Cultural Portrayals of African Americans: Creating an Ethnic/Racial Identity

By Janis Faye Hutchinson | Go to book overview

antithetical perspective. My 1980 and 1991 reviews of educational film holdings in this and other public school districts reveal that despite the fact that Africa is now a continent of independent nations, accurate portrayals of this reality remain virtually absent from the contemporary images of the continent to which U.S. schoolchildren are exposed.

As a result of the dearth of accurate and sensitive educational media about Africa and the African Diaspora, teachers must bear what may seem to be more than their share of the responsibility for offering effective education. The recommended actions and approaches suggested in this chapter are quite general and are intended primarily to help begin the reorientation of attitudes that is one of the biggest contributors to positive learning. Such efforts could go a long way in helping teachers first to expand their own worldviews and, by exension, to convey to students an appreciation for other peoples of the worlda goal that many educational planners reputedly view as desirable, while obviously condoning the use of instructional aids that do the contrary. Thus, the major task for teachers is to work to actualize the idealized principles that school districts proclaim, but as this educational media analysis suggests they are falling sorely short of this objective.


NOTES
1
When some participants at the Images of Africa Conference resolved to lodge a formal complaint with film and television producers and distributors about the continued projection of Tarzan films, many conferees thought the idea of such a protest anachronistic in an era in which most of Africa was constituted of independent nations. During the two years following the conference, however, two new Tarzan films were released. In a continuation of America's most consistent cinematic denigration of Africans -- and by extension, of all people of African ancestry -- Tarzan films continue to be shown on television.
2
Adjaye further contends that in recent years the media have overemphasized those African nations that are periodically drought-stricken giving an uninformed public the impression that famine and starvation are representative of the continent. Thus creating yet another overly generalized, unrepresentative, and distressing image of Africa has been created.
3
A major issue of which teachers and everyone else concerned about accurate education concerning Africa and the African Diaspora should be aware is that there already exists a substantial body of critical and constructive literature concerning the topic. The reference list accompanying this chapter serves as a guide for teachers in that it includes references to critiques and reviews of existing materials, guidelines, and criteria for evaluating mateirals, and sources of further information. The 1990 Rockefeller report, for example, in addition to its own findings and references to literature about the topic, includes the addresses of university-based Africa Outreach Programs that have as their mission the goal of helping educate the public about the continent.

-45-

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