January 19

Week 2-Social Construction of Blackness

READ: Black Image in the White Mind by Rojecki

Discuss in class the methodology of the Rojecki article and MLK speaker

RJ: How does hip hop and mass culture construct Black Images according to Bryant Smith. Does this correspond to Rojecki? Or contradict?

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17 Responses to January 19

  1. Diana Bartolo says:

    Hip Hop and mass culture reinforce ‘Black images’ by the way media has “framed” black identity, or as the article discusses, how whites automatically assume how black people should dress, behave, etc. The keynote speaker referred to hip hop in a positive connotation where rappers would identify: overcoming poverty and civil rights. Rojecki views the black image as having a negative consequence within a black and white community, where black people are looked down upon. Even the few who have outstanding achievement become the expectation rather than the one who is accepted (53). Rojecki and hip hop have adopted the perspective that two realms exist within the white and black society; The “normal” category which contains characteristics such as light skin, smooth hair (that of a white person), and civil disobedience is acceptable to a white audience whereas dark skin is seen as abnormal. Hip hop agrees with Rojecki because many people misunderstand the message behind hip hop lyrics and generalize black people. Rojecki puts all black people in one category and even if blacks try to break free from their “contained space” they cannot due so due to a social hierarchy whites have established. It is understandable that (white) people carrier the concept of “us” versus “them” because of their fear of being controlled by “them”. However, mass culture has led us all to believe that their is a system for which black people fall under, according to body traits, communication behavior, and achievement-related status.

  2. Candice Kosanke says:

    Although hip hop may not seem to have any correlation to Martin Luther King, Jr., Bryant K. Smith’s speech showed that there are actually several connections between the two. Like many rappers and hip hop artists, MLK went to jail, received a Grammy, started his career when he was fairly young, targeted a young audience, and changed his given name. In addition to all those similarities, both hip hop and MLK have been, as Smith phrased it, “co-opted by the mainstream.” This means that there is a general, wide-spread image of both MLK and hip hop music that is held by most of society—an image that, while not necessarily false, is certainly not completely accurate. For example, when most people think of MLK, they think of his “I Have a Dream” speech. This is not a false image, since he did give that speech, but it is also not a completely accurate image because he accomplished much more than just that one speech. Similarly, when many people think of hip hop, only rap music comes to mind. While this image is not false, it is not completely true either. Just as MLK goes beyond his dream, even though that is all many people know him for, hip hop goes beyond rap, even though that is what it is most well-known for.

    According to Smith, these misconceptions about hip hop construct “black images” that are not completely accurate. For some people, the phrase “hip hop” generates ideas of singers who have gotten arrested and rap songs that are only about drugs, violence, and sex. These ideas often unfairly influence many people’s conceptions about hip hop culture and may cause them to form false images about blacks. Many hip hop songs contain a message demanding social justice—something that does not have to involve violence. But the more violent messages of some rap songs cause people to make generalizations about hip hop, which in turn causes them to make inaccurate generalizations about what constitutes a “black image.”

    This idea corresponds to Rojecki’s article because Rojecki applies to “black images” the same concept that Smith applied to Martin Luther King, Jr. and hip hop: that they are “co-opted by the mainstream” in such a manner that generalizations are made, and attributes that apply to only a small part of a group are inaccurately projected onto the entire group. MLK’s legacy and message is generalized by his “I Have a Dream” speech, even though that is only a small part of what his message was. Hip hop is generalized by rap music, even though that type of music only makes up a small part of hip hop culture. And finally, as Rojecki points out in his article, the average white person’s image of a black person is generalized by the impoverished, delinquent black person often portrayed by the “frames” in the media, even though black people who fit these stereotypes comprise only a small portion of the African American population.

  3. Amber Kerrigan says:

    Hip Hop and mass culture emphasize “Black images” in terms of how our culture has invented the idea of race through media, education, and the process of identification of different cultures. As the article expresses, whites will instinctively presume how a different ethnic background is educated, physical traits, characteristics, dress, behavior, all depending on signs of identification. Bryant Smith referred to past and present day hip hop following Martin Luther King’s death as both having connections to the same connotations to identify with: poverty, relating to discrimination, money, religion, and civil rights. But he was not theorizing that it creates a certain “Black image,” it is just that the lyrics are not understood as serious, representational, and meaningful, as though this were the standing on the culture of any person of African American decent. The topic of Hip hop that Smith spoke about corresponds to Rojecki’s theories on the fact that hip hop and its history is so misunderstand the message of the lyrics.

