Racial Stereotypes in American Popular Culture and Media
A "stereotype" can be defined simply as; a process for making metal printing plates, or a plate made by this process (the process of a stereotype). Another definition for the word, more commonly used, means a simplified or standardized conception and/or image of a particular group. The old definition of "stereotype" relates to the sociological definition of the word, in that it is a taking from a “mold cast in type metal“(symbolically). I would compare this mold to the way that some people think, i.e. stereotypically. Many people have ideas “molded” into their minds about certain groups of people, and this is a "mold" of sorts that is ingrained within the human mind, in “type metal” so to say. There are many, many stereotypes perpetuated by different media outlets that highly influence the way that the every day person thinks or feels about particular groups of people. In this paper, I will target specifically racial stereotypes, as well as how those inside and outside of the stereotyped group are affected by the stereotypes. This paper is also an explanation of how different forms of media influence the masses and perpetuate stereotypes about certain groups of people that either positively or negatively affect these different groups. My main target will be stereotypes of African-Americans, but I will target other minorities in the United States as well. I will expound on historical, as well as modern stereotypes about African-Americans particularly as well as other racial/ethnic groups. African-American Racial Stereotypes in the Media (historical) One specific brand of stereotyping often promoted by the ‘media’ that I would like to target in this paper is the ‘racial stereotype’. Many different racial groups are often stereotyped and many actors are also “type-casted” in movie roles based on their race. Since the inception of television and movies in American popular culture, they have been used as a medium to portray certain images and messages about certain groups of people, particularly minorities, to spread fear and propaganda to the masses. One shining example of this is how television and magazines were used to depict black people in America during the early 1900’s. There were many different stereotypical caricatures of African-Americans. A few examples of these would be the sambo, mammy, pick ninny, jezebel, and “black face” caricatures within popular film and television. I would like to expound on each of these caricatures in the following paragraphs. Sambo
The “sambo” caricature is believed to have originated from a children’s book entitled, “Little Black Sambo”, by Helen Bannerman, published in 1899. The original illustrations depicted a pitch black-faced Tamil boy with large eyes and wide pink lips. This illustration was then brought alive in film and movies through the “coon” and or “sambo” caricature, which is a character of a black man who is giddy, docile, and eager to please his white master. In his book, "Is Bill Cosby Right?: Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?", Michael Eric Dyson states, "...the Hausa name Sambo, usually given to the second son of the tribe's family, was twisted in South Carolina to signify a lazy, stupid black male, a negative meaning that survives to this day." This is very true, because this is a term that originated with Indian tribes, not to mean anything negative. And now, it has been used against black Americans to be insulting and/or degrading. Black Face
Blackface is theatrical makeup that was used in minstrel shows during the mid-1800’s. The “black face” character was often a white male with his face painted in black, and his lips painted white, as an exaggeration of what were thought to be “black/African” features. Whites who performed in blackface in film included Bing Crosby, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, and many, many others. Even Bugs Bunny appeared in blackface as...
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