Ethnic Notions: Popular Culture Stereotypes of African Americans

Ethnic Notions documentary film. How popular culture perpetuates and reinforces stereotypes of African Americans
Poster of Ethnic Notions documentary film. How does popular culture perpetuate and reinforce stereotypes of African Americans? (Photo from California Newsreel)
The 1987 documentary film Ethnic Notions explores stereotypes used against African Americans. The film examines the different stereotypes people use on African Americans. It also shows how these stereotypes are linked to popular culture. From flashy clothing styles to hamburgers and hotdogs to pop music, popular culture is a symbol of what America is – progressive and seemingly uninhibited. But dark traces of human nature remain. Stereotypes of African Americans and prejudices on people of color remain among the most significant issues in society. Popular culture contains and sometimes even promotes these stereotypes against African Americans. As Ethnic Notions shows, popular culture perpetuates and reinforces stereotypes of African Americans.

What African American stereotypes does the documentary film Ethnic Notions depict and how are these related to popular culture?

American Popular Culture: Prejudice & Stereotypes against African Americans

Historically, African Americans have been the prime targets of ridicule and discrimination. As Ethnic Notions shows, this societal condition is especially supported by American popular culture. Popular culture has historically promoted white power, fame and fortune, while downplaying African Americans. Despite these issues, popular culture reaches and expands its effect on the public.

Ethnic Notions shows that American popular culture is quite inflexible in removing its negative traits. For instance, anti-African-American stereotypes continue to be popularized in this culture. The condition is even worse because popular culture does not promote proactive measures to remove these stereotypes of African Americans. Ethnic Notions presents a society lacking a critical mind to effectively oppose these stereotypes.

Cultural Biases, Racism & African American Stereotypes in Ethnic Notions

In the film Ethnic Notions, the problem of stereotypes of African Americans is expressed through caricatures and images. The film depicts people’s innocent involvement in this problem. People ignorantly support these stereotypes and make it linger in society. The masses easily adopt American popular culture without much criticism. Ethnic Notions makes it clear that American popular culture is a medium for propagating stereotyping against African Americans.

Ethnic Notions illustrates the perpetuation of cultural biases against African Americans through time. Showing that stereotypes of African Americans have historical basis, the film establishes that this societal problem is not a mere result of American character. The documentary points out that Americans are responsible for perpetuating stereotypes of African Americans by accepting and promoting a biased popular culture.

Sensitivity and Cultural Competence

Ethnic Notions shows that American popular culture is a powerful medium that perpetuates stereotyping of African Americans. This popular culture deters Americans from achieving a society of fairness and equality. A critical eye is needed to identify problems pop culture brings. Bridging the gap among all races is a matter of sensitivity to the negative effects of popular culture.


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