5 Whites in Blackface
Click read the rest of this entry to see the picture of the students in blackface
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Yesterday in my African American studies class we were discussing how you can’t interpret stereotypes as normative behavior of an entire group or race. I mistakenly implied that all Black people in customer service have an attitude. I admitted that I didn’t mean to imply that generalization and that I meant to discuss those who do suggest through their actions that a stereotype is true. What most people don’t admit is that when stereotypical behavior is presented, it suggest that a stereotype is true. With a positive stereotype like, Asians are good at math, it falsely implies that all Asians are good at math. Stereotypes are false generalizations based off subjective assumptions and some form of non-generalized truth. This is why I ask what about the group of Asians who are actually good at math? They are partly the reason the stereotype exists.
With a negative stereotype like, Whites from MS are racist, this stereotype is also not true but a non-generalized form of it is true. The implication is that ALL Whites from MS are racist. This isn’t true, but what about those who are? What if a majority of MS Whites were racist? Are they just the exception to the fact that all Whites from MS aren’t racist or are they partly the reason behind the stereotype’s existence? The other reason a stereotype might exist is simply because it’s easier, even beneficial, for one race to generalize another. As this generalization of a stereotype remains false but the individual actions of the people being stereotyped remain true, some people “invalidate” a stereotype while others “validate” its very existence. Though a stereotype in and of itself is false, there is truth outside of the implicit or explicit generalization. ———————- Acording to AP- A sorority at the University of Southern Mississippi has placed six of its members on probation for dressing in blackface to depict the Huxtable family from “The Cosby Show” and attending a 1980s-themed costume party last week off campus…”The conduct of these members in no way reflects the values and standards of Phi Mu Fraternity,” Phi Mu National President Kris Bridges said in a statement. “Though clearly without overt intent, this photo was offensive, insensitive and regrettable, and is counter to the rich appreciation for diversity that marks our student body,” Joe Paul, USM’s vice president for student affairs, said in a statement.
———————- So, as it seems, these White students through their individual actions are suggesting that the stereotype “White people from MS are racist” is true. I know that the stereotype isn’t true because it implies ALL White people from MS are racist but I do know there is some form of truth, even if very minimal, that produces this stereotype.
The offensiveness of the students is said to not be intentional and their individual actions are not reflective of the values and standards of Phi Mu Fraternity. This is where my focus lies. What are the people who “validate” the stereotype meant to be? Even though these students had no “overt intention” their actions still validated the existence of the stereotype. In that validation, you can infer that though stereotypes aren’t true in a generalized sense, stereotypes exist because individuals represent a valid and invalid non-generalized form of the generalized assumptions that make a stereotype.
More specifically with this picture, what were these White students thinking? As I saw the picture, I wanted to go insane just for a little bit. I started talking to myself out loud of the obvious offensiveness the picture displayed. I wondered if the person on the left who avoided being in the picture understood the offensiveness of the students’ actions better than the students did? I wondered why none of the White female students thought it was a bad idea to dress in blackface as they consciously wore fuzzy, afro like, brown haired wigs and carefully applied this brown color to their White skin and the backs of their White hands?
Some comments on the article even suggested that because the article didn’t mention the students depicting any stereotypes, just the well off, upper-middle class Cosby family, that it couldn’t be or shouldn’t be taken as racist or offensive.
To give the reason that NOLAtransplant so desperately wants, plain and simple, blackface is much larger and far more representative than just these students, in this situation, at this point in time. Blackface is representative of not only an untrue, manipulated, racist generalization of Blacks but it is also representative of a period of time where Blacks were hanged, lynched, addressed as niggers, and treated as less than human. Even if the students’ offensiveness was unintentional, the symbolization of blackface was and will always be a blatantly intentional offense. The root of a stereotype is the difference between a stereotype existing for malicious intent or because there is some form of non-generalized truth to it that brings about its existence. By admitting this, I’m not admitting that stereotypes are true but we can’t act like there isn’t some form of truth in a stereotype just because it falsely represents an entire group. ——————-
I still can’t help but wonder what these students were thinking. It’s that process that I wonder about. It’s possible they just weren’t thinking at all. It’s very hard for me to see them consciously trying to validate a generalization about themselves in terms of being White sorority students from MS. This makes me wonder about the creation of stereotypes from subjective experiences that can make generalization false but make individual experiences have a limited truth. I think more people, including me, focus on negative stereotypes and their offensiveness versus the offensiveness any stereotype, good or bad, can have on the people the stereotype falsely represents. By focusing on the offensiveness of a stereotype instead of just focusing on what type of stereotype it is, their is more focus on what a stereotype implies and how subjectively positive and negative real life experiences influence that implication.
Read the original story here http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2011/11/usm_students_on_probation_afte.html