"Racial stereotypes are a part of a belief system deeply embedded in American culture that is premised on the superiority of whites and the inferiority of Blacks. A pattern of oppositional categories associates whites with positive characteristics (industrious, intelligent, responsible), while associating Blacks with the opposite aberrational qualities (lazy, ignorant, shiftless). Negative images of African Americans are displayed in the media and reinforced by institutions in which Blacks hold a position of disadvantage.
So, for example, the stereotype that Black people are predisposed to law breaking and violence is broadcast in the media’s preoccupation with stories involving Black criminals. The belief that most criminal activity is committed by Blacks is then reinforced by the mass incarceration of young Black men and women. Similarly, the stereotype that Black people are lazy and prefer being dependent on government handouts is perpetuated by the media’s portrayal of welfare recipients as almost exclusively Black and by barriers to equal participation in the economy. These negative stereotypes, in turn, legitimize punitive policies that imprison and impoverish more Blacks, entrenching further their inferior social status. The images of Blacks as crime-prone and lazy affects more than those who are locked up in prison or welfare reliant. These images redound on the perceived character and opportunities of all Black people. They place Black individuals, regardless of their personal character, at greater risk of being stopped by the police and being turned down for a job.
The racial disparity in the child welfare system works the same way. A child welfare system that takes Black children from their parents at twice the rate of whites sends a negative message about Black families. It says that Black parents are unfit to raise their children and that Black children are better off in the state’s custody. It reinforces long-held stereotypes about Black mothers’ and fathers’ irresponsibility and corrupting influence on their children. It replicates the notion created in chattel slavery that there is no such thing as a Black family. In fact, placing so many Black children in the state’s custody implements the quintessential racial insult — that Black people are incapable of governing themselves and need white supervision."
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