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The Power of (Mis)Representation: Why Racial and Ethnic Stereotypes in the Media Matter

by Mari Castañeda

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As communication systems reach nearly every corner of the world, mass media matters more than ever since it influences how people see and understand themselves and others in the world. As a powerful social force that makes the most of visual, audio and textual techniques, it has the capacity to shape civil society, its discourses, policies, and the built environment all around us (Schiller, 2014). Therefore, media are not insignificant audio-visual outlets that merely entertain and inform, but they are culturally expressive conduits that have the power to transform the popular imaginary into real world practices of love and hate, peace and violence. Certainly, audiences are not passive robots that merely accept everything that is broadcast to them but given our societal context in which media images drive so much of the narratives in politics, culture and economics, it is deeply important to acknowledge its power so that we may develop the critical agency necessary to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions. Furthermore, understanding the role of media as a communicative stimulus becomes especially necessary when it comes to deconstructing the media (mis)representation of racial and ethnic populations and the stereotypes that are perpetuated.

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