a mammy tale

The following essay is reblogged from Southern-Style.  A real life modern-ish mammy story!  I’ve long been interested in the dynamic between black women and other people’s white children.  When I was in college studying African-American history for the first time, I stumbled upon the thought that Mammies had raised our nation and yet black women generally are not revered (to say the least).  When I was a nanny myself, I thought a lot about mammy.  And, back in January, when I devoured The Help I pondered her some more.  If you haven’t read it yet, please do yourself a favor and put Kathryn Stockett’s The Help on your summer reading list.  It’s one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.  Right up there with The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, Caucasia, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Life of Pi.  i.e. the rest of your summer reading list.

I Remember Mammy:
Mattie Lee Martin (“Mammy”)
By one who loved her, Sharman Burson Ramsey

Thirteen year old Mattie Lee Martin took her mentally challenged older sister by the hand and led her down the rutted, red clay country road. Neither looked back. Mattie was determined her sister would not be abused again in their grandparent’s home. She’d finally accepted that her parents would never come back to get them. The road led to the town of Dothan, Alabama, and a life, Mattie Lee hoped, that would be better than the one they’d known on that god-forsaken farm.

Mrs. Bender stood at the door of her variety store, broom in hand, and watched the two girls walk toward her down the sidewalk. Mattie, the spokesperson for the two, stepped forward and boldly asked, “I need work and a place where me and my sister can stay. Do you know of anything?” She looked up at Mrs. Bender quite seriously.  Her black eyes were wide.  Anxiety was written all over her round black face that now dripped in sweat in the hot summer day after her long walk. Mrs. Bender read in that expression that she’d gotten this far, but now the little girl was in a quandary as to what should she do now? She looked at the tight grip she had on her much larger, but obviously more dependent, sister.

Mrs. Bender sized them up and in her gentle voice said, “I hear they are hiring maids across the street at the Wadlington Hotel, but come in here and let me help you with something to wear to your interview. Your sister can rest here while you go and inquire. Tell them I sent you.”

Mattie stood straight and said, “I don’t take no charity. I’ll pay you back.” Mrs. Bender nodded.

That Jewish lady remained a dear friend to Mattie the rest of her life.

Mattie Lee Martin later became highly regarded for her cooking skills. She cooked at the restaurant of the Houston Hotel for awhile and then took a job as the private cook for Dr. Moody, founder of Moody Hospital in Dothan. When the Moodys moved into their big house on Main Street from the house across from the hospital, Mattie for some reason was not going with them. Dr. Moody recommended Mattie to Dr. E. G. Burson, my father. The Moodys gave her a house as a parting gift.

When Mattie Lee Martin interviewed with my mother, she told my mother, “I don’t work with children.”

Yet as the pictures reveal, Mattie Lee Martin became as dear to us as our grandmothers and so she deserved just as endearing a name. Thus she came to be called “Mammy.”

Mammy came to work every morning before seven, except Sunday, either by bus or by taxi and stayed until after five.  Even after our overweight dog, Sir Bow Wow, went blind, he would meet Mammy at the bottom of the hill where she got off the bus every morning and together they would plod their way to the house.  She cooked, cleaned, and loved us. I remember seeing one of her paychecks in the amount of $27.00. I also remember the days we’d take Mammy home and she’d ask Mother to stop by the grocery store several blocks away. Then she’d put some money in my hand and I’d run into the grocery store and plunk the money down saying, “Bit o Dental Snuff, please.”

Mammy ordered the groceries to cook for lunch from Murphy’s Market downtown first thing in the morning and a boy on a bicycle delivered them in time for her to cook. Dinner was served at exactly 12:00 noon. (In the South we eat breakfast, dinner and supper.) The meat went on a platter before “the doctor”. The table was set precisely with forks on the left of the plate (with the napkin) and the knife (facing inward) on the right. The glass was placed above the knife. She trained us well.

…Mammy had worked for the aristocracy of the town, Dr. and Mrs. Earl Moody. While she often locked horns with my mother (whose own father had been killed when logs rolled off a log truck when she was 13 leaving her mother to struggle raising five children) she refused to give up on us. “Yo mama, she be mean. But I be mean too, so we get along.” Mother had been awarded campaign ribbon for service in World War II as a nurse at the Battle of the Bulge. She could curse a blue streak and did so on occasion when things did not go to suit her. Sometimes those disagreements would get so heated that Mother would fire Mammy, but we’d cry and carry on so, she’d have to go and ask her to come back. My father was a doctor and his father was a doctor and that made us worth Mammy’s time and effort. My mother might not know what was “proper” but Mammy did, and she was determined to turn us out well.

