …Walking While Black.. And today unemployment national unemployment 7.9% vs black unemployment 16.7%!

    That why I’m very critical of Tyler Perry movie and TV sitcom. In my opinion Tyler Perry has turn the clock backward with the accomplishment made by black actors. Black sitcom today overall are a disgrace to the many accomplishment of black American! Black American that demanded better! Black actors that refuse to do anything that made them act like fools or rather buffoons! Tyler Perry puts overweight and ignorant speaking black people in his movie and TV sitcom. At a time when black obesity is causing many health problems! Even before Donald Trump’s 2011 season of “Celebrity Apprentice” began, the chosen previews featured NeNe Leakes of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” raising Hades with everyone, especially the other black women on the show. I’d bet “The Donald” loves this — black girls “gone wild”— as it is good for ratings and for those who like such acerbic behavior. But I say, enough already.

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