This week I had the opportunity attend Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.’s Congressional Black Caucus forum on improving images of Black women in the media. It was a lively discussion that raised a lot of questions about not only the media images Black women are chosen–and sometimes choose–to portray but also which images we choose to consume.
The part that really stayed with me were comments from Shari Nycole Welton, who is a producer of TVOne’s News One Now. When asked about what we can do to combat negative images of Black women on TV and Movies, Shari reminded the audience that social media has created a platform for users to create their own content. If we don’t like the images we see in the media, we are only a few clicks away from creating our own content to consume. And if we choose to, we can create content that shows positive images of Black people in general and Black women in particular.
I was ready to disagree at first. Yes, people of color can and do create their own content, and social media makes that much easier than it was in the past. But then you have to take into account that production companies have the money, power, and influence to create media portrayals of Black people and make them ubiquitous. And we already know that it is extremely hard to make a video go viral.
Even with all that said, I ended up nodding my head when Shari said that. Social media gives people a great opportunity to be the change they want to see in the world, especially as it pertains to combatting negative images and stereotypes about Black women.
I wouldn’t say that if there weren’t already countless examples of young Black content creators doing their own thing and developing new images of their people. Issa Rae’s Awkward Black Girl is one example of this for sure, but it doesn’t stop there.
The Whip and the Nae Nae has become a staple when we talk about Black youth culture, has it not?
And Vine and Instagram has become a testing ground for some of the funniest, most talented up-and-coming Black comedians and actors.
Social media gives us more power than we think.
If you are using social media, whether you are a manager/consultant or whether you are “just tweeting,” you have the opportunity to shift the dialogue about how people of color are portrayed in the media. So create your content wisely – and remember to have fun.