Examining stereotypes of race in the media

On Feb. 17, an NKU professor brought a unique perspective to a lecture and group discussion on “Exploiting Historic Black Stereotypes in Popular Culture” in the Student Union.


Dr. David Childs, a professor of social studies and education, grew up around gang violence and was homeless for a time.


“I started doing this work because I grew up in an inner city environment and they had Crips and Bloods in my neighborhood,” Childs said. “A lot of my friends have been murdered…Going through college gave me the voice to speak about these things.”


Childs primarily discussed how “black deviance” has been marketed  and the historical origins of stereotypes that still plague the African-American community.


“Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Everything has historical context, ” Childs said.


Childs showed images and cartoons from the late 19th and early 20th century that support a negative portrayal of African-Americans like Bugs Bunny in blackface and advertisements for minstrel shows. He went on to say that the archetypes they represent that can still be seen today.


He then discussed art and artists that he feels continue to enforce some of these stereotypes like Flava Flav, Trinidad James, Nicki Minaj and the popular “Bon Qui Qui” skit from MadTV.


Sarai Dean, an undeclared freshman, was impressed by the presentation.


“I think it was eye-opening…since we are in the most, I wouldn’t call it the most racist part of history, but we are in the most awake part of history,” Dean said. “So a lot of things are happening right now that do need to be discussed on a scholarly or intellectual level.”


Childs teaches about these and other similar topics in EDU 316, Racism and Sexism in Educational Institutions, a general education class available to all.


His lecture was part of a series of events presented by the African American Programs and Services department throughout February to celebrate Black History Month. Other events have included a step show, diversity networking reception and group discussion on black feminism.


The lecture was one of two EDTalks in the Black History Month program. The EDTalk series was developed by Yewineshet Geberegeorgis, a coordinator for the African American Programs and Services department. She was inspired by the lectures presented at TED conferences.

“We decided to change [the TED slogan] a little bit to say ‘education worth spreading’,” Geberegeorgis said. “People come in and learn about something that they may not have known before and just engage in dialogue that they may not participate in otherwise. I think these kind of programs where people just come in and learn about something is definitely very much needed, not just in Black History Month but all throughout the year.”