AMOS, ANDY & CNN’s D.L. HUGHLEY

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CNN portrayed African-Americans as morally corrupt, jiving, tap dancing intellectual inferiors.



CNN’s “the News” segment starring King of Comedy star D.L. Hughley, portrayed African-Americans as morally corrupt, jiving, tap dancing intellectual inferiors.

 

Media stereotypes are healthy and thriving especially in the advertising, entertainment and news industry.  Stereotypes act like codes that give audiences a quick and invariable flawed common understanding of a person or group  relative to race, gender and sexual orientation among others.

 

CNN is not the first network that has tried to make a profit from stereotypes. It was following in the tradition of the early days of black-faced minstrels to the humiliating comedic antics of "Amos and Andy," who after many years of intense pressure from civil rights groups were forced off the air, because they portrayed African-Americans as superstitious and ignorant. 

 

Amos and Andy was one of the top rated shows on television and brought in a fortune in advertising revenues.


On October 25th of this past year, just days before the most important election of our time, CNN débuted the D.L. Hughley "Breaks The News" segment which portrayed African-Americans as people you should certainly not entrust with the Presidency.

 

The show left hundreds of thousands of viewers hurt and outraged wondering why CNN or D.L. Hughley for that matter, with a staff of highly educated writers and producers would even allow offensive and degrading images into our living rooms.  The question is simple enough and so is the answer, money, money, money.

Primarily advertisers buy audiences and prime time audiences are 70% white. 

For example, the Steve Harvey Show drew 500,000 more viewers per episode than the popular white series Dawson's Creek, and yet, a 30 second spot on Dawson's Creek brought in around $63,000 more in ad revenues.

In his essay "Racism and Mass Media," Steven Balkram wrote that since the inception of print, television and film, the media has been used as a tool by the elite to ensure that profits are maximized for their corporations by dividing the working class along racial lines, while maintaining the cycle of intellectual and material poverty. 

The casualties of these tactics are always children.

 

Temple University Professor, George Gerbner is concerned that portrayals of minority characters in the media influences the way children see themselves and others.  His research found that children associated white characters with various attributes like, being wealthy, educated, excelling in school and being intelligent.  Conversely, they associated African-American characters with crime, poverty, being lazy and superficial.

In our fight to end racism in American media, the Toussaint L'Overture Foundation for Arts and Education is currently implementing programs that will create dialogue and discussion forums on racism in schools.  In view of our increasingly widespread use of the Internet, the Foundation will make use of the web to organize the youth and launch initiatives.  

 

The Foundation was also part of the widespread protest against the CNN show.

 

On March 9th, the Huffington Post and other news outlets published that CNN announced the cancellation of the D.L. Hughley show due to "budgetary restraints." In the same month the Time-Warner owned network came in fourth place in terms of viewership by the key demographic for advertisers, adults aged 25-54.


And through March 17th, CNN trailed not only FOX News and MSNBC, but also its sister network Headline News. 

This is marketplace democracy in action. Ironically what proved the shows undoing was that Americans did not find it funny.

 

Since the middle of the last century, both African-Americans and Whites have labored to end racism in this country, but our legacy of racism in popular entertainment is the one dimension of racism that we all must continue to fight against without hypocrisy.

 

We must stand ready to condemn all of those who would inflict degradation and hate into our collective consciousness.

 

Signed,

Ira Robinson
President
Toussaint L'Overture Foundation For Arts & Education

Ken Eulo
President,
New York Acting Ensemble

Mona Lassiter
Director
N-de Music

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