To what extent is human identity mediated? INTRO, not finished
To what extent is human identity mediated?
By Sheena Bhim
The categorisation of African Americans in the US media is problematic as this collective
have, historically, been unable to create and reinforce their own representations. Since
D.W. Griffiths’ Birth of a Nation in 1915, African physicality has been branded negatively; as
transgressive, threatening or inferior to Caucasian skin. Arguably, the ingrained belief that
“black” is “bad” reaches back even further in time; Western cultures believe that the colour
white symbolises goodness and purity and uses binary opposites to create meaning.
Therefore if “white” is “good”, then conversely “black” must be “bad”, and identity, for the
most part, is mediated accordingly.
In his article “Black or African American: which term is correct?”, Manny Otiko states that
the term “African American” does not apply to those who see themselves as American first.
Otiko states that “African Americans celebrate Thanksgiving and watch the Super Bowl…
they have very little cultural connection to Africa…” If this is the case, why is it still the case
in much mainstream media that ethnicity is a “cultural determinate”? (Edward James
Otiko also recounts an incident in which his Caucasian girlfriend asked him not to call
himself “black” as the term made her feel uncomfortable. This anecdote is indicative of a
wider, societal need for African Americans to be defined according to how other collectives
want to see them. However, with the advent of social media, the election of a black
president and a more postmodern understanding of stereotypes, there is evidence that
younger audiences are kicking back and trying to redefine “blackness” by educating those
who still consider negative portrayals to be desirable.