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African American Male Stereotype Essay


Discuss the origins and meaning of any one stereotype of black men (The Brute, Sambo, Uncle Tom, the Coon, the Thug, the Gladiator). Include in your answer, the impact this image has had on either the treatment or identity development of black men.

In United States lots of races are stereotyped against but African Americans are one of the most frequent racial groups stereotyped against. One of the most common and damaging stereotype against African American is that all black males are brutes. The brute stereotype portrays black men as dangerous criminals. This is a problem we have been facing in America for over a century and there are no signs that this issue is getting better. The media still keeps on portraying this false image that all black males are violent dangerous criminals and nowadays there are even video games that are about black males going around killing and robbing people. This stereotype has a major impact on how black men view themselves and more importantly how the rest of society views and treat them.

To get a better understanding of why United States views black males as brutes we would have to look at its origin. At first blacks were not seen as brutes, during slavery African Americans was viewed as docile and virtuously harmless. It was not until the Radical Reconstructive period when slavery was abolished that black were seen as brutes. White’s southerners argued that without slavery blacks would revert to “criminal savagery”. Writer Thomas Nelson said that the “good old darkies” have been replace with blacks born after slavery who he described as dishonest, disrespectful and drunks. Nelson also published Red Rock a novel about Moses a black man who tries to rape white women he is then executed for his “terrible crime”. At this anti-black propaganda was flooding the streets in local newspaper, books, scientific journals all labeling blacks as brutes. There were even movies made called The Birth of Nation that depicts African Americans “rapist beast”. This is the how the stereotype that blacks are brutes originated.

Due to this stereotype that labeled African Americans as brutes they were severely mistreated. According to the o Tuskegee Institute data 3,437 blacks were lynched in United States from 1882 to 1951 90 percent of them took place in the south. Lynching involves amputation, burning, shooting and hanging done by a white mob. Southerners knew lynching was evil but believed that black brutes were more evil. Many whites argued that lynching was necessary in preserving the purity of the white race. However 25.3 percent of black that was charged with rape was not guilty. An example would be when 14 year old Emmett Till was visiting his relatives in Mississippi was beaten and tortured to death because he supposedly called a white women “baby”. Although things are not as bad as the use to be African Americans are still being treated different because of the false stereotype that say all black males are violent criminals. In the article The War on Drugs through The Wire the author states that the war on drugs was not about drugs but about who was using them. Independent studies show that both blacks and whites use and sell drugs at similar rates, it’s the response that’s different about 37 percent of African Americans who dropped out of high school was incarcerated in 2008. This shows the disparity in our criminal justice system they even call this mass incarceration of African Americans the new Jim Crow law, this is a consequence of the “war on drugs”.

Not only does this negative stereotype cause the mistreatment for blacks it affects the way black male view themselves. Due to the stereotype that all black males are dangerous criminals it has led African American in a vicious never ending cycle one black male gets locked up and that another child growing up without proper guidance so he himself might follow the same footsteps as his father and end up in prison. This stereotype also causes others who are not black to fear African Americans. In Byron Hurt documentary Gail Dines said the scariest thing to a white person is an African American. An example would be when that unidentified man said when he was walking to his mother car a white lady grabbed her purse went to the opposite sidewalk just so she could grab a quarter for the meter. However there are some black males who are embracing this brute stereotype and benefiting. Mike Tyson is a prime example he has a reputation for being the world’s most ruthless man and he even bit the ear off an opponent. Tyson is quoted saying “I am an animal. I am a convicted rapist, a hell-raiser, a loving father, a semi-good husband.” Also I believe the whole hip-hop industry embraces this stereotype most of all rap songs talk about drugs, violence and sex reinforcing the negative sterotype that all blacks are brutes.

Pilgrims, D. (2000). The brute caricature
Balboni, J. The war on drugs through the wire looking glass. (pp. 189-203). Durham, Carolina Academic Press Hurt, B. (Producer) (2002). The black man in america [DVD].

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