  4. Donald Duncan says:

    Bryant Smith discussion about hip hop and the mass culture is interesting because he explains the reasons why when we think of hip hop, people think about the negative ideas (i.e. violence, exploition, gangbang/drug dealing) that hip hop portrays. However, in comparison to the teaching of Dr. King, hip hop is a culture that explains the truth about African Americans struggles to overcome the conditions of poverty in America. Like Dr. King, it reaches the African American youth to reach for a dream; the commercial marketing of hip hop only shows the negative because that is what makes money for the record companies. Rojecki’s explanation of the mass culture idea of African Americans “as posing a danger or burden to the dominant group” and “The signal of dark skin color is enough to trigger associations among many Whites with pollution and danger; even if African Americans dress and speak in a conventionally acceptable manner” (52 & 53).

  5. Becky Esrock says:

    Bryant Smith talks a lot regarding the formation of a “black image” through both hip hop and mass culture. Smith addresses the misperceptions of hip hop and the critique of it by the dominant group, as Rojecki would call it. Through hip hop he finds common themes of overcoming poverty and run-ins with law enforcement as well. This establishes a particular black image and stereotypes the entire population. Regarding this, Rojecki asserts, “only a few sterotype confirming individuals, against the background of many stereotype disconfirming individuals, would nonetheless serve to maintain the stereotype” (55). This concept proves especially accurate when these stereotypes are being fostered by the media and on a national stage by popular hip hop artists. Moreover, Smith ties street language, entrepreneurialism, and fashion to hip hop. This is a good example of how deep underlying meaning and connotations form around certain words and ideals. Rojecki addresses this concept as well. The general public, many times, views these associations negatively. Roejcki talks of the actions of the minority that “threaten dominant group members” (53). Related to Smith’s overall message, revolutionary and non-conforming arguments of both hip hop and MLK push boundaries and challenge society’s previously accepted truths. Therefore, they are not always welcomed and often times are met with contestation by the mass.

  6. Jessica Steele says:

    While major media of today does all it can to work toward equal racial representation, it frequently falls into using stereotypical characters that are based upon general schemas. As discussed by Rojecki, there are schemas that have been developed in the white American minds. A schema is defined as “a set of related concepts that allow people to make inferences about new information based on already organized prior knowledge” and these are largely developed because of the societal influences (48). Personal and individual schemas come from unique experiences. An individual’s family, friends, education, religion, exposure to media, all enter into his or her mind and automatically feed into the creation of different schemas. Hip hop music is one specific example of a media form that affects the schema of the Black image. In his presentation, Bryant Smith examined the content of hip-hop music, specifically the lyrics. The lyrics of hip-hop music most frequently address the issues of things such as police brutality, being in jail, and living in and overcoming poverty. Since hip-hop music is a genre that is dominated by African Americans, it is not surprising that these concepts enter the minds of Americans as part of the internal image of what Black America is. The message of the music is associated with being African American and so feeds into the creation of the Black image.

  7. Lisa Sorensen says:

    Bryant Smith says that hip hop and mass culture create ‘Black Images’. According to Smith, hip hop allows for judgment in a stereotypical way. Most people draw conclusions that all people are judgemental and have stereotypes for many things in life. Smith describes that hip hop has a stereotype for something that its not. He says that is not all about drugs, violence and alcohol. Instead, Smith shows how hip hop is intended. This relates to the article by Rojecki where he says, “We know that people judge others using speech, nonverbal communication style, and the visual cues supplied by physical characteristics and dress” (52). This is similar to what Smith was talking about and how people judge hip hop by what they hear about it. Smith discussed how it is hard for people to change their view on hip hop after they have had this view for so long. Rojecki agrees with this by saying, “As communicating cultural symbols, Blacks are in transition from being perceived by most Whites as representing the realm of disorder and perhaps danger” (51).

  8. Courtney King says:

    “The Message Dr. King speaks to Hip Hop” was given by Bryant K. Smith. His message was about the similarities between Dr. Kings and the hip hop culture. Smith showed that although time has changed the Black Image has not. Although are methods for speaking out has changed by being placed over a nice beat, the major message that is spoken is to become more than we are. To get out of poverty and the hood. Although different rappers speak of different means to get there, so did Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Smith states that the media and the hip hop culture has created the stereotypical Black Image of a hip hop artist and they will be judged according to what they are assumed to be. Rojecki states in his article that many see “Blacks in American culture are now luminal beings. 211 Liminal people are by their nature potentially polluting, disruptive but not necessarily destructive of the natural order” (51). The hip hop culture has never been fully accepted as a type of up lifting culture. Smith shows that hip hop speaks out against the same injustice as Dr. King, poverty, police violence, poor education systems, etc.