…Mammy did have her own family…a daughter Lucy Mae Dixon who was my Mother’s age. Mammy had very little education herself and the lists she made could barely be read, so she valued a good education. Mammy skrimped and saved and sent her to college in the North. It must have been a Catholic college because Lucy Mae converted to Catholicism. Mammy was a dedicated member of the Cherry Street AME Church. Lucy earned her Masters and came home to teach. Mammy bought her items of silver “on time” as birthday gifts. The mahogany furniture in their living areas was always covered in plastic to “save” it.

…I guess Mammy told my brother and sister the same thing she drilled into me. “Yo daddy be somebody. You gotta be somebody.” My sister is a cardiologist in New Orleans (Dr. Sylvia Burson Rushing) and my brother (Elkanah George Burson III ) has just started a pharmaceutical company (Burel Pharmaceuticals). Me? After you’ve got a man it’s all right “to rune yo hands” with Ajax, I learned. I wash a mean bathtub and have stayed married to the same man, an attorney of whom she approved (whose family once owned the Houston Hotel where she had worked) for forty years doing a little teaching and writing. This humble generous woman whom I never saw wear a single piece of jewelry gave me a pearl and gold bracelet for graduation from high school.  She who worked from can to can’t all of her life gave me a silver goblet when I got married.  I wonder if she ever knew how much they mean to me and that I realize the sacrifice and love those gifts demonstrated.

…Mammy was a proud person who made the most of her situation and, selflessly, with hard work and determination earned respect and made a good life for herself and her family. She raised us, her white family, to believe we could do whatever we chose to do and that we should make our parents proud. She drilled into us values of honesty, integrity, and a sense of responsibility.  Because we had been given so much; much was expected.  Because we loved her, it was Mammy we wanted to make proud.

Read more HERE

re: little. black. sambo.

I just wanted to post a bit more about the history of Little Black Sambo.  I think the most important aspect of this history is the way the character/story has made people feel about themselves.  White privilege protects a majority of people from the hurts that can be evoked by “harmless” depictions in story books and advertisements.  The price for that protection can come in the form indifferent ignorance.

  • “The cultural understanding of ‘Little Black Sambo’ is a negative,” says Professor Frank Gilliam of UCLA. “It’s meant to suggest that people of African descent are childlike, that they’re irresponsible, that they’re not fully developed human beings.”
  • Langston Hughes pointed out that Little Black Sambo was “amusing undoubtedly to the white child, but like an unkind word to one who has known too many hurts to enjoy the additional pain of being laughed at.”

The following is excerpted from an essay found at the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia:

Arguably, the most controversial picaninny image is the one created by Helen Bannerman…The book appeared in England in 1899 and was an immediate success. The next year it was published in the United States by Frederick A. Stokes, a mainstream publisher. It was even more successful than it had been in England. The book’s success led to many imitators — and controversies.

Was Bannerman’s Little Black Sambo racist? The major characters: Little Black Sambo, his mother (Black Mumbo) and his father (Black Jumbo) used standard English, not the bastardized English then associated with Blacks. Stereotypical anti-Black traits — for example, laziness, stupidity, and immorality — were absent from the book. Little Black Sambo, the character, was bright and resourceful unlike most portrayals of Black children. Nevertheless, the book does have anti-Black overtones, most notably the illustrations. Sambo is crudely drawn, an obvious caricature… The names Mumbo and Jumbo also make the characters seem nonsensical at a time when Blacks were routinely thought to be inherently dumb.

The illustrations were racially offensive, and so was the name Sambo. At the time that the book was originally published Sambo was an established anti-Black epithet, a generic degrading reference. It symbolized the lazy, grinning, docile, childlike, good-for-little servant. Maybe Bannerman was unfamiliar with Sambo’s American meaning. For many African Americans Little Black Sambo was an entertaining story ruined by racist pictures and racist names. Julius Lester, who has recently co-authored Sam and the Tigers, an updated Afrocentric version of Little Black Sambo, wrote:

When I read Little Black Sambo as a child, I had no choice but to identify with him because I am black and so was he. Even as I sit here and write the feelings of shame, embarrassment and hurt come back. And there was a bit of confusion because I liked the story and I especially liked all those pancakes, but the illustrations exaggerated the racial features society had made it clear to me represented my racial inferiority — the black, black skin, the eyes shining white, the red protruding lips. I did not feel good about myself as a black child looking at those pictures.

Little Black Sambo served as the boiler plate for a spate of other versions, many of which used mean-spirited racist drawings and dialogue. The vulgar reprint versions were symbolic of Black-White relations. Little Black Sambo’s popularity coincided with the crystallization of Jim Crow laws and etiquette. Blacks were denied basic human and civil rights, discriminated against in the labor market, barred from many public schools and libraries, harassed at voting booths, subjected to physical violence, and generally treated as second class citizens. The year that Little Black Sambo came to America a Whites-initiated race riot occurred in New Orleans. It was effectively a pogrom — Blacks were beaten, their schools and homes destroyed. Little Black Sambo did not, of course, cause riots, but it entered America during a period of strained and harsh race relations. It was, simply, another insult in the daily lives of African Americans.

