Images of Blacks in American Culture: A Reference Guide to Information Sources

Images of Blacks in American Culture: A Reference Guide to Information Sources

Images of Blacks in American Culture: A Reference Guide to Information Sources

Images of Blacks in American Culture: A Reference Guide to Information Sources

Synopsis

"The 10 essays here explore the images of blacks in historical contemporary American culture. Negative and stereotypical images of blacks have been deeply embedded in our art, music, literature, film, theater, and other forms of expression. On the other hand, as the preface states, black artists and others have also celebrated images of strength, beauty, and achievement.' Reflecting the complexity of the relationship between the races, these two elements are often intertwined. This reference work explores these images, both positive and negative, and their historical development and impact on both black and American culture. . . . Its unique qualities are the discussions and sources for studying and understanding those artifacts as well as the provision of a historical perspective on the images." Reference Books Bulletin

Excerpt

Waring Cuney's poem "No Images" describes the lack of beauty in the life of a Black woman; presumably it would be or could be any woman. The last line rather regretfully recalls that "dishwater gives back no images" (American Negro Poetry, ed.Arna Bontemps, rev. ed., New York: Hill and Wang, 1974: 98- 99). That is not exactly accurate. A woman standing, whether tall and proud, or heavily leaning, over dirty dishes, is an image. The dishwater is not required to reflect it; we are required to acknowledge it. The novelist Toni Morrison shared in an interview that she washes her dishes by hand because it allows her freedom to dream. For the brilliance of her light we may all toss out our automatic anachronism and bloom.

Somehow--in some fascinating way--the Black American community is obsessed with image. The complaint about The Color Purple was never about the book or the movie. It was about the image of Black men as if, had the novel never been written, there would be no sexual abuse of children, no wives who were beaten, no women who fell in love with each other. Images are not responsible for reality; quite the opposite is true. The question would be lies.

There are lies about people; personally and ethnically. There are interesting lies, i.e., all Jews are rich. There are helpful lies, i.e., all Asians are smart. There are silly lies, i.e., all Poles are dumb. There are mean lies, i.e., all Hispanics are dope pushers. There are venal lies, i.e., all Blacks are stupid, childlike, irresponsible, welfare-loving people who don't want to work. Some lies can, and perhaps ought to be refuted; some lies we all learn to ignore; but some lies are so terribly bad that they can be neither refuted nor ignored. They have to be fought. Proctor and Gamble, recently the target of a big lie, had to bring out in the open the fungus that was devouring their company to say "We are not a company run by the devil." That must have been embarrassing to even . . .

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