Study Finds That Race-Related Comedy Is Perceived Differently in Multiracial Audiences

banjoA study led by Omotayo Banjo, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Cincinnati, examines the behavior of Blacks and Whites while watching television comedy shows that include references to Black stereotypes. She found that Blacks were comfortable watching the shows among other Blacks but not when Whites were present. For Whites, there was no difference in their reactions when watching the programs when African American were present or with an all-White audience.

The study’s participants were shown an episode of The Boondocks that showed an alternate reality with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awakening from a coma in present-day America and his reactions to Black culture and race relations.

The study found that Black viewers had a more rewarding experience viewing the show than their White counterparts, and that Black viewers reported greater similarity and identification with characters in Black-oriented media when they were viewing with Black audience members than when viewing with White audience members.

“African Americans, because of their position in society, are much more sensitive to difference, and so we weren’t surprised that we saw these outcomes,” Dr. Banjo said.

Dr. Banjo holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a Ph.D. in communication from Pennsylvania State University.

The study, “Co-Viewing Effects of Ethnic-Oriented Programming: An Examination of In-Group Bias and Racial Comedy Exposure,” was published on the website of Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. It may be accessed here.

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