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Cultural racism in the United States

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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. Cultural racism in the United States is mainly congruent with perceived racial groups in the American culture.

Media PresentationsEdit

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.

  • Entman & Rojecki (2001) suggest that commercial advertisements are less likely to depict Black vs. White individuals as members of a family or couple and also less likely to depict Black family members touching each other or their child. In turn, these presentations reinforce stereotypes about the degree to which African Americans are able to form meaningful or sustained social or romantic relationships[2]

Media presentations can shape and strengthen attitudes towards different groups[3]

  • Weisbuch et al. (2009) analyzed episodes of TV shows commonly watched by many Americans. They examined the degree to which there were race differences in the ways the characters in the program communicated positive attitudes to other characters through verbal and non-verbal behavior. There were no race differences in verbal expressions of positive regard, but non-verbal expressions of positive regard were made more often to White than Black characters. Most importantly, perceptions of non-verbal behavior affected the participants' affective biases towards members of the groups, even though the participants were unaware of these effects.

Heavy television watching affects the viewer's commitment to stereotyped views of different groups.

  • Heavy TV viewing is associated with more positive views towards White Americans, and more negative stereotypical views of Asian Americans and Native Americans. Views of African Americans and Latinos were mixed with heavy television watching associated with endorsement of both positive and negative stereotypes[4]

Cultural communications, identity, and health behaviorEdit

Yanovitzky and Stryker (2001) argue that the effects of the media on perceptions of group norms play an important role in shaping racial differences in health practices. When certain health behaviors or health related characteristics (e.g. slimness) are not depicted as part of the norm for a particular group, then individuals may reject these behaviors or consider them irrelevant or outside their personal control. As a consequence, the behaviors are not associated with the individual's own identity or his or her group identity[5] Hebl and colleagues (2009) present research highlighting the potential role of the media in shaping race differences in identification with standards regarding obesity.

  • In two studies Black and White participants were presented with pictures of Black and White women varying in body size. Participants were asked to indicate the degree to which they felt positively towards the women depicted in the pictures. If participants rated thinner women in a more favorable way than heavier women, the authors interpreted this as indicating that the participants have internalized the "thinness ideal".
  • In an early study, the investigators reported that Black women did not rate thin women more favorably than heavier women, suggesting they did not identify with the thinness ideal[6]
  • In a new investigation, they manipulated the women's beliefs about relative thinness. They used a bogus scientific article that informed the participants that Black women were on average thinner than Whites. After reading this article, Black women rated Black women who were thin more favorably they did Black women who were larger. The authors suggest Black women had adopted the thinness ideal after media exposure[7]


  1. Helms, J. E. (1993)
  2. Jenkins, C. M. (2007)
  3. Dovidio, J. F. (2009)
  4. Lee et al. (2009)
  5. Oyserman, Fryberg, & Yoder, 2007
  6. Hebl & Heatherton, 1998
  7. Hebl, King, & Perkins, 2009


  • Helms, J. E. (1993). Black and White racial identity. New York: Praeger.
  • Jenkins, C. M. (2007). Private lives, proper relations: Regulating Black intimacy. Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Dovidio, J. F. (2009). Psychology. racial bias, unspoken but heard. Science (New York, N.Y.), 326(5960), 1641-1642.
  • 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.
  • Oyserman, D., Fryberg, S. A., & Yoder, N. (2007). Identity-based motivation and health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93(6), 1011-1027.
  • Hebl, M. R., & Heatherton, T. F. (1998). The stigma of obesity in women: The difference is Black and White. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(4), 417-426.
  • 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.

See alsoEdit

Cultural racism

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