The anti-Little Black Sambo movement started in the 1930s and continued into the 1970s. Black educators and civil rights leaders organized numerous campaigns to get the book banned from public libraries, especially in elementary schools. In the 1940s and 1950s the book was dropped from many lists of “Recommended Books.” By the 1960s the book was seen as a remnant of a racist past.

Little Black Sambo was again popular by the mid-1990s. Its recent popularity is a result of many factors, including a white backlash against perceived political correctness. This is evident in internet discussions. Americans, Black and White, are rereading the original book (and some of the unauthorized reprints). There is agreement that Bannerman’s book is entertaining. However, there is little agreement regarding whether it is racist. White readers tend to focus on Bannerman’s non-racist intentions and the unfairness of judging yesterday’s “classics” by today’s standards of racial equality. Blacks find the book’s title and the illustrations offensive. Most of the debate centers on Bannerman’s version; there is no debating the racism explicit in later editions of the book produced by other writers and publishers.

© Dr. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology
Ferris State University
Oct., 2000

SOURCE

if you look like one, you could be another

Brilliant!!! I love everything about this!  I’ll admit that I felt what I would have described back then as “weird” about my (mixed)race.  Looking back, I think “shame” fits the bill.  I’m so happy to hear that acknowledged, and even happier that feelings are changing to pride.  Mine included.

Danbury’s multi-racial students to star in film

Eileen FitzGerald

DANBURY — The three boys wore jeans and long-sleeve T-shirts. The two girls each wore a dozen bracelets and necklaces. They looked like typical students in the library media center at Broadview Middle School.

It was their differences, however, that brought them together Monday. They’re subjects in a documentary in which Western Connecticut State University professor Marsha Daria is examining the identity and social relationships of multiracial children.

Daria is interviewing elementary, middle and high school students to help educators and teacher training programs consider multiracial students in the curriculum and school issues.

The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders carry the roots of about a dozen ethnic heritages, including African American, Spanish, Italian, Scottish, Irish, Chinese and Portuguese.

“It’s cool to be two races, because you get to experience two different cultures and those countries,” sixth-grader Jonathan Garcia, 11, said.

Jonathan, who is half Chinese and half Puerto Rican, was a little nervous to be interviewed but glad to express his feelings about the issue for the movie.

“This gives me a chance to say that what race you are doesn’t matter. If you look like one, you could be another,” he said. “Sometimes they say I am Asian, but what bothers me is that I’m not all Asian. They say things about Asians that I don’t think are nice.”

Sometimes he points out people’s negative comments, and they acknowledge they were wrong. Other times he ignores what people say.

Eighth-grader Kiani Oliveira, 14, who is Portuguese, African American, Indian and Scottish, wanted people to know that multiracial people are unique.

“Like we look different. Our skin color is different, and our hair and eyes can be different — unique,” she said. “It’s not harder to be multiracial. My friends take me as I am and think I’m cool.”

A Western Connecticut State University Professor, Marsha Daria, is filming a documentary on multiracial children. Daria and the film crew where filming at Broadview Middle School in Danbury on Monday March 29, 2010. From left, cameraman Scott Volpe of WCSU media services, Broadview student Kiani Oliveira, 14, and Professor Marsha Best. Photo: Lisa Weir

Daria is doing this project during her sabbatical as an education professor at WestConn, where she has taught since 1995. Her film crew is from WestConn –Rebecca Woodward, Scott Volpe and Renato Ghio– and she consults Emmy award-winning producer and director Karyl Evans.

“It’s critical to examine the ways in which we talk about race and ethnicity. There is a change in how kids view themselves. They used to be ashamed, but now you see a lot of pride. They want people to know who they are,” Daria said.

“It used to be a marginalizing experience, but not anymore. They feel special.”

Daria will use the results of the 2010 Census in the documentary, which are likely to be more specific about race than the 2000 census, in which seven million people reported they were of mixed race.

“I want to educate. To bring awareness to kids who are mixed race. We do become a better country when we accept each other,” she said. “There are good and bad in every group. We should accept people for who they are.”

Seventh-grader Robert Best, 12, who is Italian, African American, Indian and Irish, hopes the film will help people understand that multiracial kids are just like other kids.

“People think African-American people steal and white people are laid back, and I’m supposed to be like both of them, but I don’t like that,” he said. But he wouldn’t want things to be different for children who are multiracial, because it would put them in a separate group.

Seventh-grader Marissa Segura, 12, who is Costa Rican and Italian, and Nasir Fleming, 13, an eighth-grader who is Puerto Rican, African American, Italian, Native American, and a little Irish were also questioned.

