Stereotypes in Hispanic Neighborhoods, Research Paper Example

Introduction

Stereotypes are commonplace throughout society across groups and cultures in different forms. They are non-discriminate; therefore, individuals face stereotypes and also adopt their own negative perceptions of others in many situations. Therefore, it is important to identify how stereotypes influence behaviors and impact specific groups. For example, Hispanic males and females often face stereotypes and experiences in their daily lives that place them in a negative light. In particular, Hispanics and those living in lower income neighborhoods are often stereotyped and perceived in a negative light by other groups and by the media as a whole. Therefore, the problems associated with these assumptions play a significant role in the reinforcement of stereotypes within these groups. The following paragraphs will establish a qualitative analysis of the perceptions and assumptions made by members of the mass media and their role in creating and reinforcing stereotypes that impact the lives of Hispanics, and specifically, those who live in lower income neighborhoods. These negative perceptions appear to play a critical role in defining negativity and stereotypes regarding these individuals, which in turn, may contribute to limited circumstances and a lower quality of life. This research will identify stereotypes that exist in the Hispanic culture as perpetuated by the mass media and will demonstrate that these assumptions have negative impacts on this population.

Body

Stereotypes are a common set of assumptions made throughout everyday life across many cultures. It is not surprising that individuals develop specific perceptions of others in different groups. However, the severity and impact of these stereotypes is not always recognized and they often lead to negative outcomes within specific cultural groups. Similarly, the mass media often makes assumptions and develops negative perceptions of minority groups to attract interest. These negative stereotypes play a significant role in shaping how larger groups of people perceive minorities and their cultures, as well as their neighborhoods. As a result, it becomes necessary to identify the specific factors that play a role in shaping stereotypes and their influence on the population(s) that are negatively perceived. For the purposes of this discussion, Hispanic stereotypes as portrayed by the mass media in the areas of television and news will be identified and evaluated in greater detail.

In conducting content analyses, it is possible to “gain an understanding of how often such depictions are found on television. The results of content analyses contain a count or frequency of the number of times a particular image is produced on television” (Dixon, p. 1). Under these circumstances, it is important to identify the frequency of these events and how they impact the perception of these cultures in mass media outlets (Dixon). With these perceptions, it is likely that Hispanics, for example, will typically be portrayed in a negative light and will not be evaluated in a positive manner by members of other cultural groups (Dixon). This is a challenging yet realistic depiction of Hispanics across media outlets, including television and news sources (Dixon).

In recent years, particularly since the September 11 terrorist attacks, the increased discussion and controversy regarding immigration in the United States has placed a significant emphasis on Mexico, and in particular, Latino immigrants, in many media circles (Ferguson). Many Americans find it increasingly difficult to accept current immigration laws and standards because they believe that they are too lenient and less than adequate in exercising control over the number of immigrants that enter into the country (Ferguson). Much of the emphasis is placed on limited border control between the United States and Mexico, thereby creating many assumptions regarding immigrants and other Latino descendants and their place in American culture (Ferguson). The media propagates many stereotypes regarding Hispanics and Latinos that are often closely aligned with immigration standards or lack thereof and the ability and ease of many persons of Mexican descent to enter into the United States without much difficulty (Ferguson). Since these persons are unable to work legally, they are unable to earn adequate incomes and cannot afford adequate housing and therefore, live in public housing under poor conditions (Ferguson). Under these circumstances, television and news in particular play a significant role in creating stereotypes that are difficult to ignore and that facilitate negative perceptions and outcomes for Hispanics and Latinos (Ferguson). The article supports the common belief that prejudice is exacerbated by negative media stereotypes against Hispanics and Latinos (Ferguson).

A report conducted and written by the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) (2012) addresses the relevance of stereotypes related to Latinos and drew the following general conclusions: 1) Negative stereotypes are common towards Latinos; 2) Media and news outlets play a significant role in shaping these negative perceptions; and 3) These perceptions are significant contributors to the development of stereotypes for this population group. Under these conditions, it is believed that some media outlets are more persuasive than others with respect to these stereotypes, such as FOX News, noted as follows: “We find a consistent pattern whereby FOX News audiences are indeed more likely to hold negative stereotypes about Latinos compared to less ideologically-oriented broadcast news networks. In addition, MSNBC and National Public Radio consumers hold significantly less negative opinions about Latinos in all instances tested” (NHMC, 2012, p. 9). These stereotypes reflect a strong need to identify the nature of these stereotypes and why they exist so strongly in some media outlets rather than others (NHMC, 2012). The challenges of this process are critical in the ability to recognize the issues associated with negative stereotypes of Hispanics and Latinos that run rampant throughout many areas of society (NHMC, 2012).

