Black Media, Victimization, And Agency

I guess there will always be times in my life when the notion of enough is enough resonates most accurately.


I read a lot of articles, posts, essays, and written words spelling out the need for people with less power than the powerful to address this powerlessness. In fact, I have written a number of these longform texts my Self. At a certain point, I find there is a line where the need to outline one’s victimization and the need to mobilize with a certain agency exists. This rings more and more apparent when I analyze media consumed at a mass level.


When watching broadcast television shows such as “Empire” or “Scandal”, I am often left wondering about the impact of the US Black image. Like many of those whom I follow on Twitter, subscribe to on YouTube or whose writings I read on their own site might suggest, these images represent what many will identify with as “US Black”. Regardless of the level of the stereotype a script contains, the desire to see characters portrayed and actresses and actors portraying them that share our physical attributes exist at a high level. I often hear my fiancee’s mother speaking of times when US Blacks would gather in front of the television with phone carriage to ear enthusiastically announcing to whomever they were conversing with that,”It’s a Black person on tv!!!”


This particular bit of excitement reflects an awareness of the socio-political nature of the US Black image, while also revealing a dearth of the same. Sure, finding others that appear as we do on a medium that often dictates what will be discussed throughout the week at work, after church, and during our social gatherings has a certain power to it. What we see on television screens not only informs popular culture, it is popular culture. However, these same images are also commodities to be valued based on viewers–and now Twitter updates and hashtags–which are segmented into blocks of time sold to the advertising departments of the company with the best purchasing power and negotiation skills.


Then there is the miasma of message and cultural impact. How do these images inform my subconscious scripts and beliefs about my Self as a US Black person? How do these images inform my subconscious scripts and beliefs about the United States of America? How do these images inform my subconscious scripts and beliefs about other US Blacks? How does class, race, sex, gender, orientation, and other political identity descriptors fit into the message received? At what point is it solely entertainment and at what is it persuasion, propaganda, and rhetorical device?


This is simply a set of queries relating to television scripts crafted for a niche market. What about the airing of videos detailing the murder of Black people? How do these visual texts of captured objective reality inform my personhood? Should we be watching these depictions of graphic and extreme hostility as much as we have in the past years?


Then I begin to ask my Self another set of questions.


How easy is it for me to simply not watch? How much effort does it take me to tune away, to tune out, to not tune in to these visual stories of a reality reflective of my own? At what point does the victimization, the abuse akin to verbal abuse, contained in these images as message meet my agency, that is to say, my ability to realize no one has a gun at my head or a whip over my back threatening physical annihilation if I do not consume these images?


While writing analyses of US Black media, or reading them, it is gradually becoming a habit to ask of my Self or the writer,”Was your remote control broke? They had you tied to a chair with your eyes duct taped open while watching?”


Even as a professional Black Media Analyst, my biggest concern has to be more about promoting and training the ideas, concepts, and techniques of US Black Media Literacy, or Black Media Trust, as opposed to simply attempting to police what is broadcast and what is consumed via the broadcast. This includes not only television shows, but also what is considered contemporary journalism, blogging, books, comic books, academic journal studies, music, and all other forms of media. It is not my intention to persuade anyone against the popular in our cultural media. It might be a task with much to sacrifice and little to actually consider as successful result. It is, however, my life’s appointment to recognize what is popular, to examine that which is popular, and, to the best of my ability, tease out what elements and qualities of that text(imagery, audial, or written) I perceive to be most compelling.


The reality is, it is never just entertainment(I am sure an argument can be made with the conclusion of nothing in life–let alone society–is just anything in a dynamic construct). It is also my personal choice based on a litany of experiences to move away from what I deem harmful. It is my professional advice(free of charge at the moment) to profer a nod of agency on the part of the consumer, while also either simply suggesting they find other products of the medium, or actually showing them what I consume. It is my professional advice(once again, free of charge at the moment) to profer a nod to agency on the part of the US Black Media Analyst, while also reminding them that any text they create lamenting the oppressive quality of a media consumable is also promoting it.


That advice, while time tested and paycheck approved, is, much like the directives contained within the advice itself, there for one to take, or to tune out. If you must critique it, please leave a link leading back here. Thanks.