The students, all American born, said they mostly celebrate American holidays and eat all types of food, including traditional food from their dominant cultures. They usually talk about typical teen topics — things like school and music — with friends from all over.

Marissa has friends from all over and wishes people would stop guessing and ask what nationality she is.

“All my friends are from different places,” she said. “My sister said I never have a friend who is actually from America. I just get along with a lot of people and have a lot of friends.”

Nasir said he’s annoyed when people think he is only African American.

“When I was younger it made me feel sad, but now it’s just whatever,” he said. “Some friends aren’t cool about who they are, because society tries to make them feel they are nothing.”

It might be easier to stay quiet when you are classified a certain way, he said, “but if you want to keep your rights you should explain who you are.

“People who are diverse are like a little community, but we’re all different,” Nasir said. “If you had to find a similar thing about us, it’s that we don’t like being titled one thing. It’s not OK to be judgmental, to stereotype.”

SOURCE

passers

Thank you, Lee, for turning me on to this little “gem.”  Horrifying sums it up well.  I don’t know what content I find most horrifying.  I’m picking up lots of “tragic mulatto” and “jezebel” (the cover page photo!) innuendo though those specific terms aren’t used.  In fact, the passers don’t have to be mulatto at all.  As I’m constantly told, as a nation and a people we’re all mixed and there are plenty of “black” people that are lighter than some mulattoes such as myself.   I do like this notion of “one honest goal: the elimination of the invisible color boundary which for so many years unfairly kept him from his rightful place in the sun.”  We’re still workin’ on it.

ENTIRE ARTICLE

…it seems well-nigh incredible that some five million Negroes have turned their backs on their own race and are passing as white. For almost a quarter of a century, this fantastic lie has been lived by large groups of Negroes with no sign of abatement despite the strong gains that have been made by the champions of anti-segregation.

In the year 1960 alone more than 60,000 negroes are expected to “disappear”, cross the invisible color line into the world of whites. These are not just dreamed up figures. They are actual facts. Just as it is a fact that no one ever reports a Negro to the Missing Persons Bureau unless they are absolutely sure the missing human isn’t passing.

Many shocking incidents were brought to light some years back in a sensational book, ‘Black Metropolis’ by St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton. The authors claim that many “white negroes” as passers are called— hold strong positions in the white world as physicians, scientists, and public administrators—despite the fact that many such jobs are also held by Negroes unashamed of their race.

The late Walter White, himself a Negro, and one of the prime movers in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, once attempted to clarify the problem of passing. He said: “Negroes naturally resent the loss of some of the brilliant minds which would be an asset to them in their grim struggle for survival. But if any Negro believes he will be happier living as a white and thereby escape the barbs and handicaps of prejudices, or if he believes he can use his ability and training to greater advantage on the other side of the racial line, most Negroes wish him well.”

When it comes to passing, although most Negroes today refuse to condone it, they will not tell on one another. Most seem to understand the reasoning that prompts lighter-hued members of their race wanting to cross over.

“We know there are stronger anti-discrimination laws than ever before,” they will tell you, “but when a negro has a white skin, he seems to have a compulsion to live the way of the people who have so long opposed him. He doesn’t seem to realize that scientists have proven that the very people who condemn him might not be in a position to do so.”

A scientist like those mentioned above is Dr. Caroline Day, of Atlanta University, who wrote in her famous Harvard African Studies: “The grim joke of the whole matter is that for 150 years and more the Negro has been absorbed and his descendants are constantly rubbing elbows with some of the very ones who are discussing them.”

Even the fact that people, who believe all passers are eventually found out because their children are sure to be black, are merely deluding themselves, hasn’t deterred the practise of passing. Science took the inherited color theory apart a long time ago, with the aid of such eminent savants as Amram Schienfeld, Dr. Ernest A. Hooten and the late Dr. Edward M. East, who theorized thus; “If one of the parents is pure white, the baby cannot he darker than the darker parent. If they both have Negro blood, the baby may be slightly darker than its parents hut the chances are against it.”

With the legalization of racial intermarriage approved in some 22 states, nobody has been able to upset their theory – though, obviously, chances to do so have been many.

Yet the “passers” themselves seldom worry about theories. The “permanent passer”, going over the line, never comes back. He prefers to end his days living a big white lie; and women passers who marry bear children and keep their secret for life.

Only under unusual circumstances, such as the one that befell the wife of a prominent socialite, does a sensational exposure ever occur. This was the Leonard Kip Rhinelander case, which rated lurid headlines when the socialite playboy sought to have his marriage to Alice Jones set aside. Rhinelander claimed his wife was colored and failed to tell him so. In her defense, Alice stripped to the waist and bared her breasts to the jury, thus providing the sensation-seeking New York Graphic with a classic composite-photo of this closed door session for its front page.

