Video Blog Assignment: In groups of two or three, produce a creative 1- 3min web video that challenges and/or demonstrates resistance towards some of the negative representations of women of color’s bodies online.
Here is my group’s analysis and response to racist discourse and how new media tackles it!
Discussing the topic of stereotypes and internalized racism has allowed me to realize my experiences with narrow-minded commentary on my ethnicity. As an Asian-American and more specifically an Afghan-American, I have been commonly told that I look Hispanic. This becomes problematic when the response to my true ethnicity is look of surprise, denial or confusion. Numerous times I have had that uncomfortable conversation with people (who share the reaction mentioned above) in regards to my ethnicity. I respond by explaining how my appearance is common within my ethnic community and that just like any other ethnic group we have very diverse features. We not have one static identity. That leads me to think what they expected me to be…darker? Wearing what the west has deemed as the oppressive burqa? Some people confuse my explaining with antagonism and ease off the subject. But my awkward and mostly ineffective ways at explaining the diversity among my ethnic community gets answered with “…ok. But you look Hispanic”. As my cousin once told an individual who commented that she did not look Afghan, “what did you expect? Someone with horns and a tail.”
I always wondered if the common reaction to my ethnicity is rooted to the concept of internalized racism. Through the media, especially the news, these geographic regions have been the face of poverty, war, oppression and anti-American sentiment. Seen as those who have not adopted “liberal individualism” and the capitalist culture that the West has, is a root source which stereotypes form. The dichotomy of the East vs. West rhetoric which leads to prejudgments is critically analyzed by Edward Said’s critical analysis of Orientalism and the cultural ideas that formed its foundation. Being non-western in the west there is a desire to assimilate or “pass” as a privileged citizen in order to avoid being stereotyped. I was even once told that it might be a good thing that I could pass as Hispanic in order to avoid being harassed (especially during the post 9/11 against Afghans, Arab, Muslims and other groups blamed for starting the War on Terror).
Nadine Naber, my favorite writer on gender and cultural politics also exemplifies the stereotypical portrayal of non-westerners. She delves into how imperialist racism has constructed the identity of the Orient as “uncivilized” and “backwards”. The generalized, artificial attributions created by colonial European forces have been and are being portrayed by media and other cultural envoys ever since the Crusades! The “othering” of marginalized ethnic groups in society enforces the desire of assimilation as an attempt to resist the stereotypical representations of ourselves by the culture defining us.
Other resources that draw on the theme of this blog post!
Bell hooks’ Killing Rage is a must read
Watch the film Amreeka by Cherien Dabis which draws on the 9/11 backlash stimulated by prejudiced stereotypes of Arab Americans
Watching the video Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls brought a refreshing illustration of internalized racism. Out of the many common series of “Shit Girls Say” videos pouring on the internet, Franchesca Ramsey nails the hardly discussed racist comments towards people of color. This video should make you uneasy about the interpretations and stereotypes made for being a person of color. Through TV shows such as Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne”, these stereotypes placed on people of color are exaggerated and the media used to represent people of color are limited. As fellow blogger Kerishma Panigrahi pointed out, “no ethnic group is a monolith, yet the media insists on representing them in that way.” Racial diversity in the media has a long way to go.
bell hooks in her chapter “Black Beauty and Black Power” examines the solution that black activists developed against internalized racism. By creating a movement of “self-love” in the 70’s, black activism worked on interpreting black as empowering and going against the color caste hierarchy which lauded and gave privileges for having lighter features (122). An example of the revolutionary and politicized practice that halted in this movement was the use of chemical straighteners among women of color. Detaching away from the traditionally racist interpretation of natural hair being deviant among women of color, the natural texture of hair was more commonly worn and seen as a political and social effort to destigmatize the offensive attachments labeled on it. This form of reclaiming racial integrity can allow us to move forward from what is deemed beautiful and strip away the deviance assigned non-whites in society. The idea that the body that one was given at birth is not good enough is disproportionately adopted among women of color.
hooks also illuminates the problem that arose with the process of assimilation among people of color into mainstream society. Referring to this practice as “embracing liberal individualism”, she expands on how this worked to weaken black activism on beauty standards after the civil rights movement. Although people of color were “free” to choose how they wanted to carry themselves, especially in the aesthetics sense, it did not stop the self-policing and internalized culture against racist notions of beauty and the self. With current TV media discourse failing to positively shape our perspectives on beauty norms which connect to self-awareness and self-love, we can place our faith in cyber media and independent artists to encourage racial diversity.
Fifty Shades of Black- Huffington Post live