Stereotypes are vastly widespread and extremely powerful.
Recently, within the media, there has been a surge of bizarre headlines surfacing the web accusing famous white celebrities such as Ariana Grande of ‘blackface‘ and ‘blaccent‘. She was accused of appropriating Black Culture in her interviews and music videos by presenting as more tanned than usual and putting on a stereotypical black accent – ‘blaccent’.
The term ‘Blackface’ is a historical practice dating 200 years whereby white performers would purposely darken their faces with cork and polish to mock enslaved Africans in minstrel shows. Black people would be depicted as lazy, cowardly or hypersexual.
Based on this horrendous practice, one can understand why some black people would feel a sense of injustice in observing a white person already in a position of vast influence meshed with their ascribed privilege, utilise stereotypes from a marginalised group to pick and choose what shade of colour they want to be for trend-setting and monetisation purposes.
I prefer to view society from a progressive standpoint. So playing devil’s advocate, I don’t believe Ariana Grande maliciously presented as overly-tanned in an attempt to mock black people, neither do I believe that she was speaking with a ‘blaccent‘ to depict black people as cowards or whatever other negative traits.
Throughout history, there has been very real injustices of “Us vs. Them” which is still engraved in a lot of our subconscious mentalities. I believe that our current priority should be to unite and promote a message of black excellence which would reduce unneccessary sensitivities, comparisons and the dependency on validation from other communities. Prejudice and racism are by no means a thing of the past, but they have however taken a different form of oppression and have simply transformed as opposed to getting better.
Slavery has had devastating effects on the overall psyche of black people, particularly African Americans who are direct descendants – Although these effects can also be felt by other black people in the diaspora and the black people living in the deprived economies of post-colonised Africa.
Negative and damaging stereotypes targeted towards the black community are even more apparent these days, with social media perpetuating heavily alongside television, the music industry, film and advertising. Adults and young people are under pressure to live up to an array of damaging images in order to be deemed ‘cool’ or live up to an unfortunate negatively projected standard.
During my secondary school days, I was ironically picked on by other black students for supposedly acting and speaking ‘white’. As a young girl this would often trouble me, and I would naively go out of my way to use slangs which would hopefully be deemed ‘black’ enough for those students to accept me as one of them.
Unfortunately, in terms of ‘black stereotypes’, black people often are the ones glorifying their own degradation in the process. Burrell, in his book ‘Challenging The Myth of Black Inferiority’ asserts that racism isn’t the primary issue; but how we respond to media distortions and programmed self-hatred. He claims that the Black Inferiority campaign perpetuated by the media is the “greatest propaganda campaign of all time”.
His book goes into great detail about how black people have been subjected to mental enslavement via brainwashing and how the concept of ‘black inferiority’ through years of propaganda, media stereotypes and portrayals as well as social forces has kept us from becoming better people.
When one really thinks about it, it is such a sinister plan, that today, a lot of us have accepted it as reality and are actively perpetuating it – It takes just one look at American reality TV shows such as ‘Love and Hip Hop’ and media outlets like ‘TheShadeRoom‘, to see this in action.
From Burrell’s perspective, many of the problems plaguing black urban communities (i.e gun violence, corruption, overly sexual musical lyrics, dysfunctional families, undisciplined spending habits, high incarceration rates etc) have their roots in the legacy that was slavery.
Acknowledging that these problems are not solely confined to the black community; they are particularly destructive to its perception and advancement. Whilst many challenges facing many black communities are in large part due to systemic and insititutional racism, it can only be overcome once the black communities unify around a common vision for change. One way to do this as suggested by Burrell is to:
‘Question, Analyse, Rethink and Reprogram’
Pan-Africanism is a movement that aims to connect and understand the injustices of black people within the diaspora. It acknowledges the previously mentioned challenges of black stereotypes and the media portrayals of black people. However another challenge which they have encountered is the lack of understanding of race relations and that of black people who do not identify as persons of African descent. Nevertheless, the aim of this movement is that of continued mobilisation for global, black solidarity and consolidation.
What are your thoughts on this topic:
Do you believe black stereotypes are real?
Have you been challenged for not behaving according to your racial stereotype?
What are your thoughts on white people and the new phenomenom of blackface?
Do you think it is in the hands of black people to challenge the black inferiority complex?
As a white person.. are you brave enough to voice your thoughts?
If you are interested in reading more or know anyone who could benefit from this topic, Burrell’s ‘Brainwashed – Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority‘ is an easy-read which discusses more in depth about the deep rooted causes of this phenomenon.
You can purchase the book using my affiliate link:https://amzn.to/2V4H97J
Thank you for reading!