"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Magical Negro

The flip side to the negative stereotypes, from Strange Horizons.

"These days, however, I don't think the Magical Negro's existence is so conscious. I hypothesize that the Magical Negro in film continues to live because a lot of the less savory beliefs about race are still in the American public's psyche. And because so much of art these days is commercial, the great machine needs to "give 'em what they know."

"[Stephen]King's Magical Negroes most often fit the stereotype of a person of color with mystical powers. According to general racial pigeonholes, people of color, especially blacks, are more primitive than whites. And because they are more primitive, they are more in tune with their primitive powers, the magic of the earth and spirits. One may see a lot of these assumptions with Native Americans, also. It is also this stereotype that the myths of the oversexed black woman and the well-endowed black man spring from, for to be primitive is often equated with being more sexual. The stereotypical primitive person of color is familiar to audiences and thus instantly understood. To assume such a role implies a certain primitiveness about all people of color."

Reminds me of Jubilee, Dr. Margaret Walker's historical novel about her great-grandmother, in which a white woman's insistence that "colored grannies" are the best (midwives) paves the way for her family to settle in an all-white town after the Civil War.

Blacks as saints or sinners, but nothing in-between, I guess. Kinda like artists...hm, wonder if it's the outsider category coming into play. Scapegoats and messiahs, but not just plain folks.

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