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Research paper topic: Misconceptions Of African American Life - 1286 words
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Misconceptions Of African American Life "When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his proper place and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door. He will go without being told.
In fact, if there is no back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary." This quote, spoken true by a prominent African American scholar of the 20th century, Carson Woodson, is aimed at shedding light on the inherent miseducation of African Americans. His beliefs that controlling one's thinking with such a powerful grasp that allows little or no movement will lead to that individual behaving as he is expected is a very justifiable point. If time and time again, one is told to do certain things or believe certain things as "right", then with constant repetition and enforcement, widespread belief and acceptance of this idea or practice will become the norm. A people that is consistently taught or treated a certain way may at some point begin to accept it "right." However, in many cases what may be deemed "right" by some is not necessarily the "right" thing to do.
This theory can not be any more prominent than in the case of African Americans, who have long endured hundreds of years of discriminatory practices based solely upon their race and origins. Dating back to the days of slavery, these are a people that out of prejudice, out of expectations, out of fear, have often come to view the white man's way as the "right" way either by choice or by having no other choice. In the process, however, their very own culture, beauty, beliefs, traditions, etc., often get trampled upon or even forgotten as they either struggle to keep up or struggle to stay up. More then not, though, this "brainwashing" of sorts results in a "miseducation" of the African-American people that often leads to widespread misunderstandings about them. These misunderstandings can then lead to various forms of stereotypes aimed against African-Americans by whites or other non African Americans picked up along the way due to incomplete knowledge about their history which inherently also hurt those making these false assumptions.
Times are changing, however, and with these evolutionary years comes a greater sense of struggle to understand. This struggle comes both from within the African-American community to find out more about themselves sans Caucasian undertones, and also from groups such as whites to attempt to designate stereotypes from truths. The vast majority of aids in this process, however, come from African American scholars, writers, poets, film-makers, etc., who have set out to expose the "miseducation of the Negro" into believing and acting upon forced actions or opinions and to learn the truths behind their actual heritage. Four works that susinctly bring the "miseducation" about African American history into the spotlight of the national public are Claude McKay's "The Lynching", Harriet Jacob's "Incidents in the Life of A Slavegirl", Gordon Park's "Washington D.C. Charwoman", and Spike Lee's "School Daze." All four works illustrate a common thread of the misconception of African-American life by blacks themselves, as well as Caucasians around them, that has been carried intact through many a generations in the history of the United States. The earliest example that I would like to call attention to is Claude McKay's poem entitled "The Lynching." In my opinion, this poem addresses the commonly held misconceptions of both blacks and whites against African Americans during the period of slavery in the U.S. In terms of the miseducation of African Americans, the author uses the line of "The awful sin remained still unforgiven" to insinuate that being born black was considered by him and other African Americans at that time to be a sin or something to be ashamed of. He blames this African American man's death on "Fate's wild whim" and never once blames the racist white males who most likely lynched him for no good reason, nor does he seem to express anger towards them.
This poem shows the "miseducation of the Negro" in that it has the author writing about what he witnessed as virtually an everyday occurrence that is accepted in the natural cycle of life and death. It shows that the author may very well believe these to be truths, and illustrates the absolute brainwashing of African American slaves into viewing this man's lynching death as somewhat normal or even expected. On the other hand, it also shows the ignorance and the miseducation of the white race towards African Americans. The line reading, "The women thronged to look, but never a one showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue.", clearly shows how white women view this occurrence as "normal" as well, and show no remorse for an obviously brutal crime. They accept this as what's "right" and view the hanging corpse as if it was an obstacle put on stage for their pure amusement.
In addition, the "little lads, lynchers that were to be" that dance " round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee" in Claude McKay's poem show how this miseducation of whites against blacks is instilled in an early age. The fact that young children would be exposed to a hanging corpse is preposterous in itself, but the fact that they see this black man's lynching death as funny or good creates adults down the line that continue with the same form of brutish and miseducated behavior. Also in line with this same slavery-ridden period in American history is Harriet Jacob's autobiographical story of "Incidents in the Life of A Slavegirl." This work shows yet again the miseducation of both the white masses into thinking that slavery driven force and treatment was justifiable and the miseducation of the African Americans at that time who didn't know any better than to accept that lifestyle as the norm. This chronicle in the life of a slave girl with the pen name of "Linda" takes the reader on a fascinating, yet horrifying, journey of someone trapped into believing that she must live her life as a slave and run away from being "owned" by another human being. However, Ms.
Jacob's rebels and escapes a life of direct servitude to the ferocious Dr. Flynt and to a life not much better, living in a garage roof for over 7 years. The African-Americans she encounters along the way show their brainwashed "miseducation" in the way they implore her not to run away and stay with the Flynts because it will just be easier and better for her. They adopt the white man's view that this is the black girl's place, and what she must live with. They have no choice, however, because they live in constant fear of even the littlest form of self-defense or indignation.
In addition, the whites in Ms. Jacob's story are miseducated as well into thinking that Linda's only place in life is with them as a servant to the family. They are completely ignorant of the girls actual needs or feelings, and cannot understand how she could ever actually desire or expect to live on her own with her own family. They show little sincere compassion, and offer no compassion towards Linda that wasn't calculated or planned for their personal benefit in some form or another. The children did as they saw their elder relatives did, and Linda's search got passed down from generation to generation as the miseducation of the white race against the innocence and actual humanity of the African American race.
Moving ahead into a time period s ...
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