Crime and Racial Constructions: Cultural Misinformation about African Americans in Media and Academia focuses on how film images of dangerous, hedonistic blacks have assumed greater significance since blacks protested racial injustice during the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It does so by reviewing a number of films that have been released from the 1970s until the present in which black males are depicted as violent and threatening. It likewise considers how these same films represent black females as prostitutes; drug addicts; and irresponsible, abusive mothers who spawn violence in their children. Because these on-screen images of a violent, apolitical, and immoral black underclass find their way into the criminological literature, the book also takes a look at how criminologists use these images to link crime to underclass culture.
Both Hollywood and criminologists alike manage to ignore how black activism during the 1960s social movements actually sparked black opposition to the kind of black-on-black crime that is routinely depicted on-screen. By taking a critical look at these negative images, Crime and Racial Constructions seeks to correct some of the distortions that arise from the undue academic and cinematic focus on black criminals at the expense of racially conscious blacks.
Jeanette Covington —
Jeanette Covington is associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University.
Covington, Jeanette. Crime and racial constructions: cultural misinformation about African Americans in media and academia. Lexington Books, 2010. 335p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780739125915. Reviewed in 2011feb CHOICE.
Sociologist Covington (Rutgers) examines how "black criminality" has been constructed in media, especially film, to serve the conservative political agenda in the post-civil rights era. Following an introduction focusing on crime and the early construction of racial imagery of newly freed slaves in the 1890s, Covington devotes eight chapters to how blacks and the ghetto culture they inhabit have been portrayed in cinema, academia, and political discourse. The first three chapters explore how "blaxploitation" films of the 1960s, and the later revival of their images of black ghetto poverty and violence in the ghetto action films of the 1990s, were shaped by racial unrest and ultimately served to support conservative governments in their efforts to justify the domination and subordination of the black community. Chapters 4-8 demonstrate how cinematic images and social scientific thinking support many of the "culture of poverty" arguments used by political conservatives, who suggest that violent black men and emasculating black women are solely responsible for ghetto poverty and criminality because they lack a political consciousness and condone violence as an acceptable way of achieving manhood. While being slightly repetitious, this well-researched and referenced work makes a serious contribution to the crime and media literature.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- G. B. Osborne, University of Alberta