Project Title: A Preliminary Study of Tanzanian Perceptions of African Americans
Student: Shelli Reeves
Mentor: Dr. Judylyn Ryan
Background: During my fall 2014 semester abroad in Tanzania, Africa, I encountered many disturbing perceptions of African Americans and was frequently asked about the Illuminati, my own “thug” language, and where I live on a regular basis. Knowing that these questions were ignorant and generated from imposed ideas I decided that these perceptions must be investigated. This is important because the media representation of African Americans imposes a specific framed perception that does not allow Tanzanians to create their own ideas about African Americans.
Methods: Tanzanian people discussed their views of African Americans on a voluntary basis. Information was gathered through surveys and group interviews. Each survey participant was asked what they thought about African Americans and where they got their information from.
Results: The media—film and television—provides most of the information about African Americans. Information from other sources is minimal, especially within Tanzania’s Eurocentric education system. When asked about their views, most Tanzanian people repeated misinformation provided by the media and believed these were accurate representations. For example, they believed that African Americans were regularly involved in killings, drugs, and get-rich-quick schemes.
Conclusions: Media images have influenced Tanzanians to have a negative view of African Americans because of portrayals of popular celebrities and “hood culture.” The media projects stereotypes generated from racism, which causes the Tanzanian viewer to have misperceptions and a “single story.” Tanzanians were not capable of recognizing the distortions in these media images, and took them as truth.