Besides the “permanent passer”, the “segmental passer” stands without guilt or censure. The “segmental passers” lead a dual life; whites by day, Negroes by night. You’ll often find them in jobs where opposition to Negroes is strong but secret-Some are telephone operators, receptionist, typists, clerks in large corporations and in department stores, where, though some Negroes are employed the unspoken policy is “Enough is enough.”

On Broadway, particularly, the Negro girl has a tough time getting a chorus or showgirl job. There is a story current of a Negro showgirl, allegedly passing as white, who was recognized by a popular Negro singer, but he refused to reveal her secret. He also reportedly wouldn’t talk to the girl, not because of her “passing” but because of her more than passing interest in a white socialite-playboy who met her nightly.

“Obviously she hasn’t learned yet that mixed marriages are no longer looked on with horror,” a Negro artist told INSIDE STORY, “so she’ll go on living her lie and, in the long run, probably find her heart broken because she feels she can’t reveal her secret to the man should he want to marry her. Life will never be easy for her. She not only sometimes has to listen to blasts against her race, but worry every moment about being exposed.”

While there’s no way of truly gauging the number of passers operating, some estimate is arrived at by studies of census reports, immigration records, vital statistics and information from other sources. Yet this does not take into account the ‘’segmental passer” or the passer who, in the past, was known as an “occasional” a reference to light-hued Negroes who occasionally went downtown to segregated areas and, as a lark, spent their money on white entertainment.

Actually, when it comes to “passing”, the shocked might as well face these facts: Passers not only go through life as white, they have children who look (and are) white. Any anthropologist will tell you that if a person has one-sixteenth or less of Negro blood—it is impossible to determine his or her ancestry.

Yet, the practice of passing still continues, much to the chagrin, not necessarily the shame, of the Negro who believes in living as he was born. To such a Negro, there can be only one honest goal: the elimination of the invisible color boundary which for so many years unfairly kept him from his rightful place in the sun. The passer, working in the movies, working as a white actress or a showgirl, or a model or a clerk, or a receptionist doesn’t think of this. He’s thinking of himself. Or herself. And that, to a good many Negroes, is a “shameful secret!


darktown

I’ll never be able to sing “Sleigh Ride” again!  Ever!  Not even with Amy Grant.  Currier & Ives!?  Puh-lease!  I’ll take Norman Rockwell any day.  ANY day.

In 1857, Nathaniel Currier, a Massachusetts lithographer, and James Merritt Ives, a self-trained artist and bookkeeper for the business of N. Currier, formed a partnership. The result was the firm of Currier & Ives, which produced three to four prints every week for fifty years – a total of over 7,500 titles. The lithographs produced by the company were published by Currier & Ives, none were actually drawn or lithographed by them. Upon their deaths in 1888 and 1895 respectively, their sons, Edward West Currier and Chauncy Ives, directed the firm until its close in 1907 (American Historical Print Collectors Society).

Previous to the Emancipation Proclamation, Currier & Ives generally depicted blacks as individuals content with their lives and position in society; they were often pictured in the background of idyllic plantation images. Initially after the Proclamation was issued, the firm continued to depict blacks in a positive light, focusing more on individuals, publishing portraits of John Brown, Frederick Douglas, and black Union soldiers fighting for their freedom (222). As time went on, however, and the freedmen began to move north into the cities, it became more apparent that not all Northerners were unanimous in their support of emancipation and the status of the freedman. The political images published by Currier & Ives during this time were vicious attacks against the character and intelligence of blacks, depicting them as unsupportive and disobliging of the political figures who sought to free them, such as Abraham Lincoln, Horace Greeley, and Senator Charles Sumner (226).

During and after Reconstruction, Currier & Ives, and America it seems, continued to appreciate these negative images of African Americans. Out of this, between the mid-1870s to the early 1890s, the Darktown Comics arose, mostly illustrated by Thomas Worth (1834-1917) and James Cameron (1828-1963). The company described the Comics as “pleasant and humorous designs, free from coarseness or vulgarity, being good natured hits at the popular amusements and excitements of the times”. It has been suggested that Darktown may have “served as satires on polite white behavior as well”, as could be supported by previously positive images of African Americans. Regardless of intent, the prints only reinforced negative racial stereotypes throughout the country.


The caricatures presented by the Darktown Comics consisted of “African Americans performing actions that were more or less normal for ‘ordinary’ folk, meaning whites…the implication being that the African Americans could not execute even the simplest tasks of everyday life without making themselves appear ridiculous”. The most common images depicted by Currier & Ives’ artists were of African Americans attempting to have horse, skull, and sulky races; ride in carriages and yachts; hunt; host lawn parties; play tennis; and fight fires–always with disastrous results. And the depiction of  African American lawyers, doctors and the clergymen as bumbling and dishonest were quite malicious. African American children were also featured in a poor light – as mischievous, out of control, disrespectful hoodlums. This is evident in prints by Thomas Worth such as “A Put Up Job” and “A Fall from Grace” (1883) and “Breaking In: A Black Imposition” and “Breaking Out: A Lively Scrimmage” (1881).


