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Race/Ethnicity In Television Programs

Racial and ethnic discrimination is a sad, bitter truth of our lives today. Even though we have progressed beyond the stage of institutional marginalization of specific races/ethnicities, and legislative authorities have delegitimized racism, we have yet to eradicate it from our daily lives. The media, especially television programs hold immense responsibility in this case. Television programs have large audiences, and the cultural, and racial/ethnic depiction of characters has the power to either reinforce, or to bust racial/ethnic stereotypes.

Television programs are mostly aired for the sole purpose of providing entertainment. Sometimes this motive leads television directors to depict racial/ethnic groups in a stereotypical, derogatory manner. Such instances are readily found in comedy shows. In the Western media, for example we have shows like ‘The Simpsons’ or ‘2 Broke Girls’ that feature racist jokes frequently. Most people, even the ones belonging to the targeted racial/ethnic groups condone these light-hearted remarks. However, it should be noted that such jokes, no matter how innocuous they may seem leave their traces on our subconscious. They instill in us the idea that on some level it is acceptable to label people based on their physical and ancestral traits. When in fact, there is no unanimity in the scientific community regarding the biological basis of classification of races. This encourages the custom of judging a book by its cover. When people are accustomed to attaching labels to others based on superficial traits like physical appearance, they lose focus of what is actually important, the person’s personality.

However, it would be unfair to generalize about all television shows in this manner. Writers, directors, and actors are becoming increasingly responsible in this matter. Television shows are striving to become more inclusive. Actors are being cast from all sorts of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, and racial/ethnic diversity is being appreciated on television. During the past century Western television shows were criticized for casting Whites only for lead roles, but now this trend is changing. For instance television series like ‘Suits’ or ‘How To Get Away With Murder’ have successful Black women on their list of lead characters. Such developments are indeed, commendable as they induce tolerance and acceptance in the general mood of the society.

There is no denying the fact that television programs have considerable influence on racism in the real world. Therefore, it is only sensible that they are used to condemn racism instead of promoting it.