New White Paper: TV Depictions of African-American Women Examined

New White Paper: TV Depictions of African-American Women Examined


White Paper on Depictions of African-American Women in Reality TV Illustrates Real Life Effect

Studies have uncovered that television shows that portray African-Americans as “criminals or unemployed” were thought to be realistic, as were negative personality characteristics.

WASHINGTON, D.C., Feb. 26, 2016—In collaboration with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated (Zeta) and education, media and advertising agency partners, the American Advertising Federation (AAF) has developed and released the white paper, “Reality TV: Entertaining, But No Laughing Matter.”

In Spring 2015, the AAF and Zeta through its GET ENGAGED™ social action initiative, co-sponsored a 10-city watch party tour, “Reality TV: Realistic, Stereotypical, Helpful or Harmful?,” focused on the impact of media images on people of color. Approximately 400 watch party participants examined the state of African-American images in media, their effect on public and personal perceptions and the role that people of goodwill can play in driving change.

“First, we do not have a vendetta against reality TV.  But, as marketing and media professionals, community advocates, educators and parents, we know the power of media to do good, or in some cases harm. We found that many of these images, as well as those found in social media, were believed to directly influence how African-American women were perceived in the workplace, society as a whole—and shape how African-American women define themselves,” said Kendra Hatcher King, former AAF Mosaic Council chairperson. “We are committed to creating actionable solutions to educate young women and girls about the impact of these harmful images,” added King, who is also Zeta’s GET ENGAGED™ chairperson. 

As a result, the AAF and Zeta have produced a white paper which explores the need to portray more than single-story depictions of African-American women and realistic aspects of multicultural life; research theories that can be used to understand current media effects; key discussion points from the watch party series; connections between the advertising industry and images displayed in ads and in programming, with a targeted focus on advertising ethics; and suggestions from participants on tackling the problem of media misrepresentation.

Wally Snyder, Executive Director of the Institute for Advertising Ethics said, “When we depict people unfairly it has a major impact on our society. Our value system is supposed to be equality, fairness and objectivity. It’s supposed to be inclusive and not exclusive. So when these negative images are portrayed, for example, about people of color, it hurts our society.”

In addition to Zeta, the AAF is proud to partner with Baylor University, Cheyney University, Digitas LBi, FCB, Howard University, Leo Burnett, Omnicom Media Group, PublicisVivaWomen, Razorfish, Starcom MediaVest Group, Syracuse University and University of Virginia on this effort.

To download the paper, visit aaftl.com/watchparty.


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