Creating a Stereotype of a Race as Dangerous, Unintelligent, and Lazy: Examining Consequences of Cultural and Psychological Conditioning in America

Creating a Stereotype of a Race as Dangerous, Unintelligent, and Lazy: Examining Consequences of Cultural and Psychological Conditioning in America

Benson G. Cooke (University of the District of Columbia, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3843-1.ch001
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The cultural conditioning and the indoctrination of negative stereotypes about racial groups has a long-damaged history in America. Unfortunately, this history continues to keep racial groups divided and missed opportunities to trust one another and grow closer socio-economically, educationally and politically. Individual, institutional and structural racism has kept people in this nation torn and divided socially and psychologically. Understanding the root of this problem requires an honest and open historical and philosophical discussion about the similarities of our human origins before the destructive lies told continue to sustain deep divisions among one group against another. While America was created to support an idea that “all men are created equal”, this has not been a social experience practiced by all men and all women. This chapter examines some of the issues that continue to support the stereotypes of racial differences juxtaposed to our cultural similarities.
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Africa is in a profound sense the fount of human evolution.

- Ian Tattersall

For history, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do…And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror, one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is, and formed one’s point of view. In great pain and terror, because, thereafter, one enters into battle with that historical creation, oneself.

- James Baldwin

The association between socioeconomic status and race in the United States has its origins in discrete historical events but persists because of contemporary structural factors that perpetuate those historical injustices.

- Camara Phyllis Jones


The Problem With Black1 People Is…

How is it that in the 21st century African American’s are frequently and more often than not erroneously perceived by some law enforcement personnel, or right-wing media outlets, radio or news pundits, bloggers or right-wing extremists or even neighbors as dangerous, unintelligent or lazy? Mis-educated rhetoric that supports bigotry, prejudice and intolerance, which in turn espouses an ideology over fact only reinforces racism, sexism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and religism2 (i.e., religious intolerance). These misconceptions have been propagated from family conversations, mis-educated oratory and written accounts reinforced by lies. Within each society, this dogma is exposed in racially divisive children’s books, movies, or contemporary radio and television shows passed down from one generation to the next. The longevity of these falsehoods has been driven by ignorance and constructed to stoke fear of the unknown through irrational ideas and outrageous beliefs that become culturally conditioned into hatred without knowing the soul of the person. Subsequently, that person becomes the object of their hate. Accordingly, early American speeches, books, religious sermons, theatrical performances, songs and conversations would play a role in setting the foundation that would become a culture of falsehoods and misconceptions regarding race, ethnicity, gender, class and religious practice.

Probably the most poignant propaganda used by slave holders and Southern aristocrats to validate, culturally manipulate and maintain psychological control of enslaved Africans, as well as to justify their atrocities was their self-serving misinterpretations of biblical scripture. While the “biblical world predated any systematic notion of races and theories of racism” (Felder, 2002, p. 43), efforts to interpolate ideas for the purpose of authorizing and empowering human domination acts were not uncommon in America. One example of biblical interpolation of scripture used to mistreat and keep enslaved Africans docile and under the yoke of human bondage and trafficking were the so-called biblical references conveying the belief that Black people were cursed. Therefore, they owed a debt to their capturers for rescuing them as “the descendants of Ham” and from being “cursed by being Black and are sinful with a degenerate progeny” (Felder, 2002, p. 13-14). Ostensive, there is no scholarly or layperson reference that confirms this as a biblical fact. Felder posits that:

Proslavery jurists argued that in order for the slave to remain a slave, he or she must be convinced that the master’s power is in no way usurped: “[Slavery] is conferred by the laws of man at least, if not by the law of God.” Obedience and submission to the master—self-designated as “God overseer”—were synonymous with “exhibiting good Christian character.” In short, blacks could be “saved by Christ,” but never “free from their masters.” (Felder, 1991, p. 215)

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