Ethnic Notions and Sankofa Essay

Submitted By kchatill
Words: 2141
Pages: 9

Have you ever thought about challenging yourself by stepping out of this fancy fantasy of imagination that we are post-racial, just for one minute; and thinking that we, as a predominately white race in America, are a little too comfortable in our every day shoes? That we need to consider life from other people’s perspectives that are not exactly “the same” as us? Many years ago, decades ago, humans started to label each other by their color of skin: whites, brown-skinned, black, and even down to the shade of blackness and somehow, we decided that your color skin defined, and even still, defines who you are as a person; your identity. We continue, whether it is consciously, or unconsciously, to categorize and judge people by their skin color, to establish their political, social, and economic well-being. By placing these labels on others, we create invisible boundaries, that when once placed, are hard to get rid of. These two films, that were presented in class, “Ethnic Notions” and “Sankofa” as well as the book, “Equiano’s Interesting Narrative” shows and clearly depicts how identity back then, and even recently, has been approached and dealt with. For those who have been exposed to these films, along with the book, will hopefully give them a new perspective about race and identity. Whether or not a new perspective is made, these films validate the Eurocentric, Afrocentric, and post-colonial approaches to identity.
The documentary “Ethnic Notions,” is just one film of many that goes deep into the souls of those watching and makes one feel the heart-wrenching pain that blacks once suffered. This film portrays the honest truth of real history. Marlon Riggs shows the true darkness of pain and suffering caused by stereotypes that were deep-rooted in racist toys, cartoons, films, and plays. Because of these stereotypes, there was a strong anti-black prejudice in which these men, women, children and babies suffered and there voice was nothing but a whistle in the wind. By taking a look at the different images, it is easier to recognize the progression of racial awareness in our country. We see these images throughout the film as they appear in cartoons, well-known songs, advertisements, children’s rhymes and more. “Mammy” was shown as being a very dark-skinned, fat, unattractive woman, with big lips. She was loyal and a protector of the white house and the family, and was happy to do her job. The imagery behind this is ironic in the sense that, though the “Mammy” was depicted as the complete opposite of the white woman, the man of the house was found to have enduring sexual encounters with her. Another false justification to whites that slavery must not be that bad was seen through the character of the “Sambo.” He was the first racist caricature in this film that was shown as the black slave always dancing and singing. He was happy to do as his master told him and was dependent on him in every way. If you were to never have met a black before, the depiction of the “Sambo” was rather destructive because it was a misrepresentation of blacks and it would only further justify why slavery was okay to white people. Another caricature that provided security for whites to continue performing slavery was exemplified through the “Coon.” The “Coon” would try to act white through the way he spoke and his mannerisms, however he was seen as a joke and someone to laugh at due to his inability to act like a white person. If anything, he embarrassed himself and the black society more because it showed their failures to adapt to freedom and make choices on their own. One last image to look at is seen through the slave children whom were referred to as “Pickinininny.” They were very dark, dirty, noisy, bad mannered, and almost wild-like as if they were animals. These stereotypes were seen everywhere, not just through these different caricatures, but also through the “blackface,” which is when white actors would blacken their faces with