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Published:May 16th, 2008 06:22 EST
The Construction of Black and White Masculinity in the Media

The Construction of Black and White Masculinity in the Media

By Cherod Johnson

African American men, especially within sports, are depicted as being highly over-sexualized and dominate. Too often, African American men are also depicted as lacking intelligence, having more “body than mind.” These African Americans males are often glorified for their masculine physique, while never being given credit to being great thinkers of the game. White males, indeed, are sought as individuals who use their intellectual skills first and more capable of making moral decisions. But illustrated as being aggressive and dominating, African American males are depicted as not incline to make moral decisions on their own.

Before the Michael Vick incident, he was highly glamorized for his ability to be a great football player. Surprisingly, he is one of the few of African Americans males to be able to occupy the quarterback position; a position that requires a high level of intelligence, thinking, and ability to not fail under pressure during hard times. Even while assuming the quarterback position, the mass media continuously glamorized his body and question his thinking skills. Often associating his ability to be a good quarterback with biology characteristics that can be only found in African Americans such as having an extra bone in his leg to allow them to run faster and dominate harder on the field. Jon Entine, author of the book, “Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It,” also states that African Americans males are stereotyped to lack intelligence. Entine states, “The dumb jock stereotype is a relatively recent construct—perhaps a defensive mechanism that arose when blacks began to participate on a level playing field and gain prominence in the sporting world.”  In other words, intelligence is not associated with African American males. Moreover, when Vick was accused of the dog charges, the media instantly capitalized on his aggressive tone over and over again within the media. Portraying him as a dangerous man and treat, indeed, is nothing new for African American males within sports, especially when they have violated the law.

The image above depicted Vick as a aggressive figure who reportedly “flipped off” the Atlanta falcons fans during an interview. Posting this image within the media several times a day was a way for them to portray him not only as a threat, but also guilty of being a “dog murderer.” It is a indirect way for the media to portay him as a "threat" to society who should be locked up.

The media also depict African American males to be physically stronger and bigger than their white counterparts.  This is shown within the reality TV series “Rob & Big.  Rob Dyrdek is a white professional skateboarder. While, his best friend, Christopher “Big Black” Boykin, is his bodyguard. Not only is Big Black position as bodyguard demeaning because he is viewed as the white male savior but also the racist connation within his name is also degrading.

His inability to fully make moral decisions and survive without Rob, indeed, correlates with the post-modern image of the Sambo character, whom is childlike and unable to live independently. Consciously or unconsciously, Big is locked into an inferior position because of his continuous submission to the acts that he ask for him to perform. Much alike the sambo, Big is viewed as a tool or animal-like figure that is only needed for enjoyment. While, Rob is viewed as being average or “normal” height. Hence, the construction of whiteness is viewed as normal, while blackness is viewed as being abnormal, aggressive, and dominate. When is enough, truly, enough?