Posts tagged Racism
Posts tagged Racism
This post was asking about a potential link between the afro-style wigs and big, painted lips of the modern clown and racist caricatures, so I decided to do what any good theatre history student would do - I did some research.
SPOILER ALERT: YUP, IT’S RACIST AS FUCK
From Janet M. Davis, The Circus Age: Culture & Society Under the American Big Top:
Some circus programs contained portraits of clowns in literal blackface, with huge red mouths and bulging eyes, strumming energetically on a banjo, but often the auguste clown’s blackface was metaphorical. He created his racial identity through the act of ‘‘whitening up’’ with thick pancake.
His greasy whiteness and exaggerated bodily zones—huge red mouth, lolling, paint-encircled eyes, big fake nose, ears, and feet—made his look strikingly similar to blackface. Showmen played upon this visual connection by arguing that African American men literally were clowns because of their supposed aﬃnity for clowning and the circus. The Ringling Bros.’ route book from 1895 and 1896 contained a section, ‘‘The Plantation Darkey at the Circus,’’ which imagined—in almost orgasmic language—black men as minstrel characters.
Proprietors further conﬂated the African American man and the clown by arguing that both were completely controlled by their emotions, not reason.
Superlative examples of white manhood—the big cat tamer, the wire walker, and so forth—demonstrated little emotion during life-threatening acts. The clown, by contrast, howled in mock fear when he saw a mouse, or shrieked in pain at a mosquito bite. Showmen characterized male African American spectators in a similar vein as giddy and superstitious.
Actual big-top acts made this rhetorical relationship between the clown and the African American complete. In 1888 Eph Thompson trained the elephant John L. Sullivan at the Adam Forepaugh circus. Wearing a boxing glove at the end of his trunk, the elephant sparred with Thompson in the ring and frequently ‘‘punched’’ him so hard that Thompson went ﬂying over the ring bank.
Unlike the white trainer who dominated powerful animals, Thompson played a clownish coward—constantly vanquished by the boxing pachyderm—and consequently remained unthreatening to Euroamerican audiences. Yet Thompson still had a diﬃcult time ﬁnding employment with American shows. As a result, he moved to Europe where his career ﬂourished.
In line with the tenets of nineteenth-century romantic racialism, show-men’s portrayals of black men and clowns reﬂected contemporary representations of white women: late-nineteenth-century scientists argued that ‘‘excessive’’ emotionalism deﬁned women, racial ‘‘savages,’’ and children of all races. The German Darwinist Ernst Haeckel and the Americans Edward Drinker Cope and G. Stanley Hall were all proponents of recapitulation theory, positing that every organism repeats the life history of its ‘‘race’’ within its own lifetime, evolving through the less developed forms of its ancestors on its path to maturity. They contended that Euroamerican women and ‘‘primitives’’ remained mentally and emotionally ﬁxed in lower ancestral stages of evolution. Accordingly, only white boys were physiologically and mentally capable of reaching the highest stages of racial and gender development as fully evolved men. This line of thought used pseudoempirical phrenological evidence to claim that African American men were perpetually emotional and juvenile, just like the clown.
The painted clown acted out childish behaviors and infantile pleasures. He reveled in dirt, cried freely, openly adored the serious ‘‘adult’’ acts, and played physical pranks on everybody, from ringmaster to the audience. If playing a hobo (popularized most fully by Emmett Kelly’s ‘‘Willie’’ tramp character during the Depression, when at times nearly one-quarter of the American workforce was unemployed), the auguste clown’s persona was deﬁned by dirt. Laughing loudly at the clown’s antics perhaps transported audiences back to the unrestrained pleasures of their own collective infancy and childhood.
More than a ‘‘low Other’’ who simply represented a tantalizing version of what they were not, the unfettered clown symbolized what clock-bound, alienated adult Euroamerican men perhaps felt they had lost.
Even the red noses have their origins in racist stereotypes.
From Mikita Brottman, Funny Peculiar: Gershon Legman and the Psychopathology of Humor:
While the Native American plains tribes had their own various manifestations of the Trickster figure, the main clown type of non-Native Americans was not the August, as it was in Europe, but the character clown… After the [Civil War] ended, however, one particular style of character clown came into prominence: the Hobo.
Eric Lott describes how the Hobo figure was originally based on the blackface minstrel clowns (hence the exaggerated white mouths) who portrayed the figures of African Americans made homeless by the ravages of the Civil War.
Lott explains that the Hobo character clown is a distinctly American invention, with his tattered hat, huge white mouth, three days’ growth of beard, torn clothes, and cartoon alcoholic’s big red nose. […] It seems ironic that such mawkishly appealing personalities had their roots in the miseries of poverty and oppression and the disfigurements of alcoholism and venereal disease.
Holy sht. I knew something was up when I compared the two photos! Something didn’t seem right… and i was right!
I never would have even thought to make that connection before I saw that post so thank you for giving me something to look into - I truly learn more from this website than I ever will in any class
huh. you really do learn something new every day.
minstrelsy was the first form of American national popular/mass culture - it’s the foundation for everything that came after it, including vaudeville, the circus, cartoons, everything. Eric Lott’s Love and Theft lays this out really well.
But how can this be? It’s 2012 and all racism has been magically gone for years! *sarcasm* This is honestly horrible. One day before their wedding the pastor says he refuses to perform the ceremony at their church because they’re black.
Mind you, this was the church they had been attending for years. The pastor wanted to perform the service & switched locale at the last minute to protect them from members of the congregation who were angry that a black couple might be married in “their” church.
by Bro. David Muhammad of 99Problems.org
1. Spooner was known by his neighbors, police, and local officials as a gun collector. In the past reported burglary, Spooner alleged that four shotguns were taken.