Perhaps one of the most important and relevant impacts of these negative stereotypes is their ability to expand strong dislike and even hatred for Hispanics and Latinos in many areas of society (Barreto, 2012). For example, in a survey of 3,000 non-Hispanic individuals throughout the United States, significant stereotypical perceptions existed regarding Hispanics as criminals, landscapers/gardeners, houskeepers/maids, and school dropouts, with fewer participants believing that members of this group serve as doctors, lawyers, and teachers (Barreto, 2012). The study also explored the use of specific stimuli to perpetuate stereotypes of Hispanics, with many participants believing that members of this group are more likely to join gangs and participate in criminal activities (Barreto, 2012). In this context, it is widely observed throughout society that Hispanics are perceived in a negative light that is difficult to overcome or to ignore (Barreto, 2012). Therefore, it is important and necessary to identify how these perceptions play a role in negative stereotyping and in facilitating a larger divide between non-Hispanic individuals and members of the Hispanic population, particularly in television shows and in news outlets (Barreto, 2012).

A study conducted by Rivadeneyra et.al (2007) considers the importance of negative stereotypes against Latinos and their impact on personal self-esteem, particularly in adolescent groups. It is known that on television shows, “Latinos are more likely than members of other groups to be portrayed as having an accent, as less articulate, and as less professionally and appropriately dressed” (Rivadeneyra et.al, 2007, p. 263). These expectations are often unrealistic yet the norm, thereby creating discord between the actual potential of these adolescents and how they are perceived in television and news and by the general public (Rivadeneyra et.al, 2007). These issues create numerous challenges for Latinos because they demonstrate the uphill battles that these individuals face in their daily lives (Rivadeneyra et.al, 2007). From a theoretical perspective, it is necessary to identify the factors that contribute to these stereotypes and the continued disparities that exist in news portrayals and on television (Rivadeneyra et.al, 2007).

From a moral perspective, there is a significant argument to be made to create and sustain stereotypes in the media that demonstrate a total disregard for the group for which they are established (Blum, 2004). In a general context, “the existence of the stereotype in the culture shapes the stereotyper’s perception of the group in question, so that the alleged characteristic (aggressiveness, dishonesty, emotionality) is ‘seen’ in the group and its members, whether it is actually present or not.  ‘For the most part we do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see” (Blum, 2004, p. 255). Under these circumstances, stereotypes are driven by society and represent specific perceptions that perhaps a smaller group of individuals have; however, they are then exacerbated and driven to the point of societal assumptions that most likely do not have any real merit or truth to them (Blum, 2004). This creates a significant divide within a group that is difficult to overcome and that further advances the negative beliefs regarding a given group, such as Hispanics (Blum, 2004). These behaviors demonstrate a highly negative pattern that continues throughout society and is supported by negative media perceptions that are difficult to overcome (Blum, 2004). These findings suggest that the use of stereotypes within a specific culture may reach a significant level rather quickly, thereby creating an environment that does not effectively embrace the positive attributes of this culture and its people (Blum, 2004).

Some stereotypes of Hispanics and Latinos might be considered favorable by the masses; however, they may also be construed as highly negative within this community and beyond. For example, some Latinas are observed in an iconic light, particularly females such as Jennifer Lopez or Selena (Guzman and Valdivia, 2004). However, these perceptions may also be negative on the basis of their relation to sexuality and limited power in comparison to their male counterparts (Guzman and Valdivia, 2004). These observations are often exacerbated in the media because they often sexualize Latinas in reference to their body shape and overall physical appearance (Guzman and Valdivia, 2004). These stereotypes are negative because they demonstrate the lack of respect and enthusiasm for females in the Hispanic culture who are positions of power on the basis of their brains rather than their bodies (Guzman and Valdivia, 2004). It is important to recognize these challenges and how they contribute to even greater negative outcomes for Hispanics and Latinos who struggle throughout their lives in response to negative stereotypes and other perceptions that are difficult to ignore and to overcome (Guzman and Valdivia, 2004).

