3 Times the Media Failed When Discussing Black Culture

by Meghan Pryce

As a 20-something proud black woman and journalism student, I feel there are plenty of times when the media, such as TV, newspapers, magazines, websites and social media, discuss issues pertaining to the black experience are spot on. The BuzzFeed listicle “27 Things You Had To Deal With As The Only Black Kid In Your Class,” for example, was laugh-out-loud hilarious. As someone who grew up in a white, middle-class neighborhood, I could relate to every word.

But I think media have fallen short lately when it comes to discussing pop culture and trends surrounding black people. Luckily, we have Black Twitter, a collective community of Twitter users who have no problem calling out the media when its coverage regarding black culture doesn’t sit well with them. Although I’m sure these stories have the best intentions, I think they show zero regard for black people’s points of view. The following three media mishaps illustrate what I mean.
1. Shonda Rhimes
The New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley referred to Rhimes as an “angry black woman” in the first sentence of her article. Black women are often stereotyped as angry, unhappy or even crazy, and I think NYT reinforced this stereotype by publishing the column.

In my opinion, the term “angry black women” insinuates that black women can’t have strong emotions. And if we do get upset, we’re categorized as excessively angry when that’s most likely not the case. This piece was meant to praise Rhimes’ new show “How to Get Away with Murder” but came off as “tone-deaf and out of touch,” as NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan said in her blog.

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2. “Bae”
When I stumbled upon the TIME article “This is What ‘Bae’ Means,” I literally rolled my eyes. I found it to be a lengthy, unnecessary description about a word simply used to describe someone’s significant other. As explained in CBC News’ Storify, “Many on Twitter laughed at the idea of a legacy media outlet attempting to define a term that’s already been well-established in some communities for years.”

Twitter users decided to mock TIME by tweeting sarcastic titles. The tweets didn’t tease the story itself but rather the effort taken to write it in the first place with such poor execution. At least one good thing came out of this article: one of the best Twitter hashtags I’ve ever seen, #TimeTitles.

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3. Booty
Breaking news: Butts are now in! Vogue recently stumbled upon this trend, although women of color have been known for their curvy, big-booty figures for years. According to Perez Hilton’s blog post, the article failed “to mention and give proper credit to the countless black women who have historically been judged… for their naturally large butts and voluptuous bodies, while using mostly white or non-black women, such as JLo, Kim Kardashian and Instagram belfie queen Jen Selter, as examples of the big booty ideal.”

Vogue may not have been the worst offender, but I think this is another example of the media taking something that has been prominent in black culture and portraying it as something new. This article inspired yet another hysterical, thought-provoking hashtag: #VogueArticles.

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These three articles aren’t the only ones that missed their mark. No matter your opinion, dialogue is needed to find concrete ways to improve media’s coverage of black pop culture and trends. Otherwise, prepare yourselves for the wrath of Black Twitter.

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