African American stereotypes that still exist today were begun here – the connection of African Americans to music, in Darktown specifically of banjo playing, and of their supposed eating habits, most notable in the Comics, that of eating watermelon. This can be seen in the prints that make up the set of the Darktown Banjo Class and in single prints like “O Dat Watermillion!”. As one can see, African American speech was attacked as well, through phonetic renderings steeped in the distortion of stereotypes and caricature.


The Darktown Comics did not develop or exist in a vacuum, however. In addition to theDarktown prints that came out of this time, Harper’s Weekly featured the Blackville prints; examples of which can be seen at HarpWeek’s exhibition, “Toward Racial Equality:Harper’s Weekly Reports on Black America, 1857-1874 or the Philadelphia Print Shop’sBlackville Prints.” These were similar in content to Darktownspoofs of African American attempts at high fashion, sports, etc. The most prevalent artists of this series were Sol Eytinge, Jr., William Ludwell Sheppard, S.C. McCutcheon and “Sphinx” (Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd.). Other publications, such as Life, Puck and Judge, as well as Pulitzer’s New York World and Hearst’s New York Journal produced similar images but these were in the context of satire (Hays). Whether or not these images were taken as satire or at face value by the American populous is up for debate, however. Other news and editorial magazines, such as The Outlook and The Independent, also promoted these types of images through their illustrations and advertising—exemplifying the prevalence and acceptance of these racist stereotypes across the country (Hays).


The “high art” of this time, specifically that of southern artists, furthered these stereotypes as well, dehumanizing the African American through their depictions of coal black skin, thick red lips, oversized teeth, and patchwork clothing. It wasn’t until the impact of the Ashcan Society and the period of realism came into play that classical forms of art began to celebrate the figure of the African American as he really appeared. The art of Robert Henry, George Luks, and George Wesley Bellows are forefathers of this new view – a celebration of the African American.

SOURCE

re: sometimes the apple does fall far from the tree

Here are excerpts from two stories similar to the one I posted yesterday.  You can read them in their entirety HERE.

Her Father’s Daughter

Cindy Foster will never forget the face in the window.

She woke up in the middle of the night, sat up in bed, and saw a man — she believes it was a white man — peering through her bedroom window. It was the early 1960s in a small Alabama city, and her family had just received a bomb threat from the Black Panthers because of her father’s notoriety as a Klan leader.

Foster, then about 6, tried to scream for help but her voice failed. Then the face disappeared. She later found out it was probably an FBI agent checking on her family’s safety.

The midnight memory is just one example of how her late father’s Klan activities cast an uneasy shadow over her childhood. The family received other threats; she recalls long stretches of wariness punctuated by moments of fear. That legacy continued to haunt her as an adult. She suffered from nightmares, was constantly vigilant, and didn’t easily trust others. She saw a therapist for several years and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety condition that can develop after frightening events. And she struggled to assert her own identity in the hometown where nearly everyone knew who her father was and assumed she shared his views about race.

“I just wanted to be me — not my father’s daughter,” said Foster, who now lives in northern Florida. (The Intelligence Report agreed not to identify her father, who died in 2003, to protect Foster’s privacy.)

In fact, Foster held beliefs very different from her father’s — a phenomenon she attributes partly to her faith. As a child of about 4 attending Sunday school in her family’s Methodist Church, she sang that Christ’s love is colorblind: “Jesus loves the little children/all the children of the world/black and yellow, red and white/They’re all precious in his sight.”

“I realized at a very young age that you either had to believe what the church taught or what my father stood for,” she said. “And what I saw my father doing was wrong.”

…Foster became a nurse, married and raised two children. For several years she volunteered as a Girl Scout leader, often working with black children from poor families. “I wanted to go out and do something for humanity and show that I believed differently than he did,” she said.

The Price of Hate

When Stephan Mills was 10 or 11, his father sat him and his older sister down after supper one night and told them that if they ever became emotionally involved with someone of color, he would kill them.

“I just nodded in agreement,” said Stephan, now 16.

The incident seemed normal to a boy who for years had been steeped in his father’s bigotry. Arthur Kemp, a South African white supremacist who has ties to British and American hate groups, indoctrinated his children with racist and anti-Semitic beliefs from the time they were very young. Stephan mostly adopted those views as his own. Several years ago, however, he rejected all that his father stood for. The experience would radically change his life and lead to his ongoing estrangement from his father, who’s now divorced from his mother and believed to be living in England.

“Stephan’s resentment toward his father is based partly on the fact that, in his sister’s words, he had to relearn to be a civilized human,” said his mother, Karen Mills.

