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Race and Ethnic Stereotypes in the Media  

Srividya Ramasubramanian, Emily Riewestahl, and Anthony Ramirez

There is a long history of scholarship documenting the prevalence of racial and ethnic stereotypes in media and popular culture. This body of literature demonstrates that media stereotypes have changed over time across specific racial/ethnic groups, media formats, and genres. Historically, the bulk of this research has focused on representations in the U.S. mainstream media and on representations of African Americans in popular media. In the last few decades, media scholars have also examined media stereotypes associated with Indigenous groups, Latino/a/x populations, Arabs, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Recent work has gone beyond traditional media such as television and films to also examine other types of media content such as video games, microblogging sites such as Twitter, and media sharing sites such as YouTube. Emerging research addresses racial biases in AI, algorithms, and media technologies through computational methods and data sciences. Despite individual variations across groups and media types, the underlying social psychological mechanisms of how, why, and under what circumstances these stereotypes influence audiences has been theorized more broadly. Cultivation, social identity theory, priming, framing, social cognitive theory, and exemplification are popular theoretical perspectives used within media stereotyping literature. Several experimental studies have examined the effects of mediated racial/ethnic stereotypes on individual users’ attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. The lion’s share of these studies has demonstrated that negative stereotypes shape majority audiences’ real-world stereotypical perceptions, social judgments, intergroup emotions, and even public policy opinions. More important, media stereotypes can have negative effects on communities of color by affecting their self-concept, self-esteem, and collective identity in adverse ways. Recent studies have also parsed out the differences between positive and negative stereotypes. They demonstrate that even so-called positive stereotypes often have harmful effects on marginalized groups. Media scholars are increasingly interested in practical solutions to address media stereotypes. For instance, one content-based strategy has been to study the effects of counter-stereotypic portrayals that challenge stereotypes by presenting stereotype-disconfirming information. Other related measures are encouraging positive role models, implementing media literacy education, and supporting alternative media spaces that are more racially inclusive. The recent scholarship suggests that it is important to be intentional about centering social change, amplifying the voices of marginalized groups, and working toward reducing systemic racism in the media industry and research.