resource for survival. For the writers of this show, it is convenient
to reduce Blackness to a costume and to have characters wear it in
moments of protection then dispose of it at will. It should be noted
that there are numerous ways to engage the experience of Black
individuals and to evoke themes of peace and leadership over
violence or to present themes of communal survival over gang
violence and that the characters of this show have been
constructed to make a particular set of choices in the name of
survival.
Discussion
This exploitation of Blackness as a resource is problematic
to Black communities for several reasons. First, defining Blackness
by and about Whiteness reinforces power systems that benefit
those “neutral,” privileged bodies. In an age when shows like Black-
ish are redefining Blackness from “within” the community,
narratives such as Shameless silence the efforts of marginalized
individuals to build and establish autonomy. To reduce an entire
community to a set of stereotypical markers is to dehumanize the
members of that community. Next, this type of representation
reinforces stereotypes of violence in ways that influence harmful
activities off screen. One study found a connection between
stereotypical markers of Blackness and criminal sentencing. The
subjects were primed with images of “stereotypically Black”
characteristics before being placed into a simulation with Black and
White subjects. The study found that individuals who were
characterized as being more “stereotypically Black” were more
likely to be convicted and sentenced by both Black and White
judges than White plaintiffs of similar crimes (Rachlinski et al.
1197-1204). The reality of television in a postmodern era is that
those narratives created on screen spill over into the very narratives
that are used to understand diversity “off-screen.” Therefore,
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