Acting Black: An Analysis of Blackness and Criminality in Film


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Acting Black: An Analysis of Blackness and Criminality in Film is a well researched Master’s Thesis topic, it is to be used as a guide or framework for your Academic Research.


This thesis will attempt to answer how films deal with blackness and crime, specifically
when intersecting with the concepts of exploitation, appropriation, whiteness and the criminality of the black body.

While not entirely the root of the negative perceptions of African-Americans in the United States, the manner in which African-Americans are portrayed in motion picture media influences how their presence is seen in society.

This thesis will examine specific films that include elements dealing with the listed factors and what effects they may or may not have.

  • Sociology master t

Issues of Race in America The relationship between the police and African-American communities in the United States has become one of the most engaging discussions of the political and social
landscape in the last twenty-five years (Berg, 2016).

While some social scientists and observers claim that the United States has entered a “post-racial era” of permanently moderated racial tension, and despite improvements in race relations since the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s-1960’s, contemporary altercations between the police and African-Americans casts doubt on the idea of a “post-racial era” (Bert et. al., 2016; Joseph, 1991; Bonilla-Silva, 2015).

Evidence indicating persistent and disparate contacts between the police and
African-Americans, along with high-profile episodes such as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray popularized through various forms of media, fuel race-related confrontations and claims of abuse of authority by the police (Carbado, 2017, USDOJ, 2011; USDOJ, 2016).

From the Baltimore police shooting of Freddie Gray, to the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson (MO) Police, to the shooting of a fleeing Walter Scott by North Charleston police, many African-Americans have lost trust in police officers, and believe that they have an active racist political agenda resulting in violence (Ibe et al., 2002; President’s report, 2015).

In the summer of 2016, Charles Kinsley, an African-American male behavioral therapist in North Miami, Florida, received a gunshot wound from a police officer despite having complied with commands to lay down, put his hands in the air, and identified himself as a therapist trying to help one of his patients (Silva, 2017). Charles Kinsley’s interaction with the police officer, along with other interactions with the police

in the “post-racial era”, demonstrates that race still plays a role in how African-
Americans are treated in their dealings with the police (Smiley & Fakunle, 2016).

These policies and practices are evidence of the lingering effects of police
enforcement of drug war policies which embodied inherent racial overtones (Meehan & Ponder, 2002).

While not as overt within the last ten years, racism still plays an active role in the system white America established and has strongly impacted the lives of African-Americans (Burke, 2017; Nighaoui, 2017 & Schueths, 2014).

While much of the mistreatment of African-Americans is based on the history of race relations in America, media representation also has played a role (Robinson, 2014; Dixon, 2007; Dowler, 2004; Russel-Brown, 2006) .

Taslitz (2006) attests that depictions of African-Americans and blackness in the
media contributes to the negative perceptions and mistreatment of African-American groups which are not strictly limited to the police but are reflective of the overall criminal justice system.

According to Taslitz (2006), this negative view is based on unscientific, biased media depictions of blackness and has led to “disproportionate and wrongful convictions” of African-Americans. For example, data gathered in 2001 by the Innocence Project revealed that 57% of exonerates were black.

Another finding of that study was that in 2005, 90% of juvenile criminal convictions were of African-American and Hispanic decent; 85% of the confessions by these two groups were false (Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, & Patil, 2005).


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