The media circus that is widely represented throughout modern society is challenging and often brutal in its ability to stereotype cultures and individuals in many harmful and negative ways. These efforts create an environment that is difficult to overcome because Hispanics and Latinos develop low self-esteem and a limited ability to overcome their circumstances when the media consistently portrays them in a negative light. Therefore, it is important to identify these challenges and to take the steps that are necessary to be effective in overcome these stereotypes and the issues that many Hispanics and Latinos face in a society that does not fully understand their customs, beliefs, and general needs. The media further exaggerates these differences and often portrays only the negative aspects of the culture, rather than the positive characteristics. Therefore, many Hispanics and Latinos are observed as criminals and welfare recipients with limited proficiencies rather than hardworking, successful individuals. These perceptions continue to play a significant role in creating a challenging environment for Hispanics and Latinos and in shaping their lives.

The media’s continued and incessant need to portray negative perceptions and realities creates a harsh reality for many Hispanics that is very difficult to overcome in their daily lives. It is important to identify these challenges and to recognize how to improve circumstances so that the culture as a whole is perceived in a more positive light over time. These efforts will demonstrate the importance of creating an environment within the media that is reflective of favorability towards this community and their strengths. It is believed that this type of approach will provide a more positive opportunity to explore the culture and its unique contributions to society in all media circles, including television and news. These efforts will demonstrate that the media does not perceive Hispanics and Latinos solely in a negative light and that there are other means of creating value, attention, and awareness towards this community and its unique group of people. If these objectives are sought and achieved, then it is possible for individuals within the Hispanic culture to take the steps that are necessary to improve their own circumstances and to secure a better reputation in the news and on television.

Conclusion

The perceptions and stereotypes that have evolved in recent years regarding Hispanics and Latinos have been exacerbated by the media in many different ways. These negative perceptions have played a significant role in shaping the lives of many Hispanic and Latino males and females in the United States. Coupled with the increased concerns regarding immigration status and regulations, it is not surprising that many members of this culture possess low self-esteem and self-confidence that is difficult to overcome. Society and the media as a whole does not do this group any favors and demonstrates that stereotypes go a long way in singling out individuals from different population groups and in creating poor perceptions of their talents, strengths, and abilities. It is important to recognize these stereotypes as weaknesses and to address the opportunities that might be available to overcome these weaknesses to achieve positive outcomes for these groups, including the ability to improve media perceptions of Hispanics and Latinos by using a strategy that places these individuals in a more favorable light.

Upon the exploration of specific research articles, it was determined that the media, and in particular, television shows and news programs, are critical facilitators and instigators of negative portrayals of Hispanics and Latinos in different ways. Therefore, they must recognize these flaws and refrain from promoting negative stereotypes and instead focus on the positive characteristics and portrayals that this group has to offer to the masses. Stereotypes are a difficult and challenging part of human personalities and daily living, particularly for members of the Hispanic culture. However, control over these stereotypes in daily living may provide a more positive approach to observing cultural diversity and strength throughout society and within specific social groups to improve outcomes for all people.

The efforts made to minimize or eliminate stereotypes against Hispanics in popular culture requires an effort to portray these individuals in a realistic yet sensitive manner that captures their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Many stereotypes exist throughout this culture; however, these must be explored in greater depth so that those that do not warrant further consideration are eliminated from popular discussion. It is believed that these efforts will provide greater evidence in the support of Hispanics and the preservation of their culture in a manner that is consistent with the needs of the people and their opportunities for growth.

References

Barreto, M.A. (2012). Anti-Latino stereotypes and the media: results of two national studies. Retrieved from http://www.latinodecisions.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/NHMC_webinar_slides.pdf

Blum, L. (2004). Stereotypes and stereotyping: a moral analysis. Philosophical Papers, 33(3), 251-289.

Dixon, T.L. A social cognitive approach to studying racial stereotyping in the mass media. The University of Michigan, retrieved from http://rcgd.isr.umich.edu/prba/perspectives/winter2000/tdixon1.pdf

Ferguson, C.J. Portrayals of immigrants in mass media: honest depiction of cultural differences or unfair stereotype. Retrieved from http://www.tamiu.edu/~cferguson/Immigrants.pdf

Guzman, I.M., and Valdivia, A.N. (2004). Brain, brow, and booty: Latina iconicity in U.S. popular culture. The Communication Review, 7, 205-221.

National Hispanic Media Coalition (2012). The impact of media stereotypes on opinions and attitudes towards Latinos. Retrieved from http://www.chicano.ucla.edu/files/news/NHMCLatinoDecisionsReport.pdf

Rivadeneyra, R., Ward, L.M., and Gordon, M. (2007). Distorted reflections: media exposure and Latino adolescents’ conceptions of self. Media Psychology, 9, 261-290.