He who controls the past commands the future.
He who commands the future conquers the past.
"History is written by the winners." -George
It's commonly understood that history is written
by the winners. Less understood is that the winners also get to define imagery.
Imagery is a cognitive process that allows
us to "see" mental images. What we see
is based on our own experiences, especially if the
subject is a person, place or thing we're familiar
with. Imagery of less familiar subjects might be
based on sources from outside our personal experience,
especially from popular culture. When we are thinking
about large groups of people categorized by such
characteristics as race, gender, age, or class,
imagery is very problematic. All too often imagery
of peoples is imbued with exaggerated physical,
behavioral, or cultural characteristics called stereotypes.
These oversimplified ideas are assigned to people
simply by their identification as belonging to that
group. In other words, we tend to lump large groups
of very diverse peoples together and then assign
the entire group individual characteristics. Stereotypes
can be both positive and negative, and can lead
to a form of bias called prejudice (an attitude), and even used to justify discrimination (an
Although there can sometimes be small amounts of
truth in stereotypes, they are not accurate representations.
Beginning in the early Nineteenth Century, popular
culture produced by the wealthy White society fabricated
non-Whites by using such things as literature, theater,
engravings, prints, paintings, cartoons, Victorian
trade cards, dime novels, household products, advertising,
movies, radio and television shows, comic books, postcards,
souvenirs, and children's books, toys, and games.
Sometimes their stereotyping is so common that they
can be recognized as caricatures and given
names. The creation of these caricatures was both
intentional and unintentional, and most people didn't
even notice it was happening. This latter point
explains why these caricatures are still very
much with us today. They evolve over time, maybe
becoming a little less obvious, but they rarely
die off completely, and new ones are constantly
being created. Unfortunately, we all base our behaviors
towards others on some level of stereotyping, often
with hurtful and destructive results. Sometimes
even the peoples being caricatured believe the stereotypes
because they too have been influenced with them.
Sometimes we even do it to ourselves.
This section of the Authentic History Center
will attempt to educate you about the ongoing history
of racial stereotyping. Some of the items you'll
see are disturbing. When viewing others, you'll
probably puzzle over what's inappropriate about
them. Still others you'll see as not being problematic
at all. Items with varying degrees of stereotyping
are included to encourage thought and discussion.
Some of you will try to distance yourselves from
the harm in these images by giving excuses for them.
For that reason, consider reading Common Excuses Used to Justify Stereotyping before continuing into the collection.