Black Masculinity, Media Stereotyping, and Its Influence on Policing in the United States: A Functionalist Perspective

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Contribution to Book

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The Palgrave Handbook of Global Social Problems






In American culture, misrepresentations of black males have been perpetuated throughout the history of popular culture. Welch (J Contemp Crim Justice 23:276–288, 2007) conveys how social facts that highlight black males are more criminal than other racial categories increase perceptions about their perceived threat toward any given society. Because of these narratives, varying communities have developed biases and stereotypes about what black male masculinity represents and, more importantly, how they respond to them. Because of these preconceived perceptions, black males are often the victims of violence and excessive policing by law enforcement and citizens. According to Smiley and Fakunle (J Hum Behav Soc Environ 26:350–366, 2016), “The growing number of fatal law enforcement interactions involving unarmed individuals, especially Black males, warrants greater cognizance of the images created by the media of the victims” (p,18). Black masculinity and its impact on modern-day perceptions are deeply rooted in not only slavery but in how capitalism impacts society. Matlon (Am Sociol Rev 81:1014–1038, 2016) argues because of slavery, modern-day gendering was related to capitalistic profit. “Colonialism was a project of racial capitalism” and contributed to emasculating African slaves for mass production of goods (Matlon 2016, p. 1014). Hence, black males are viewed not as persons but as property, dehumanizing their existence.

This chapter explored police officers’ perspectives in the following states, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Because of the nature of police and community relations and national attention to high-profile cases, having officers provide context into how black males are viewed from their lens was critical while expanding on the theoretical explanations to describe such attitudes toward police confrontations.


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