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African American Images and Stereotype


Subject Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial History » Postcolonial History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444334982.2016.x


The history of American racism is littered with violence. From slavery and Jim Crow, from lynchings to mass incarceration, the history of race within the United States is one defined by state violence, inequality, and white supremacy. Throughout this history, institutions and individuals have used and deployed cultural images to justify such violence. The history of the United States is defined by the utilization of representations, cultural images, and other racial signifiers to naturalize and normalize inequality, violence, and segregation. Cultural representations during slavery naturalized a system of white supremacy; efforts to construct black women as hypersexual jezebels explained away the ubiquitous practice of white men raping black women; images and narratives of violence and uncivilized black men incapable of self-governance justified not only slavery but the presumed incongruity between a society built on the ideas of “freedom” and enslavement. Minstrel shows, which depicted African Americans as aggressive and violent brutes and shiftless, lazy “coons,” naturalized inequality while justifying segregation. These images and cultural representations were equally visible throughout the world, as colonial powers sought to justify war, control, and the pillaging of resources. According to Leslie Picca and Joe Feagin, stereotypes act as “filters, straining out information inconsistent ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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