Stereotype Images of African American
I did not give much thought about the stereotype images of African American portrayed in American culture except that I knew black people used to play the role of violent law-offender and dumb people in the early movies or books lots of years ago, because honestly even I, as a foreigner to the United States, could tell that media industry nowadays has changed dramatically and would never dare to do so ever again. I noticed publications and productions have been extremely careful with their political correctness and not being suggested as discriminating. They try to assign roles almost race-blindly, always making sure there are some black people at the executive board meeting, or the one who contributes the fatal idea is the black guy. Therefore, I did not think there was a problem with current media industry until I read Americanah. Just how every black person is depicted as very strong, wise and calm is not right. The perfect example is (about half of) the roles Morgan Freeman played, what Adichie called “a Magic Negro”: “The black man who is eternally wise and kind. He never reacts under great suffering, never gets angry, is never threatening. He always forgives all kinds of racist shit. He teaches the white person how to break down the sad but understandable prejudice in his heart” (Adichie 398). Also, Alice Walker in her essay In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, also talks about the stereotype of specifically black women in American culture: “Black women are called, in the folklore that so aptly identifies one’s status in society, ‘the mule of the world’…We have also been called ‘Matriarchs’, ‘Superwomen,’ and ‘Mean and Evil Bitches’” (Walker 405). I found their descriptions very accurate because as I flashed back to all the films I have watched and the African Americans in them, I found the majority of them to be the “Magic Negro” and superwomen. But why? We all know nobody in real life is like this. We all have our own anger and fragileness. Is it because America does not feel confident enough to tell the real life of the black people living here in fear of controversy? Or is it because the media only feels safe when they are praising a certain race? If a country is scared to show the way people are in reality, then obviously there is a problem.
Another aspect of the problem with the common image of black people is the way all black women look. Again, I did not give much thought to this before reading Americanah, but I could not help myself thinking about it during reading the novel because it is throughout the story — the hair style of black women. The more I dig into it, the more surprised I was that I had never realized it — ninety nine percent, if not all, of the black women appeared on screen in the U.S. have straightened out their natural hair, and “style” it to the fashionable way, including coloring it, curling it into the Caucasian type of curl, etc. While nothing is wrong with dying the hair to other colors, also nothing should be wrong with keeping the natural color and style of the hair. This rule should apply to all races. And it reminded me of that one time when one of my high school classmate went to school with her hair “Afro” looking, everyone asked her what was wrong, and it just occurred to me now that how sad it was that people thought if a black girl wears her hair natural then something unusual has happened.