There was a lot to relearn. Arthur Kemp “was a very involved and doting father” when his children were small, Karen Mills said. He read to them often, carefully choosing books he felt would reinforce his ideology. Among them were the original “Noddy” series, English children’s books that featured Golliwogs, dark-skinned caricatures that were later removed from the text because they were deemed racist. In one of Kemp’s favorite Noddy books, the Golliwogs steal Noddy’s car. Kemp enjoyed telling his children that the Golliwogs’ theft of the car amounted to typical behavior for blacks.

…He also forbade socializing with non-white children. If they arrived at a friend’s party to find that a black child had also been invited, Kemp made his children go home. When Stephan was six, his father reluctantly took him and his sister to swimming lessons at a public pool where one of the children turned out to be black. “He told us to get out and that we were leaving,” said Stephan, who now uses his mother’s maiden name. “I was still pretty young so I didn’t really understand what was going on.”

…He also relished showing them articles and statistics that purported to prove that blacks were inferior. He contended that blacks could never be race car drivers because they have poor depth perception, that they cannot swim because their bones are too dense, that they are not as intelligent because their brains are smaller.

“The children were actively encouraged to be vocal about their views and to challenge their peers,” Karen Mills wrote. “In Stephan’s case in particular, this resulted in him being ostracized and made an outcast as he followed his father’s lead.”

Stephan said he had few friends until his first year of high school. At times, he suffered from depression because his father’s brainwashing had so alienated him from his peers, his mother said.

“I wasn’t really someone that people wanted to hang around with,” Stephan said. “They regarded me as weird because I was constantly talking about Hitler.”

…Karen Mills said Kemp has had almost no contact with his children since their divorce. “I don’t think there’s any way that Arthur could fix the broken relationship with Stephan,” she said. Nonetheless, “Stephan has gone through something of a catharsis.” In addition to his posts on Lancaster Unity, he chose to discuss his father when he was assigned to give a school speech on someone who had influenced him — only he said his father’s influence had been entirely negative. Now, his social life is improving, and he has resolved to be as unlike his father as possible. “I am stuck with some of his traits and characteristics — Mom used to joke with me that I have the Kemp laziness gene — but definitely not his political views,” he said.

Yet there’s no bringing back the years he lost to his father’s hate. “You,” he wrote to him in the September 2008 Lancaster Unity post, “will never understand what you have done to me.”

the need to categorize

Sociologists believe that mental categorizing is necessary and inescapable. One reason people stereotype is that it is too difficult to take in all of the complexities of other people. Even though stereotyping is inaccurate, it is efficient. Categorization is an essential human capability because it enables us to simplify, predict, and organize our world. Once one has sorted and organized everyone into tidy categories, there is every incentive to avoid processing new or unexpected information about each individual. Assigning general group characteristics to members of that group saves time and satisfies the need to predict the social world. People also tend to stereotype because of another the need to feel good about oneself. Stereotypes protect one from anxiety and enhance self-esteem. By designating one’s own group as the standard or normal group and assigning others to groups considered inferior or abnormal, it provides one with a sense of worth. Childhood influences are some of the most complex and influential factors in developing stereotypes. Though they can be absorbed at any age, stereotypes are usually acquired in early childhood under the influence of parents, teachers, peers, and the media. Once a stereotype is learned, it often becomes self-perpetuating. Studies have shown that women stereotype more negatively than men, and that women read into appearance more than men.” sourceI was looking a bit into this, and am now wondering if the theories on stereotypes aren’t based on stereotypes as well, not necessarily in the racist form but based on pre-assumptions of science……

Sociologists believe that mental categorizing is necessary and inescapable.

One reason people stereotype is that it is too difficult to take in all of the complexities of other people. Even though stereotyping is inaccurate, it is efficient. Categorization is an essential human capability because it enables us to simplify, predict, and organize our world. Once one has sorted and organized everyone into tidy categories, there is every incentive to avoid processing new or unexpected information about each individual. Assigning general group characteristics to members of that group saves time and satisfies the need to predict the social world.

People also tend to stereotype because of another the need to feel good about oneself. Stereotypes protect one from anxiety and enhance self-esteem. By designating one’s own group as the standard or normal group and assigning others to groups considered inferior or abnormal, it provides one with a sense of worth.

Childhood influences are some of the most complex and influential factors in developing stereotypes. Though they can be absorbed at any age, stereotypes are usually acquired in early childhood under the influence of parents, teachers, peers, and the media. Once a stereotype is learned, it often becomes self-perpetuating.

