Prof. Mark Karlins
January 29, 2008
Racism and Stereotypes: A Historical and Psychological Examination
In Spike Lee’s
Do the Right Thing
, five characters of different races turn directly
to the camera and angrily vociferate a long list of racial slurs about other ethnicities that,
in the end, leaves the viewer wondering what hit them.
One hears time old slanders and
massive generalizations, combined with new sounding stereotypes that everybody seems
What underlying commentary about race relations in America today did
Spike Lee have by including this upsetting, disturbing scene in the film?
that direction, why, despite the fact the stereotypes are often exceedingly untrue, do we
still hold onto them?
In this paper I will examine these questions through a historical and
psychological background, showing that despite all efforts to be accepting and
outreaching to people of other races, people still harbor a slew racist language that, under
extreme conditions, can be unleashed as self-defense.
Where do stereotypes even begin?
For this question, African American history
will serve as a good example.
During the slave period performances, there was a
distinction between how slaves would act when in public than how they behaved behind
closed doors, out of view from the master.
Public performances were always in the spirit
of happiness, full of instrument playing, dancing, singing, skits and smiles.
performances, however, expressed intellectual ideas rather than one feeling of joy.
example, slaves were consistently telling stories or fables with their body movements, as
they were not allowed to use their native language, that taught younger audiences virtues