March 3, 2011

GQ sponsors discussion on stereotypes in film

When people think of racist movies they might think of black face. They might not think of Chris Tucker or Jar Jar Binks, though all three came up during writing coordinator for the TRIO program, Paul Marasa’s, “Race in Media” lecture.
Marasa’s talk, which was put on by Gentlemen of Quality, focused on African American stereotypes that can be found in films from the 20th century and the contemporary era. These stereotypes include the smiling slave, “Tom,” or the domineering “Sapphire.”
He called these archetypes “caricatures” because many of them are “exaggerated versions of the self.” Although some of the traits exhibited by the caricatures can be found in African Americans and every other human being, when these traits become the character’s entirety, they slide into stereotype territory.
“I’m really glad I came,” freshman Tia Watkins said. “A lot of things connected that I never really thought of.”
For each caricature, Marasa showed a fitting image from a classic film, and then a corresponding image from the modern era.
One of the most reviled racist images is the coon, a red-lipped, big-eyed, bumbling idiot that is often portrayed by the black face comedians during minstrelsy in the early part of the 20th century. Some people consider the coon the most demeaning image, since it’s putting African Americans at the level of animals—the name “coon” comes from raccoon.
Although this is the most offensive caricature, it can still be found in modern society. Jar Jar Binks, the dreadlocked Jamaican-accented character in episodes one through three of the “Star Wars” saga, is considered a coon by many, despite his alien appearance. Lecture attendees also drew a correlation between the coon and Chris Tucker because he often bumbles through films as the token black sidekick.
GQ held the talk to “promote multiculturalism on campus,” according to senior Yohan Chang, president of GQ.
“Regardless of what happens [at the talk], the discussions are important.”
Even Chang was surprised by the talk. “I didn’t know that there were so many terms describing so many types of caricatures,” he said. “It was really eye-opening.”
Next term, GQ hopes to put on a fundraiser to raise awareness of and funds for the poor in Galesburg, like last year’s Hip-Hop for Hunger benefit.
Most of the images Marasa used came from Ferris State College’s Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at .

Paige Anderson
Paige Anderson is a junior double majoring in computer science and creative writing. This is her second year as co-Mosaic editor. Outside of TKS, Paige has written for Knox’s Office of Communications and for her high school newspaper; her in-depth work won a third-place medal in the Redwood Empire Excellence in Journalism Awards competition. Paige will intern at Amazon during the summer of 2013.

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