Studies have shown that women stereotype more negatively than men, and that women read into appearance more than men.”

source

reblogged from

more obama love

As someone who is consistently accused of either holding negative ideas about what being black is and/or trying to be white, I cannot tell you just how much gratification I got out of reading President Obama’s response to the reactions to his recent NAACP 100th Anniversary speech.  In this Washington Post interview with Eugene Robinson he explains that though he was speaking directly to a group of affluent, successful, educated African Americans who are dedicated to raising their children to be the same that one should not

“underestimate the degree to which a speech like the one I gave yesterday gets magnified throughout the African American community,” Obama told me in the Oval Office, where a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. surveys the room in silent admonition. “Folks on Friday go in and get their hair cut, they’re getting ready for the weekend, they’re sitting in the barber’s chair, and somebody said, ‘Did you see what Obama said yesterday?’ It sparks a conversation. . . . And part of what my goal is here is to make sure that I’m giving a lot of folks permission to talk about things that maybe they’ve talked about around the kitchen table but don’t get fully aired in public.”

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I am no Obama, but I must admit that I feel like this is exactly what I’m trying to do.  Get everyone talking about this uncomfortable stuff in ways that almost seem too honest because we’re just not used to having the conversation.  I have been accused of airing “our” dirty laundry.  This always leaves me thinking, “Why not?  Dirty laundry just creates stagnant funk.  Let’s air it out and move on.”

This next bit really spoke to me as well.  Whenever I highlight the widely accepted generalizations of blackness that tend to be negative and also tend to inform the definitions of blackness held by both whites and blacks, I am hoping that by looking back and seeing where these ideas came from and how they seeped into our consciousness that they will be exposed for the ridiculous, limiting notions they are and then will be dispelled.  I’m never saying “that is what blackness is and we ‘mulattoes’ are not like that.”  I just mean that there are many ways to be black.  Mainly just being born black and then living your life as you.  Whoever that turns out to be.  Whoever you turn out to emulate, hang out with, enjoy the music, company, writings of.  I think we’re American first.  And yes being black in America is still not the same as being white in America.  We are still on the outside.  But, in my opinion, the tragedy lies in thinking that’s where one belongs and making a conscious choice to stay on the outside.  Perhaps in order to reject the mainstream as they have rejected us. But with all of it’s faults, this country has a lot to offer a life.  Sometimes I think people are so busy being “black” (or whatever one has been taught to believe should infom their identity) that they miss out on some of the riches of simply being American.

“One of the ways that I think that the civil rights movement . . . weakened itself was by enforcing a single way of being black — being authentically black. And, as a consequence, there were a whole bunch of young black people — and I fell prey to this for a time when I was a teenager — who thought that if you were really ‘down’ you had to be a certain way. And oftentimes that was anti-something. You defined yourself by being against things as opposed to what you were for. And I think now young people realize, you know what, being African American can mean a whole range of things. There’s a whole bunch of possibilities out there for how you want to live your life, what values you want to express, who you choose to interact with.”

…Said Obama: “I do think it is important for the African American community, in its diversity, to stay true to one core aspect of the African American experience, which is we know what it’s like to be on the outside.

President Obama, I just love you and I promise that by focusing on my “unique experience” I am not detaching from the larger struggle. K?

reviewed

I just came across a bad review of Mulatto Diaries: The Movie on a blog http://www.losangelista.com/2009/06/black-biracial-mixed-white-other.html.  Here’s an excerpt…

Her film is called the Mulatto Diaries, and sadly…Tiffany rubbed me the wrong way. She, and a few of the other biracial folks she interviewed in her film, came across like she believes on some level that being black means being ghetto, stupid, uneducated, lazy,uncultured, not being able to speak correct English and not having class or manners.

I am shocked that one could come away from the film with this impression.  Yes, there are clips of me and the interviewees saying that at one time or another a black person/some black people have called us out for not being black enough. What does this mean if not that to some degree, which they find unsatisfactory, we do not ascribe to some stereotypical idea of being black?  I’d really like to know.  There is also a clip of me saying that for me the shame of this biracialness was heightened at the times when I was uncomfortable with my blackness.  That discomfort was shameful.  Not the blackness.

I think my point often is that I know firsthand that blackness indeed is not about donning the stereotypical garb of rap music and ebonics, but embracing the rich and difficult history that led to my being alive.  Here in this country.  Today.  Blessed with so much.  It is only because I am proud of my blackness and secure in my blackness, that I am able to say without shame and in a loud voice that I am also white.  I am proud of who I am and who I am is equal parts both.  It may seem like I go on and on about this.  To an extreme.  Beating a dead horse.  Protesting too much this one drop rule.  But I am trying to make up for hundreds of years of silence.  This silence which I believe has contributed somehow to these negative depictions of blackness and to some illusory idea of the grandeur of whiteness.  I may not always find the way to say exactly what I mean.  I do not know what I am doing.  I only know that I am doing.  I am doing with good intentions.  I am trying to free us all (black, white, mixed, whatever) from the boxes which I believe hold us back from reaching the great heights intended for us.

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