  9. Jacob Heaps says:

    Bryant Smith did a good job of addressing the negative views on Hip-Hop and showing the deeper underlying concepts that the artists portray in their music. Struggle, poverty, and racial discrimination are present in one form or another in nearly all Hip-Hop songs. There tends to be a “discrimination” against Hip-Hop music by the older white population. Rojecki touches on the concept that in history White perception of Blacks was often “lacking theory or integrating perspective.” (48) A lot of Hip-Hop music faces the same scrutiny in today’s society. The deeper meanings are often lost in the ‘catchy beat’ or sometimes demeaning lyrics. Smith did a good job in explaining the concept of Hip-Hop as “communicating cultural symbols.” (51) MLK pioneered the vocalization of injustices to the black population and Hip-Hop artists today carry on his message.

  10. Kiarra Hodge says:

    Bryant Smith’s message on how hip hop relates to Dr. King was very unexpected. He showed the audience that in order to relate hip hop and Dr. King, we have to humanize the great Dr. King. By humanizing him, we could see that he’s just like any hip hop artist from the past, the present, and possibly the future. Dr. King and hip hop artist share similar ideas on issues that personally affect them and the black community in general. For instance, they both have jail time on their records, speak of poverty, change their names, are spiritual, speak of death, relay powerful messages, and (thought Smith didn’t mention this) have college degrees. The reason we have to humanize Dr. King is due to mass culture that gives him this divine persona, in which the same culture gives hip hop artists a not-so-great image that the record companies and artists thrive off of. In Smith’s words, “Black Image’ is “co-opted by the mainstream” where the viewer can make as many assumptions that they want. The act of creating this image of a person through the media is how Rojecki get’s to his conclusion about the preconceived notions Whites have about Blacks. A viewer’s “reaction when confronted with [a] frame is to confirm long-standing expectations rather than to critically analyze the text for fresh insight” (49). Basically, we take what our mass culture gives us for face value, instead of critiquing the message, image, etc., thus creating this stereotypical ‘Black Image’.

  11. Merissa Acosta says:

    How the media has created a “black identity” is an interesting topic because there are many different views that one can have about if this identity is creating more discrimination or helping to get rid of it. Bryant K. Smith’s speech argued that the media is helping black people identify with each other. This speech was inspired by Martin Luther King because he feels that like King’s beliefs, the hip hop culture brings together African Americans to tell their real story of discrimination and poverty. Smith also said how hip hop is very misperceived. The media has created a stereotype of a typical African American person. The article by Rojecki says, “How do Whites’ misapprehensions arise? Just about everyone has two paths of social information: personal experience (including formal education, socialization, and conversation) and mediated communication.” (48) So if the media covers half of what a person thinks about someone, then the media has quite a big influence.

  12. Whitney Davis says:

    Bryant Smith first explained how hip hop and mass culture have generated negative black images. This is because the media has influenced people to stereotype hip hop as only rapping about violence, sex, and drugs. Then Smith expressed how hip hop actually forms positive black images by relating hip hop to Martin Luther King. One of the ways Smith explained they are similar is through their use of language. For example, hip hop and MLK both talk about civil rights. Like Smith, Rojecki believes that stereotypes have lead mass culture to construct a negative image on the black community. Rojecki expresses this when he writes, “Note, however, that this very sense that Blacks are “others,” of distinguishing an “us” whose interests clash with “them,” is a prerequisite for racial animosity. If one consistently groups individuals by racial membership, one is more likely to engage in stereotypical generalizations and experience negative feelings” (Rojecki,48).

  13. Linnea Zrioka says:

    Smith discusses how hip hop can be stereotyped as vulgar music that has no cultural meaning or influence even though many hip hop artists discuss relevant racial issues and deliver messages of inspiration through their lyrics. Hip hop is associated with African Americans because they dominate that genre and culture creating an image that can be misunderstood by the average viewer who does not have shared experiences and would not interpret the lyrics to their fully intended meaning. This corresponds to Rojecki’s article in that the black image is constructed through the media, but in the media, black people do not control the image that is constructed. As a member of society we understand social information through the media and past experience, “frames highlight and link data selectively to tell more or less coherent stories that define problems, diagnose causes, make moral judgments, and suggest remedies” (Rojecki 49) The media will show certain images of racially diverse people and make the connection for us as viewers to certain situations so that we develop a judgment towards that group. For example, if all the news reports show only Black people getting arrested, the viewer interprets that only black people commit crimes, unless they have other experience or knowledge. Rojecki discusses how White people have a stereotype of how Black people dress, behave, speak and conduct their life that is delivered/reinforced through the media. If there is a contradictory example of a successful Black person, they are the exception. Hip hop artist can use these issues as material for their lyrics and as an outlet in which they can put into words the discrimination that affects them.

