Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood's Construction of Afro-American Culture

Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood's Construction of Afro-American Culture

Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood's Construction of Afro-American Culture

Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood's Construction of Afro-American Culture

Synopsis

Reel Racism: Confronting Hollywood's Construction of Afro-American Culture goes beyond reflection theories of the media to examine cinema's active participation in the operations of racism --a complex process rooted in the dynamics of representation. Written for undergraduates and graduate students of film studies and philosophy, Reel Racism focuses on methods and frameworks that analyze films for their production of meaning and how those meanings participate in a broader process of justifying, naturalizing, or legitimizing difference, privilege, and violence basedon race. In addition to analyzing how the process of racism is articulated in specific films, Reel Racism examines how specific meanings can resist their function of ideological containment, and instead, offer a perspective of a more collective, egalitarian social system-- one that transcends the discourse of race.

Excerpt

On March 4,1991, Americans tuning into the nightly news were shocked by what appeared on their televisions: a dark and grainy home videotape recording of Los Angeles police officers beating an unarmed black motorist named Rodney King. When the case against the officers went to court, the trial was moved out of racially diverse Los Angeles and into predominantly white Simi Valley. The officers were acquitted, and rioting ensued.

A little less than four years later, in October 1995, America found itself once more glued to the TV (as it had been for almost nine months), waiting for the verdict of what many called the trial of the century: the murder trial of O. J. Simpson, famous athlete and celebrity, accused, then acquitted, of murdering his ex-wife. The torrent of media punditry and pseudodebate that raged around the incident found its source in a wellspring of emotions about race. Those emotions were fed by witness for the prosecution Mark Fuhrman, a Los Angeles police detective who lied under oath about his use of racially derogatory remarks, specifically the word "nigger." Defense lawyers exposed his perjury by playing a tape recording of Fuhrman referring to blacks as "niggers" and bragging about his mistreatment of black suspects. The taped interviews showed that he had used the slur at least forty-one times. Fuhrman also bragged that he enjoyed lining up "niggers against the wall and shooting them."

Four years after Fuhrman's chilling pronouncements, an elite streetcrimes unit of the New York City Police Department nearly did just that, shooting unarmed west African immigrant Amadou Diallo as he stood outside his Bronx apartment building. The shooting was particularly no-

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