“Ethnic Notions” hosts a store of stereotypes predicated to African Americans and has shed light on the topic of racial discrimination. Many African-Americans were portrayed as happy, singing, and dancing buffoons with little to no responsibilities.
The documentary lists three separate stereotypes of African-Americans that are very untrue and incredibly offensive. Considering the fact that this content was made before the Civil Rights era, it’s fair to say that these stereotypes became the norm in American society.
The first stereotype that I mentioned earlier was the lazy buffoon slave who was assumed to have eaten and slept all day, and when he wasn’t doing that he was partaking in dancing in and around his quarters to some music. To push the narrative that African-Americans were less than human or at least beneath their white counterparts, was to make people believe that blacks were lazy and did not contribute to society in any way, shape, or form. What is so ironic about this stereotype is that that could never be true because African-Americans were slaves and had to work hard under the jurisdiction of their white masters. So the truth already negates the history of slavery.
The next stereotype is almost the antithesis of the last one, which is the happy, working slave. This sterotype hearkens back to its slavery roots where slaves were thought to be happy working under white people and their subservient role made them jovial. This was also not true. African Americans were not happy doing menial tasks for whites and this stereotype just reinforces the notion that slaves were happy to be put in their submissive place under whites and they showed no threat to others.
The last stereotype is when African-Americans are deemed and are seen as dangerous savages when being compared to whites. You can see many cartoons and older movies that promote the narrative that African-Americans have a vicious and deranged streak in them. They can be seen as African warlords and tribesmen that show no mercy to other people. In the movie “Birth of a Nation”, African-Americans rose up from their former slave quarters and, as a result, attacked the white people savagely.
Meanwhile the Ku Klux Klan was seen as the savior for white people in this specific narrative, as they rode to the white people’s rescue. It was described by our then President, “It’s history being written with lightning”. This stereotype, again, puts African-Americans in, yet, another bad light. It harbors and fosters the resentment that black people are inherently evil and merciless.
All of these stereotypes are at the narrative of subjugating African-Americans and only hurt them, while trying to bury their past accomplishments. It’s during this Reconstruction period and even afterwards that Black Codes were set up to raise and put up restrictions on black people and then afterwards the Jim Crow laws.
These stereotypes are what separate us not only as a race but as human beings. The only conceivable way to rise above these ignorant and hateful stereotypes is to believe that we can achieve greatness and be just as good as anyone else working long and hard to put food on their plates.