The film “Ethnic Notions” directed and produced by Marlon Riggs identifies racial inferiority among the African American culture, as ethnic stereotypes, such as cartoons, performances and caricatures were depicted during the post-slavery era. Many stereotypical roles were portrayed, as the narrator took its viewers back to the ancestry of African Americans; for instance, mammies, sambos, uncles, aunts, boy and girl. These roles were presented to depict African Americans as demoralizing characters; mammies were always shown as faithful workers and sambos, which comes from the racial term of a person mixed with African and American Indian decent, were shown as carefree, lazy individuals. Throughout the film, Riggs portrays copious accounts of stereotypical artistry, while touching upon the ideology that these ethnic stereotypes subliminally contaminate America’s culture with racism.
After watching this expressive film, my thoughts wonder off to inquisitiveness, which derive from the question of “why are stereotypes of the post-slavery era still discussed?” and comments similar to the nature of sympathy and compassion. I was aware of many of stereotypes that were shown in the film, but I found myself still in astonishment, as to how far some of the ethnic notions would go. With the portrayal of characters especially, I could not understand how offensive and lackadaisical people could be.
The film began with a cartoon that introduced the function of African American characters, which were of comparable roles, such as the mammy, pickaninny, coon and sambo. Mammies were black women who were domestic servants to white children, generally good-natured and always happy and willing to be of any help to her working family. Pickaninny, coon and sambo are derogatory terms for African Americans. With this image of stereotypical characters being displayed as a cartoon, it delivers unconstructive messages to children that these are the only roles...
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