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Cultural racism

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Cultural racism can be defined as societal beliefs and customs that promote the assumption that the products of a given culture, including the language and traditions of that culture are superior to those of other cultures.[1]

Cultural racism exists when there is a widespread acceptance of stereotypes concerning different ethnic or population groups.

To assess the degree to which these stereotypes are widely accepted, investigators have collected data from national surveys of explicit beliefs and attitudes, as well as experimental studies of implicit attitudes.[2]

Investigators studying cultural racism examine the ways in which different methods for communicating cultural values develop and maintain positive and negative beliefs about different population and ethnic groups. Examples of methods to communicate these beliefs include:

  • Icons and observances (e.g., holidays, festivals, etc.)[3]
  • Mass media presentations, (i.e., widely used forms of communication, including film, television, advertisements, newspapers and magazines, and the internet).[4]


Media presentations can reinforce the idea that observable characteristics are highly important markers that can be used to classify individuals into social groups. The media can also be used to communicate stereotypes about group members, reinforce attitudes towards group members, and establish commonly accepted norms for the characteristics associated with group membership.

To understand the ways in which different types of media communicate stereotypes about different groups, investigators have examined the content of coverage, the choice of images and words, and the tone of the communication.

Specifically, among other variables, studies have measured:

  • The professional roles (e.g., bank manager vs. laborer) to which members of different groups are assigned[5]
  • The degree to which the individuals portrayed in the news stories conform to stereotypes associated with the ethnic/population group, including acting in a violent or criminal manner[6]
  • Correlations in the presentation of ethnicity and poverty[7]
  • Amount of television and type of television programs watched and their association with stereotyped views of different ethnic/population groups[8]
  • Ethnic differences in the communication and receipt of verbal and non-verbal messages of regard[9]

Selected FindingsEdit

Media presentations are effective methods to communicate stereotypes about groups. The characters serve as social role models. Media consumers may view the ways in which group members are portrayed as normative or acceptable for that group. Media presentations can shape and strengthen attitudes towards different groups.[10] Heavy television watching affects the viewer's commitment to stereotyped views of different groups.

These data highlight two critical points.

  • Media presentations can change perceptions of group norms relatively rapidly.
  • Group norms influence the degree to which viewers identify with and value particular characteristics, increasing their personal salience.


  1. Helms' 1993
  2. Alba, Rumbaut, & Marotz, 2005; Baldwin, Day, & Hecht, 2000; Brezina & Winder, 2003; Fox, 2004; Kaplowitz, Broman, & Fisher, 2006
  3. Sue et al., 2007
  4. Dixon, 2008
  5. Stevenson, 2007
  6. Bjornstrom, Kaufman, Peterson, & Slater, 2010; Dixon, 2008
  7. Gilens, 1996
  8. Lee, Bichard, Irey, Walt, & Carlson, 2009
  9. Weisbuch, Pauker, & Ambady, 2009
  10. Dovidio, 2009


  • Hebl, M. R., King, E. B., & Perkins, A. (2009). Ethnic differences in the stigma of obesity: Identification and engagement with a thin ideal. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,45(6), 1165-1172.
  • Oyserman, D., Fryberg, S. A., & Yoder, N. (2007). Identity-based motivation and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(6), 1011-1027.
  • Weisbuch, M., Pauker, K., & Ambady, N. (2009). The subtle transmission of race bias via televised nonverbal behavior. Science, 326(5960), 1711-1714.
  • Yanovitzky, I., & Stryker, J. (2001). Mass media, social norms, and health promotion efforts: A longitudinal study of media effects on youth binge drinking. Communication Research, 28(2), 208-239.
  • Helms, J. E. (1993). Black and White racial identity. New York: Praeger.
  • Alba, R., Rumbaut, R. G., & Marotz, K. (2005). A distorted nation: Perceptions of Racial/Ethnic group sizes and attitudes toward immigrants and other minorities. Social Forces, 84(2), 901-919.
  • Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial microaggressions in everyday life: Implications for clinical practice. American Psychologist, 62(4), 271-286.
  • Dixon, T. L. (2008). Crime news and racialized beliefs: Understanding the relationship between local news viewing and perceptions of African Americans and crime. Journal of Communication, 58(1), 106-125.
  • Stevenson, T. H. (2007). A six-decade study of the portrayal of African Americans in business print media: Trailing, mirroring, or shaping social change? Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising, 29(1), 1-14.
  • Bjornstrom, E. E. S., Kaufman, R. L., Peterson, R. D., & Slater, M. D. (2010). Race and ethnic representations of lawbreakers and victims in crime news: A national study of television coverage. Social Problems, 57(2), 269-293.
  • Gilens, M. (1996). Race and poverty in America: Public misperceptions and the American news media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 60(4), 515-541.
  • Lee, M. J., Bichard, S. L., Irey, M. S., Walt, H. M., & Carlson, A. J. (2009). Television viewing and ethnic stereotypes: Do college students form stereotypical perceptions of ethnic groups as a result of heavy television consumption? Howard Journal of Communications, 20(1), 95-110.
  • Weisbuch, M., Pauker, K., & Ambady, N. (2009). The subtle transmission of race bias via televised nonverbal behavior. Science, 326(5960), 1711-1714.
  • Dovidio, J. F. (2009). Psychology. racial bias, unspoken but heard. Science (New York, N.Y.), 326(5960), 1641-1642.

See alsoEdit

Rationale for inclusion Edit

When loggers defend their actions by saying that they have been doing the same thing for generations, that is a circular argument. Doing the same wrong thing for generations is worse. In this sense, cultural activity is not necessarily automatically defended against criticism.
However, this article does point to a possible drift of racism towards arguments that are easily defensible, as negative actions based on race alone has been discredited utterly by reasonable people.

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