Misconceptions Of African American Life

.. till fresh in the minds of most Americans – the depression ridden early 1940s – an African American gentleman named Gordon Parks set out to use his camera as a way to expose the evils of racism, the evils of poverty, the discrimination and the bigotry, “by showing the people who suffered most under it. Although he had experienced racial discrimination outside the South, it was in the southern city of Washington, D.C., that Parks found out what prejudice was really like. In 1942, an opportunity to work for the Farm Security Administration brought Gordon to the United States Capitol on a fellowship for the study of the south deemed ” a fund set up for exceptionally able spooks and white crackers. by a white “friend”.

Nevertheless, he ignored this stereotype and took advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to explore his photographic talents in a city where discrimination and bigotry were worse there than any place he [I] had yet seen. Upon his arrival in Washington D.C., Mr. Parks was sent around the capital city in order to familiarize himself with the city’s culture and to scout out photo opportunities. He was initially instructed to study the works of photographers who had also used discrimination as their subject, but found fault with the way the subject matter was portrayed and viewed. He felt that what people attribute the suffering of immigrants and minorities in the photographs of the Depression and World War II time period in America is wrong and that they are being vastly miseducated in thinking that the suffering was caused by God and the uncontrollable. Parks pointed out that the research accompanying these stark photographs accused man himself–especially the lords of the land.

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and he set out on a fervent journey in order to show the rest of the world what the [your] great city of Washington, D.C. is really like. Gordon Park’s quest lead him to Ella Watson, a middle aged African-American woman employed by the White House as a cleaning lady. Her chief responsibilities included the cleaning and maintenance of a posh White House office occupied by a white woman of her same age and educational background. Seeing this blatant display of hypocrisy of the United State’s creed of “justice and freedom for all” in the nation’s capitol of all places, Gordon used Ms. Watson as the subject for an intensely moving photographic layout entitled “U.S.

Government Charwoman.” One of these such pictures of Ms. Watson standing between two upright brooms in front of an American flag in the White House was shown in class and caught my attention. The reason for my curiosity was the way in which Gordon Parks manipulated the background, props, and Ella herself in order to portray a vividly clear image of the miseducation of the American masses. With the American Flag being hung on a wall backwards behind Ms. Watson, the photograph relays a sense of unintentional, yet intentional wrong-doing.

The fact that the flag is backwards and appears blurry as well signifies the fact that African-Americans were being treated as second class citizens in a country where everyone was supposed to be equal. I believe that Parks is attempting to expose the truth behind what many white Americans believe to be “justice.” In his portrayal, it is not meant “for all”, but for a privileged race of Caucasians who have black people to clean up after them. While slavery may be illegal at this time, the actual truth that Gordon was exposing showed just the opposite, but in a different light. Standing between an upright broom and a mop, Watson, like many African-American citizens in the 1940s, was enslaved in a way to a life that left her few options but to be a maid for the upper crust. This was viewed as acceptable by the majority, but Gordon Parks’s work shows the African-American population as virtual slaves, entrapped by their immobility in both the social and career arena.

By placing Ms. Watson between the cleaning tools and in front of a blurry backwards flag, Gordon Parks used his camera to shed light on the inherent suffering and second-class citizenship of African-Americans. He touched upon a lifestyle accepted by blacks at that time as all they could do, and by whites at that time as what miseducation taught as “justice for all.” For my final example about the inherent miseducation of the American masses, I’d like to recollect a scene viewed in class from Spike Lee’s movie “School Daze” which provided a much more recent (1980s) visualization on the influence of white miseducation on African American females. In this dramatically staged scene of dueling groups of young collegiate women arguing over who has “better hair”, I believe that Spike Lee sought out to portray a much deeper point than simple vanity. With the girls with supposedly “good” hair sporting gray sweatshirts with giant “W”‘s on them and having long and carefully styled and colored heads of hair, he attempted to show how the white influence has miseducated these girls into thinking that these looks (inherently stemming from the styling used by white females) are to be considered “better” than their counterparts with the “naturally” styled or “kinky” African American hair. This bold statement by these women in turn prompts the other rival group of girls to poke fun at these girls as white “wanna-be’s” who should want to show the natural beauty of their hair without extensions, styling products, or artificial color.

The scene basically pits one racial stereotype of “better” or “best” hair and style onto another as these collegiate women sing back and forth “Go on and stare, see if I care, good or bad hair!”, and argue over the separatism of black and white influence on hair on African-American women. While no clear cut “winner” emerges from Spike Lee’s theatrics, the point is made that a white over-influence does indeed exist in the judging of “beauty” in the African American women in this movie. They are to view white style as the “better” style, and that in turn serves as the unnecessary basis for all of their styling comparisons. All in all, each of these African American artists brilliantly depict that fact that “miseducation” cannot be looked upon as any one race’s problem, nor can it only be one race’s explanation. Rather, the misunderstandings and stereotypical actions by or against African Americans by white Americans must be thoroughly examined from both sides as they are equally deep-rooted among each group.

In addition, I personally feel that with more and more of these investigations of the miseducation of the races can lead to a better understanding of each. It is not just the fact of the acknowledging the existence of miseducation that will help people to understand African Americans better and more realistically. It is up to both whites and blacks alike to make conscious efforts to ignore stereotypes and seek only truths in answering questions about the races. If the problem of miseducation is not properly addressed equally by all sides, the problem can never be fully understood or solved. Miseducation benefits no one.

It harms all involved by spreading unsubstantiated opinions for norms or forcing actions based upon fear and ill will. Truth is hidden, and innocent people get hurt or mislead in the process. It is up to today’s younger generations of American citizens to wake up, realize the vast racial miseducation that currently exists, and start treating others with the dignity and respect earned automatically in their being born human beings. American History.


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