Tulane University's own Melissa Harris-Perry on her September 1st program where they discuss the image of welfare users and its relationship to welfare support. She really tears it up. I'd like to see more people like her contributing to the public sphere.
For research on how conservatives (and yes, it was conservatives who did-and continue to do-this, at least at first) worked to create the mental linkages between welfare and people of color see Katherine Beckett's "Making Crime Pay" and Robert Entman and Andrew Rojecki's "The Black Image in the White Mind." Beckett discusses how conservatives worked to link non-whites with crime and welfare abuse in an effort to recruit southern democrats, working class whites across the country, and Catholic European immigrants in the Northeast. It worked, though it might be breaking up some today. Part of this was their "Southern Strategy." Entman and Rojecki talk about the way mass media and representations of blacks in sitcoms, news, and other programs helps encourage mental associations that link them with negative norms and values, and therefore, as undeserving. Both scholars offer abundant data that was systematically collected to support their argument. They provide data not only of media content (for Beckett it's media content and political initiatives), but also public opinions (Entman and Rojecki offer a nuanced scale of racial attitudes). They're both top notch scholarship and support exactly what Harris-Perry is saying.
Below, I copied Entman and Rojecki's Index of Race in the Media. Think about the subtle, long-term effects. Especially given that so many of us live in very segregated worlds so there's little in terms of inter-personal contact and experience to counter these images. My dad grew up in the projects in New Britain, CT. It was racially diverse (black, whites, puerto ricans), but everyone was poor. He can hang with anyone. It goes to show you how valuable inter-personal experience is in counteracting these larger cultural cues.
Here's the Index:
1. While Black actors are now more numerous in film, it's an open question as to how well they're being represented. In the top movies of 1996:
- Black female movie characters shown using vulgar profanity: 89%.
- White female movie characters shown using vulgar profanity: 17%.
- Black female movie characters shown being physically violent: 56%.
- White female movie characters shown being physically violent: 11%.
- Black female movie characters shown being restrained: 55%.
- White female movie characters shown being restrained: 6%.
- Of the 105 commercials for autos or trucks that showed only one race, the percentage all-White: 100%.
- Of the 74 commercials for perfumes that showed only one race, the percentage all-White: 98%.
- Of the 47 commercials for jewelry or cosmetics that showed only one race, the percentage all-White: 100%.
4. Network news tends to "ghettoize" Blacks. Increasingly, African Americans appear mostly in crime, sports and entertainment stories. Rarely are Blacks shown making an important contribution to the serious business of the nation. Sampling network news shows:
- Number of soundbites on foreign affairs uttered by Whites: 99; by Blacks: 1.
- Number of soundbites on economics uttered by Whites: 86; by Blacks: 1.
- Number of soundbites on electoral politics uttered by Whites: 79; by Blacks: 0.
- Number of soundbites on sports and entertainment uttered by Whites: 35; by Blacks: 11.
- Number of soundbites on crime uttered by Whites: 149; by Blacks: 24.
- Times more likely that a mug shot of the accused will appear in a local TV news report when the defendant is Black rather than White: 4.
- Times more likely that the accused will be shown physically restrained in a local TV news report when the defendant is Black rather than White: 2.
- Times less likely that the name of the accused will be shown on screen in a local TV news report when the defendant is Black rather than White: 2
- Black adults stating that Jesse Jackson represents Black people "very well": 40%.
- Black adults stating that Louis Farrakhan represents Black people "very well": 11%.
- Black adults stating they had "never heard of" Jesse Jackson: 0%.
- Black adults stating they had "never heard of" Louis Farrakhan: 22%.
- Stories about, or soundbites from, Jesse Jackson on ABC World News: 13.
- Stories about, or soundbites from, Louis Farrakhan on ABC World News: 25.
- Percentage of survey respondents naming affirmative action as their top priority in voting against a presidential candidate, 1996: 1%.
- Percentage of White men ("angry" or not) surveyed who favored affirmative action programs as is or with reforms: 61%.
- Percentage of White women surveyed who favored affirmative action programs as is or with reforms: 76%.
- Percentage of White "persons on the street" supporting affirmative action in a sample of network news: 12.5%. Percentage opposing: 87.5%.