chapter  3
32 Pages

Black Audiences, Past and Present: Commonsense Media Critics and Activists

When mainstream media producers are faced with criticism about content,1 the pat answer is: "If people didn't like it, they wouldn't use it." High ratings and sales are equated with happy media consumers. However, consumption does not ensure enjoyment or necessarily signal acceptance or agreement with the form and content presented by mainstream media channels. Consumption without acceptance may be particularly common for groups such as African Americans, who are underrepresented in mainstream media production, editing, and gatekeeping but whose images are generated and presented by non-Black producers for profit. While African Americans still use mainstream media for information or pleasure, they often supplement mainstream fare with alternative, Black-owned media products. Furthermore, many Black audience members engage in critiques of mainstream media content, and make comparisons to alternative media treatments of the same subject or event. If these media consumers were disaggregated from the ratings numbers and listened to, what would we hear about media content?