Scramble to Africa

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Pre-Conceived African and Irish Stereotypes

Neha Ghani
AMH2097 Section One
Fall 2012
October 11th, 2012

Pre-Conceived African and Irish Stereotypes
Immigrants migrating to America have for hundreds of years had the disadvantage of being different from the “majority”. Categorized as “the other”, immigrants have been judged and assumed to be and act in certain ways based on common expectations that had been established long before they had even arrived. Referred to as pre-conceived stereotypes, they have been the reason why countless immigrant groups have been discriminated against and oppressed. Two such groups that have had to deal with these stereotypes and the intense and unjust scrutiny that came with being who they were are the Africans and the Irish. Just for possessing the physical attributes, characteristics, and attitudes wildly different from those of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, these immigrant groups were seen as nothing but inferior all throughout history.

Starting with the Africans, it is undeniable that they have been a people that have long suffered the wrath of the Europeans. In need of justification for why it was acceptable to imprison West Africans, Europeans formulated these pre-conceived stereotypes, the first of which was Blackness. Europeans, white in color, believed themselves to be pure, good and god like. Therefore, it was only obvious that the Africans, black in color, were the complete opposite. Africans were seen as the epitome of evil; they were dirty, dark and represented the grim reaper and the devil. Europeans had believed that naturally God preferred them for they had been made to be white individuals while the Africans demonstrated what God disliked. A second stereotype was that the Africans were all savages. All were assumed to be uncivilized, primitive, and unable to learn anything. They were also assumed to be wild and barbaric based on their appearances and their tendencies. As seen in Roots, the Africans are presented as individuals that walk around without shoes with dust covered limbs and faces. While European men and women dressed modestly in proper coats and dresses, African men and women covered themselves with nothing more than small pieces of cloth. Roots also showed Africans in their everyday lives, how they hunted for food, went about their errands, and trained their sons to become men that all seemed to provide an explanation for why Europeans believed them to be savages.

The third stereotype focused on sexuality. Though a myth, Europeans believed that Africans remained naked all of the time to accommodate the extreme nymphomaniacs that African women seemed to be. In reality though, Africans did dress in their traditional robes and in many layers, but since they wore less clothing than the Europeans, they were seen as being naked. Rationale for why African men had large penises was also that they needed to be prepared for their sex crazed women at all times because again, all African women were nymphomaniacs. Consequently, these seemingly crude and obscene Africans were viewed more as animals than actual human beings, and animals did nothing more than eat, sleep, and have sex. These stereotypes of savagery and sexuality are presented in a scene from D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915). A silent drama, the scene begins with the following words shown on screen: “Later, the grim reaping begins.” It follows a black man named Gus and a young white girl named Pet Sis. Gus watches Pet Sis from afar at the start of the scene and later when she goes to the spring alone against all warnings, he follows after her. Realizing what is happening, she becomes fearful and tries to run away with vain attempts. They eventually find themselves at the top of a large hill and though Gus insists that he will bring her no harm, the young girl jumps taking her own life. Dying was better than to be raped by a black man. Therefore, the black man is seen as a heartless,...
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