CAFÉ Hosts Forum to Discuss the Role of Media on Racial Stereotypes

Students examined the media’s subtle influence on racial and gender stereotypes at “Media Mind Control”, a Community Awareness For Everyone (CAFÉ) forum last Friday. Topics brought up at the forum included societal implications of racial stereotypes, ways of preventing such stereotypes and the moral obligation of the media to realistically portray people of different races, cultures, classes and sexual orientation without promoting stereotypes. The first half of the forum focused on discussing stereotypes associated with different groups of people and the second half focused on whether the media shouldbe blamed for propagating these stereotypes. Nicole Villar ’12, a student coordinator of CAFÉ, said, “What I found most interesting about the discussion is the idea that the people who run the media have some sort of a social responsibility. Somebody in my discussion group asked whether or not diversity is marketable. The answer—at least now—is no.” According to student coordinators, the turnout for Friday’s meeting was impressive. More students showed up than expected, and students remained at the forum longer than it was initially scheduled, according to Villar. Linda Griffith, Dean of CAMD, said “It was nice to have some fresh new faces at the CAFE discussion because the mission of CAFE is to promote dialogue across cultures and classes. We are really trying to reach a broader audience with CAFE.” “In particular, we really wanted to bring men to the conversation in response to Lani Guinier’s talk on MLK day [which included] what some may have perceived as comments that may have alienated some males on campus,” she continued. Attendees first watched three short video clips, which illustrated the prevalence of racial stereotypes in movies and comedy programs. These clips included an excerpt from Spike Lee’s movie “Do the Right Thing,” a short video titled “Asians Just Aren’t Cool Enough” by Kevin Wu, a popular YouTube celebrity, and comedian Dave Chappelle’s skit “The Racial Draft.” Shelby Carpenter ’12 said, “In response to the clip ‘Asians Aren’t Cool Enough, in which Kevin Wu talks about the Hollywood casting of a white actor as the Asian superhero Goku in the film version of the anime series, ‘Dragon Ball,’ my group had an interesting discussion about growing up and who we tried to identify with in TV shows.” Seyoung Lee ’12, a student coordinator of CAFÉ, said, “We decided to choose racial stereotypes in the media as the topic for the forum because we felt like not much was being said about the identities of racial, socioeconomic, and religious groups, as well as issues of body image and sexual orientation on campus.” “We wanted to make the discussion as broad as possible and include as many students as possible,” she continued. Following the introductory videos, students were divided into small groups for question-answer sessions led by CAFÉ student coordinators. Ben Talarico ’11 said, “I think that it was interesting and enlightening to realize how little people know about the media. We had some very interesting discussions about how gays are portrayed in the media, which was good because I feel like it is an issue that we really don’t discuss enough.” Samantha Peloquin ‘12 said, “The forum was successful because students acknowledged and respected the views of one another, even if some opinions differed from their personal beliefs, and because topic really got students at the forum involved in the discussion. Emilia Figliomeni ’14 said, “I’d never been to one of these forums, so I found it intriguing to listen to other people’s opinions. I thought the topic wascompelling and it made me think more attentively about things on TV I probably wouldn’t have analyzed as closely before.” Students at the forum adhered to CAFÉ “ground rules” and CAFÉ’s unique “Oops, Ouch, Snap, and Educate” policy to create a tolerant environment. The CAFÉ “ground rules” include guidelines that help maintain confidentiality and respect the opinions of other students. Villar said, “The ‘Ouch’, ‘Oops’ policy is just a method used in groups to politely let someone know if they have said something that offended or hurt you by saying ‘ouch’, or to apologize if you think you have said something that may have offended someone else by saying ‘oops’.” CAFÉ was founded in 2006 to create venues for Andover students and faculty to gather several times a term and engage in cross-cultural dialogue. Topics addressed in previous CAFÉ meetings include the issue of drugs and alcohol, class differences and immigration.