  14. Sara Watson says:

    I thought that Bryant Smith presented a very interesting topic during his presentation “The Message: Dr. King Speaks to Hip Hop”. In this presentation Mr. Smith explained the similarities between the themes and messages presented by Hip Hop and Dr. Martin Luther King. These similarities included that both were misunderstood, studied in current times, critiqued by society and co-opted by mainstream society. In addition, the themes that cross over into both Hip Hop and Dr. Martin Luther King’s teachings related that both had to overcome poverty, described the relationship with law enforcement, police brutality and being spiritual. In regards to Rojecki, he explains that blacks have been misportrayed throughout history which is similar to the presentation by Mr. Smith. He says the “signal of dark skin color is enough to trigger associations among many Whites with pollution and danger; even if African Americans dress and speak in a conventionally acceptable manner”. This unfortuantely happens in the media when “framing” can occur and put together an association based on prior knowledge to explain or connect to an unrelated event.

  15. Brittany Sheehan says:

    Bryant Smith talked about how hip-hop and mass culture can form “black images” in our society. Dominant groups often have a negative image of Black people through hip-hop and the media, especially when songs are only about sex, drugs, and violence. However, Smith found a positive aspect when he related hip-hop to Martin Luther King because it is a way for African Americans to express themselves, tell their true story, and a way to identify with each other. For example, both hip-hop and MLK talk about overcoming adversity and fighting for civil rights. Rojecki also believes that the negative images spread through the media have reinforced any negative stereotypes created about the black community. In the article, Rojecki mentioned how the news tends to cover gang shootings, and the story often focuses on the negative aspect of the situation, never mentioning depression, a mental illness, or an absent father. I found this interesting because a lot of school shootings that involve white students often focus on how the shooter had a mental illness and that was the cause for the shooting. I believe that the media is the main reason we have certain framed images because the media controls what we are exposed to.

  16. Stephanie Morales says:

    How does hip hop and mass culture construct Black Images according to Bryant Smith. Does this correspond to Rojecki? Or contradict?

    The way Bryant Smith explained it was that due to mass culture we construct this social norm of hip hop and the images we expect. We usually associate hip hop with negative things like violence, drugs, and the urge for money. Yet Smith brought Hip Hop to light that Hip Hop has a lot in common with Martin Luther King Jr. They had more in common than different for they both fight for change and dream of something better than what exists. Martin Luther King was misunderstood like Hip Hop. Both needed to overcome these social constructions and schemas that surround them. Which relates to what Rojecki was saying about how we have this negative perspective for certain races, like black people. Which he mentions that they are liminal people and it is also because of this you can say that MLK and Hip Hop went through. Yet i feel that these problems still exist for most minorities and does not affect just black people. In Rojecki he mentions how news reporters cover gang violence and just give us an image of Blacks or Latinos yet if whites are the shooters they mention their mental illnesses or troubles at home. It is also because of how media treats different races and pretty much subtly brainwashes to these stereotypes and frames to these people. Smith’s message and presentation was enlightening especially since it was nice to hear a new and positive perspective of race, hip hop, and Martin Luther King (more than “i have a dream”).

  17. Joao Gomes says:

    Bryant Smith related Hip-Hop to Martin Luther King’s legacy, accentuating its social justice principle. He compared the elements of Hip-Hop with MLK by stressing common themes such as civil rights, politics, community, authenticity and knowledge. According to Smith, rappers deliver the news of inequality just like MLK did in the past. The speaker introduced the music genre as voices of struggle that are misunderstood, criticized and co-opted by the mainstream as MLK once was. As Smith claimed, “It’s not because a law passed that we are equal.” Both rappers and Dr. King fight/fought for a better society, singing their dream of an utopian society. The Rojecki article also stresses the inequality between White and Black individuals. The author introduces the expression “racial animosity,”demonstrating intrinsic prejudice and racism toward Black individuals. Both Smith and Rojecki stress a racial hierarchy in which there is a notorious white supremacy; Whites are perceived as the “Ideal,” while Blacks as the “Counter-ideal.” In the late 90s, “Time” featured 30 covers presenting the “prototypical American child or adult…every single image was of a White person” (Rojecki 53). Media content can construct and reinforce racial beliefs, encouraging certain stereotypes and emotional responses towards different races. The content that Whites and Blacks consume might shape their views towards each other inherent with a variety of schemas and frames of “the other.”

    (I posted this comment on the 19th; however, I’m posting it again because I don’t see it online)

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