Stereotypes: The creation of Subconcious Racism

              Page Authored by Paige Hecker 

 Stereotypes, we all have them and for good reason, they help us categorize the world. This was when we see something familiar we already have an idea of what it is, and how it will act. We learn stereotypes through socialization and the process of life; they are built and changed all the time depending on life experiences. Sometimes our stereotypes consist of untrue harmful ideologies, which contribute to unfair judgment of individuals. The problem however is many times these stereotypes take the form of subconscious racism. Racism has engrained itself into American society. This type of racism is referred to as subconscious racism.  It is defined as institutionalized patterns of discrimination that cuts across politics, economies and social organizations in a society.”  There are many examples of racist’s institutions in the United States both historically and throughout politics today. The most obvious policy being slavery and the years leading to the Civil Rights Movement, however in studying these policies and institutions we need to understand how  they implemented false ideologies within the American common sense. These ideologies help to perpetuate the hierarchy.

            One way our ideas of African Americans were shaped was through Minstrel Shows. These shows started with black face, which was the painting of a white man’s face with coal. These shows consisted of three parts that depicted in the inferiority of African Americas, three different ways. First the shows started with a “walkaround” which simply consisted of individuals stomping around and dancing. The second part was called the olio and it consisted of what was called stump speech. This stereotyped African Americans as being unable to speak in proper English. Not only was the pronunciation wrong but they also were depicted as being unable to use the language, they very typically were shown being unable to properly use vocabulary. The shows were ended with a deliberate misconstruction of what life was like for these individuals. The depicted slaves as appreciating and liking their treatment or they ignored the mistreatment. Each part was made with the intent of putting an image in your mind an image that would work in their favor. They created a justification for inequality.

 This advertisemtent is geared toward young children, this shows how early these biases are engrained into our commonsense!

Even though these shows were created with the intent to stupefy African Americans it is important to show how these individuals took this opportunity to fight back. These shows became entertainment for both the African Americans and the whites. While entertaining the whites African Americans both strengthened black identity but they were also allowed to subtly change stereotypes through their acting. Resistance took a passive form in this example however it allowed for changes. The main triumph was the cohesion it created through the African American Culture. Remember the stage of the show called the “walkaround”, well to the white individuals this was intended to be funny in a degrading way, however the walk that the “walkaround” is supposed to be making fun of was created in fact to make fun of the white plantation owners. When they were preforming African Americans were seen to be acting as them, instead of acting as a character. They realized this meant that their actions were being misconstrued into truths. This realization brought a split in black theatre, you now had the white interpretation of African Americans, and a new interpretation called the “New Negro”. This was the African Americas alternative image. Out of this new image came a new movement known as the “New Negro Movement”. This movement defined a “new negro” as a “black modernist aesthetic borne out of the frustration and dissatisfaction with an increasingly racists American Modernity”

            It is important to understand that although African Americans have been the victims of discrimination for hundreds of years and may endure the worst of the subconscious racism, one needs to understand the United States is guilty of using race as a justification for inequality against other groups of color. For example, after September 11, polls reported that nearly 60 percent of American public favored racial profiling, at least as long as it was directed at Arabs and Muslims.” (Cole pg. 48) After the events of September 11 the United States government was responsible for the unjust treatment and detainment of thousands of Muslim and Arab males. In order to justify their actions they claimed that individuals were being questioned based on their passport and its country of origin. As a smart educated American we realize that this is a cover up of racism that is so blatantly racist, how many other countries in the world have such diversity as the United States, not many and there for their passport will reflect a race. How about the treatment of the Japanese during WWII, did we really think all of the individuals we relocated to camps were really involved? No but that’s part of the point, to create an otherness between races, a sort of us and them and the coincidence is the “them” is never the whites.

            Each time the government decides to group an entire people into a group they allow for the creation of new stereotypes and new biases. These cultures are reduced to jokes, costumes, movie ideas and lies that then become part of our culture, engraining them into our everyday thinking, which we then pass to individuals in our lives. Students at Ohio University decided that this year they were going to bring Halloween and the racist elements to the attention of the public, through their campaign called “We’re a Culture not a Costume. The idea of the group is to “raise debate over whether it’s ever OK for people to paint their faces black, impersonate a racial stereotype for fun, and where to draw the line” The campaign shows individuals showing a picture of an individual dressed as a stereotypical member of their society. To see these pictures click HERE.

 The author of this article hits the nail on the head when she alludes to the fact that most of the individuals aren’t dressing in order to be mean, most are unaware of its effect on not only the individual, but the culture being represented, but also to the frame work of this country. The go on to point out that awareness is the key to starting a movement against unconscious racism, simply because these ideologies need to be made conscious to the individual. Project Implicit was created by Harvard Sociologist to just this. The website provides many tests that show typical American have biases; such as people of color, old people, fat people, sexuality and religion. They have race specific test for Asians, African Americans, and Muslim and Arabic Individuals. These test use associate between races and either things related to good or things related to bad. An individual’s score is based upon the quickness and accuracy of association. The second test created by University of Chicago is specific to African Americans and it measures perceived violence. The name of this test is “The shooter Effect”. It asks you to pretend to be a police officer and shoot an individual based on what they are holding as quickly as possible. Each individual is holding a cup, a wallet, or a gun. Again this test is graded based upon quickness and accuracy of the task. Therefore if it takes you a long time to complete and it’s totally correct and individual may still score high on the bias scale.  The majority of individuals are quicker to “pull the trigger” toward and African American even if he isn’t holding a weapon then they are to for a white individual who is holding a weapon.

            Subconscious racism can only be fought when it is made blatant to the average American. In order to achieve this goal we must create an awareness of our own biases. Having biases doesn’t make an individual a racist; it makes you a product of your environment. I randomly took the Skin Tone IAT and my score rated that I was moderately preference to light skinned individuals; however I am an African American female. So I challenge you to take these tests and see your score, it will surprise you, it surprised me. Bringing this to light will help us to create true equality.

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