Black Face Essay, Research Paper
In Response to the movie I have a lot of matters to comment on. I was fortunate enough to be semi-educated on the topic of “Black Face” and racist advertising prior to the video. Therefore, the movie served as a thorough recap of the information that I discovered previously. One thing I cannot begin to understand about this time period is the number of African Americans who participated in these movies that degraded our people. I also have a problem with the continuation of the stereotypes of old as well as the upholding of the passive attitude towards these demeaning representations of our people. This film brought me to the realization that it is up to our generation to reverse all of this “nonsense” and instill in our seeds the true meaning and essence of what it is to be Black and Proud.
I was shocked to find out by way of earlier research, as well as by recent observation of the film, about the number of African Americans who participated in the “Black Face Era” along with whites. In his only known essay, “The Comic Side of Trouble,” Bert Williams wrote, “I have never been able to discover anything disgraceful in being a colored man. But I have often found it inconvenient–in America.” David Krasner’s book Resistance, Parody, and Double Consciousness in African-American Theatre, 1895-1910, explores how Blacks who wrote and performed in musicals at the turn of the century dealt with the inconvenience in their productions through subtle and not-so-subtle lines and routines. Seeing the movie really disturbed me in that by our participating in Nineteenth-Century Blackface Minstrelsy we did nothing but gave truth to the stereotypes that whites handed to us. How could we, the descendants of African Kings and Queens willingly participate in productions entitled Two Real Coons, Jes Lak White F’lks, The Cannibal King, and Bandanna Land? I have yet to understand. It seems to me that we were brought out of slavery and into bondage.
The presentation of slavery in a different form is what was destroying our people then and is part of the cavity of our generation now. We, especially young people, somewhere along the line were told to accept things the way they are. The very same products that once dishonored us, we deem to be OK. For example Aunt Jemame pancake syrup; although the face on the bottle has been changed to one of beauty, the principle is still there. I can remember as a child watching the Warner Brothers cartoons with bugs bunny where they show these savage people with bones in there noses, living like animals when it was the white man who descended from the cave. Never then did I stop to think that behind the laughter these savage people had skin and hair like my own. The image of the black mammy, big, black and fat, also comes to mind in my childhood from watching these same cartoons. These are the visions being given to our people even in our generation hundreds of years after slavery. All of the themes in the film such as Black is Ugly, Blacks are Savage and that Blacks are Happy Servants are being fed to our people even today. It is to the point now where we believe these stereotypes to be true and often impose them on each other.
In the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, “I do believe we shall overcome someday”, but not without struggle and effort. My generation holds the power in our hands to make history by changing the future. No longer d owe have to play the character of Sambo, Uncle Remus or the Pica nine; even though some of us do. This behavior is not ok. We will not accept a lower position in society. Nikki Giovanni once told me that, “Black Love is Black Wealth” and after seeing the film that statement takes on a new meaning to me. Not only until we love ourselves fully and unconditionally will we flourish as a race, as a people. The wealth is in our happiness, our freedom, our pride, and our independence. Lets take control of our lives in an attempt to show our children the true meaning of Black pride.