2. The police had already done an investigation several days prior of burglaries at Spooner’s residence, including an interview with Simmons’ family, concluding that no one in from his household was involved. Patricia Larry, Simmons’ mother, had only lived in the home for a month.
3. Spooner saw Alderman Bob Donovan, a casual acquaintance, at a restaurant earlier that morning, venting his anger at the police response to his home being burglarized, stating “there are other ways to deal with situations” that police couldn’t solve.
4. Simmons and his mother were taking out the garbage when, Spooner confronted and threatened Simmons. His mother attempted to verbally defend her son against the accusations when Spooner drew his 9mm.
5. Spooner shot Simmons with a 9mm handgun five feet away from him in the chest, in front of his mother.
6. Simmons was shot once in the chest with his hands raised. He ran to escape and collapsed at the corner, while Spooner attempted to shoot him in the back, and tried to fire a third shot.
7. After police arrived, Darius’s body remained on the sidewalk, while police questioned his mother, Patricia Larry, in a squad car for approximately two hours.
8. During the police investigation of the shooting, they searched Ms. Larry’s home again. Finding nothing, they then proceeded to arrest his older brother for having truancy tickets.
9. In contrast, Spooner’s family was allowed to go into the home and remove “items” despite it being the crime scene.
10. John Spooner was given a $300,000 bail, (only $30,000 would have to be posted for him to be free). This is uncommon when the charge is murder in the first degree.
You may ask, in a city with such high rates of violent crime, particularly among people of color, why this case matters?
In the same way that the Frank Jude case exposed the racist element of the Milwaukee Police Department, this tragedy reveals the pervasive mindset that sees black and brown youth as criminals, guilty until proven innocent. Already, the media has attempted to portray the confessed murderer as a sad victim of crime, who had enough and decided to take it out on the wrong person. For Milwaukee media, Spooner is being characterized as “Falling Down” versus “Menace II Society.”
A deeper look reveals that even the police showed more sympathy for the murderer than for the victim or his family. Even many in the black community, upon first hearing about it, summed it up as “Southside Milwaukee” racism; as though it was the fault of the mother for living across the viaduct from the predominately black north side.
The incident also exposes the deep segregation of Milwaukee’s urban communities. Many in the black community still do not travel across the viaduct that Father Groppi led marchers across in the ’60s. The 16th Street area is now the heart of the Hispanic community, with many African-Americans calling it home. It is worth noting, that it was the Southside Organizing Committee and Alderman Jose Perez, who came to aid the family, offering a sign of potential black and brown coalition building.
What is clear is that Spooner was a white hold out in a neighborhood that had turned Hispanic and black, two communities who suffer violence daily but still don’t generalize about its perpetrators. Spooner on the other hand, was armed to the teeth and, installed surveillance cameras, had a dog, and still didn’t feel safe. Perhaps he was more threatened that a black family had moved in, just one month earlier, automatically making a 13-year-old boy a suspect in his eyes.
Saw this yesterday on my way into work. See so many of them around this area, they sort of all blend together. But this one was just… literally too big to ignore. Ahhh white people.
The first dozen times I saw one of these was in my home state… of Michigan.
I shit you not, no one has ever told the white folks of the Mitten that we are not, and have never been a Confederate state.
Friend of mine from Canada tells me the rednecks up there fly it too.
Tradition and history… riiiiiiiiight…
I see it in Indiana all the time.
Trigger Warning for racial slur
Marketed to black people. If you were black in the early 1900’s…this is what you saw of yourself. #RageSigh
You know, since racism has apparently disappeared off the face of the earth and everyone who battles it is “just looking for a fight” (-__-), I thought I would try a little experiment.
Show this to the next person who claims black women invent problems with how they are portrayed and perceived.
I thought this was interesting so I looked up ones for hispanic, asian and white women. I also added a few words for black women and did the same. The ones that aren’t there for that ethnicity didn’t show up.
Let’s get some satirical laughs going on ….
“Why won’t you let me teach you?!!
Because you’re a white lady ….
What you think you gonna do? Inspire me, break through my tough
girl act and teach me the beauty that’s inside? ….”
MADTV definitely killed this ode to white savior films!
Because this always gets a reblog.
I am an educator. Not a teacher by training, profession, or plan; not compensated; rarely appreciated. But I educate. Mostly, I educate white people. I don’t have to do this, and I often resent doing so, and it comes at great personal cost. But life has taught me thus far that if I wish to be respected and understood as a whole human being, I must teach white people to see me as such. So, mostly, I do it for myself. And I do it for other people like me who lack the words, opportunity, energy, platform, or ability. I wrote this weekend about an unsettling exchange with a white, male authority figure. I took the risk of reporting a racial microaggression to him, in response to a recent request of his that I help elucidate the ways in which our academic environment is unwelcoming to students of color. In response, I was accused of sounding racist against white people, admonished to be more sensitive to white people, and requested to educate him at length about why and how the incident was offensive. This led to me feeling anxious, having my one day off this week marred by worry and apprehension, taking hours out of my time to find additional resources for him to read (focusing on scholarly articles so that he will be open to the ideas within them), writing and re-writing my thoughts with extreme care, concern that I would be reprimanded for speaking out, difficulty sleeping, second-guessing myself, and feeling unpleasantly vulnerable. Despite this, I am still engaged in an e-mail conversation with this man. Because the alternative is to let him go blissfully on ineffectively leading, teaching, and mentoring people of color in his sphere of influence. And it always comes down to this: someone’s gotta do it. I guess it has to be me.
Love to you.