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African Americans and Americans who aren't often see things in fundamentally different ways as the recent diaries about certain representations of President Obama made clear.

And people over a certain age and people under a certain age also won't see things the same way.

Movie director, Spike Lee, made a movie over a decade ago called "Bamboozled." It was about minstrelsy -- the exaggerated impersonation of African Americans for entertainment, which was a mainstay of mainstream media from it infancy,

"Bamboozled" is a great but imperfect film. The sequences recreating minstrelsy are brilliant. The story they are embedded in is less than brilliant.

But one of the most brilliant things Lee did was to start the film with a montage of mainstream film images of African Americans.

This montage is what mainstream television was like before the mid 1960s. Yes, watch this and realize: This is how black Americans were represented on television. This is what black children the age of Barack Obama watched on television.

It's kind of unfortunate that because these representations are now unacceptable, you don't see them and younger people don't realize that this is what the mainstream media was like. We have purged and censored our media of what our media was like.

But any person of color over the age of about 45 will remember that this is how we were represented day after day on television until a few reformers introduced new images. By the late 1960s, there was the TV series "Julia," about a single mom, a nurse, played by Diahann Carroll. Allegedly she had to be single because America wasn't ready for a black family, and especially not for a black man. There was the communications officer of the Star Ship Enterprise, Lieutenant Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols. Then there was the ground breaking sitcom about a Queens, New York bigot, Archie Bunker, created by Norman Lear, in which the Bunkers had a black family as neighbors, the Jeffersons, who eventually got their own spin off sitcom.

But this is no joke or exaggeration.

Spike Lee got it right.

This is what black people looked like on television before Diahann Carroll, Nichelle Nichols and The Jeffersons.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks. a graphic of reminder... eom (6+ / 0-)

    "Only a Vulcan mind meld will help with this congress." Leonard Nimoy, 3/1/13

    by nzanne on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 04:20:20 PM PDT

  •  There are advantages to having been too poor (7+ / 0-)

    to go to the movies or have a TV.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 04:22:25 PM PDT

  •  it was so ugly back then and the way people talked (5+ / 0-)

    ...they are starting to talk that way in the open again and it scares me.

    "It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment." *Ansel Adams* ."Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."*Will Rogers*

    by Statusquomustgo on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 04:23:36 PM PDT

  •  So, how is this relevant today? n/t (0+ / 0-)

    "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

    by shrike on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 04:25:49 PM PDT

    •  I think a lot of younger people (8+ / 0-)

      really have no idea how bad it was in the relatively recent past. Never hurts to educate them.

      •  Agree. Although, IMHO, not necessarily just (5+ / 0-)

        "younger" people.

        I'm in my 7th decade & still being educated about how bad it was and still is.

        The first film representation of an African American that I watched was The Imitation of Life (circa 1959).  

        It was also the first time that I had even seen an African American

        It would be another 5 or 6 years before I attended school with an African American & another decade before seeing a few in the community.  

        When I moved to the south in the '80's, there were no African Americans in the area I lived.  Zero-none.  

        Freaked me out.  My kiddos were repeating my own childhood experience & not by design.  

        One of the first African American families to move into the area happened to purchase a home in our neighborhood a few years later.  

        Although never discussed, it could not have been easy for this family.  Especially since some neighbors had a freak out about "home values" which totally p% me off.

        My kiddos became & remain best friends of the kiddos of this family.  Fortunately, things have changed in that the area has become much more diverse & my grandkiddos are only familiar with diversity.

        Probably a lot of different gens with similar experiences that could use some enlightenment.

    •  dispells ingnorance and (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kaliope, Lying eyes

      explains why some seemingly relatively innocuous acts are deeply wounding to Black people. They have symbolic and historical meaning.

      People don't get the impact when they don't know the history.

      On DK a few months ago for example a younger person was asking how it's different putting on Blackface on Halloween to portray a Black musician (that one admires) is at any way harmful or different than dressing up (hair, clothes) to be someone else on Halloween. Or why it was different than putting on Clown makeup. Actually am being too nice, the person didn't wonder. They insisted they knew it was fine.

      Turned out they DID NOT UNDERSTAND the history. So they dismissed complaints.

      This is very common. People dismiss member's of minority power communities (Not Christian, Not Male, Not White Not Straight, currently in the US) complaints sometimes as "being forced to be PC" or "making a big deal out of nothing" or "being oversensitve" when, I see, they really do not understand the history or why it hurts.

      Those that do not have any part of who they are as being in a historically less powerful group especially have it harder becuase they haven't experienced being a minority in any dimension, it' s a bigger stretch.

      All I can say is that when members of a minority group are bothered by something it does not mean they are just wanting attention or making a mountain out of a molehill. In all cases I"ve seen, it's because what is being done or said HURTS because of the history.

      Happens on the left with Jews and some over the line stuff even here on DK when talking about Israel/Palestine, for example. Hard to complain about the over the line stuff...you are just "oversensitive".

      Sorry there' s history.

  •  That was difficult to watch, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, Lujane, kaliope

    But worth it.

    Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

    by Loge on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 05:00:04 PM PDT

  •  Never knew they had roller skates (0+ / 0-)

    in the 1850's.

    Ps.  Thanks for this.

    "If you tell the truth, you'll eventually be found out." Mark Twain

    by Steven D on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 06:11:03 PM PDT

  •  Apologies to everyone who read or responded (0+ / 0-)

    It was weird -- as soon as I posted this, I had huge connectivity problems. I couldn't view the video and wasn't sure it was embedded, and then I just lost web connectivity altogether.

    Didn't mean to do a drive by.

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