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Ethnic Notions - The Movie.

Ethnic Notions presented a review on how African-American stereotypes were formed – a history, chronicle and evolution. I was surprised to learn of the history of most of the stereotypes that cloud the African American race. Most of these stereotypes exist even till date. I have always been aware of the role the media plays in perpetrating views that wind up being the “pop” view but seeing this movie reinforced in my mind how strong these views can end up being. I can imagine the little white girl living in the suburban white neighborhood and never seen a black person before; her only encounter with the black race being the TV, comics, plays and billboards.                            

Time and time again she is constantly “reminded” that the black folk are an inferior race with huge lips, bulky round eyes, and mostly dullards (as portrayed by Sambos and  wide-eyed Pickaninnies).
These views extend past novelties of the black race (the whites) and even infiltrate the minds of the younger black generation. Consider the young black boy – constantly “told” (via the media and society) that all he is in fact, a jester, a clown for his “masa” and that the White folk would always stay atop in every facet and he in turn should pay homage to his “dear ‘ol kind masa” of the “ol days”. The images portrayed in these popular songs, children's rhymes, household artifacts and advertisements  constantly send a message of inferiority and a lesser complex to the child, which in turn establishes an atmosphere for mediocrity and a lack of spirit to strive for better.

I could not hold back my utmost detest and disgust for characters like “Mammy Yams” and the black man who took up a Scottish name and featured as one of the grinning coons. To believe that black folk would also contribute to pushing and promoting these images of dehumanization and self-humiliation is utterly disturbing. One might argue that the black man then was pressured to take up such debasing roles because he had to fend for his family by making a living through such acts. But my question to that black man would be: how do you explain to your young son that daddy is only “pretending” that such is the “way of life” of the black folk? I almost threw up in my mouth when I saw the scene of the faithful mammy singing “joyously” of how the heavens have blessed her with the grace and opportunity to pick up masa’s clothes from the railings and serve him faithfully. As much as these were perpetrated stereotypes in the media,
I do believe there must have been such an element. This brings up the question; are black folk really “inferior” in nature? Is there an innate element of vagary and barbaric in us? I hope these questions can be answered as I progress through life.

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