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Ethnic Notions Review

Updated on May 7, 2012

Thoughts on Film

During my African American Literature class we watched a filmed called Ethnic Notions. In the little time of watching that short film, we learned a lot about the behind and the history of slavery and the treatment of blacks post slavery .

Five stereotypes presented in the film were Mamie, Coon, Uncle, Pickaninny and Sambo. These were some of the most popular depictions of blacks in America. The uncle toms were loyal, the sambos were carefree, the mammies were faithful, the coons were always grinning and the pickaninnies were wide eyed and big lipped. Many cartoons were made and those images decorated their homes that served and amused and made them laugh. They were taken for granted; they worked their way into the mainstream of American life.

One historical fact from the video that I think is relevant for contemporary students of African American literature is the emancipation of the slaves and the seriousness of the racism that was going on during that time. The struggle of the black people was a serious thing back then and its still a struggle now. It took a while for blacks to adapt to freedom.

Two of the stereotypes discussed in the film that are still present in our society are that blacks are an offence to civilian and blacks are savage. To this very day blacks will always be stereotyped doesn’t matter where in the globe you came from and how you grow up. Many blacks just accepted the stereotypes to be funny or conform to them. If blacks were properly educated we wouldn’t have some of the stereotypes that we have. They say blacks are ugly, were savages, happy to be servants and many other things that are mean and hurtful. Its not right to treat humans/mankind like the way they did to blacks. To this very day, the white industries still use and abuse blacks in many different ways and they don’t realize how they are increasing the hate and actualizing the stereotypes that are placed in the society. In the video the narrator had stated, “Contained in these cultural images is the history of our national conscience striving to reconcile the paradox of racism in a nation founded on human equality - a conscience coping with this profound contradiction through caricature.” I believed that statement is very true.

The role of stereotypes in any culture can be taken as a joke or can be taken seriously. Depends on how you view them, you can take offense or ignore it. The video took us on a somewhat disturbing voyage through American history re and post civil war, showing us where the deep rooted stereotypes begin with was the fuel to anti-black prejudice which America is still suffering from and scarred. Watching the video and seeing the images and cartoon clips gave us a better understand of the racial conflict in America.


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      Chris Hugh 

      6 years ago

      Isn't it strange how some people point fingers and cry racist over small things like a poor choice of words? Racism is a serious thing, not an accusation to be made lightly as if it were a joke. Just an observation, probably has little to do with your excellent hub, other than that your hub was thought provoking.


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