bamboozled, a debate on racial stereotyping

I have not seen the movie but I have seen several reviews. One reviewer, Gregory Kane, who I like, is a black man who says that an important message of the movie is that blacks are themselves responsible for much of the perpetuation of negative stereotypes. Personally, I think that Spike Lee has been guilty of this himself in the past and I wonder if this movie won’t result in more of the same.

Here’s a summary of a summary of the plot. A Black writer intentionally writes an offensive story line for his boss. It is set in a watermelon patch and has black actors in blackface doing stereotyped things. The show is aired and is very popular with blacks as well as whites. The N-word is used a lot on the show and by it’s fans.

I think this is a very important issue and, if Spike Lee indeed has addressed it well, I hope that this movie will be a hit despite it’s slow start.

Do the rest of you agree that Blacks themselves perpetuate the stereotypes and that for these to change the Blacks need to change them from within?

I haven’t seen the movie itself, but Spike Lee generally makes two types of films - extremely good, over the top, in your face movies about white oppression of blacks, and black complicity in this oppression, and mediocre to poor, over the top, etc., etc., etc. From what I’ve read so far, Bamboozled falls into the latter category. For that reason, I won’t see this movie until it comes out on cable or rental.

As for the issue itself, it’s an interesting one. I’m going to tread very lightly here, as a white man who hasn’t done deep study on the issue. What I will say is that I have read press accounts of (i) black-on-black pressure not to excel in academics because those who excel are “acting white”, and (ii) studies of black children in which the children tend to identify white dolls as “good” and black dolls as “bad”. Regarding the second study, I seem to recall some challenges to how this study was done.
I will go so far as to say that the black community has some internal issues to resolve, and I’ll leave it at that.


If you think this question is ligit the perhaps we should also be asking if Italians, the Irish, Jews and Hispanics and Southerners perpetrate their own sterotypes. Just thought we might broaden the subject to include sterotypes in general since they do seem to cover a broader segment of society than just blacks.


Strawman. Stick to the question and we can tackle them later.

As for Spike Lee…I’ve never seen any of his movies so I can’t comment on them.

But as for “Do the rest of you agree that Blacks themselves perpetuate the stereotypes and that for these to change the Blacks need to change them from within?”, I would say yes, but not all blacks and(Now Need2Knows comment comes in.) no more than anyone else.

VileOrb, you’re question on it’s own would lead me to assume that ‘all blacks’ act like the characters in the movies…this just isn’t the case (“Do…you agree that Blacks themselves…”).

I’m Scottish, and what has just popped into your head? Braveheart? A drunken, oatmeal eating, crazy guy with a bad temper, red hair and a tilt who has a taste for animal innerds?? Do Scotts live up to it and bring out the ‘grain of truth’ in it? I’m sure some do. I’m sure other groups of people have those that do as well.

But it is still a stereotype and obvioulsy shouldn’t used against them.

I’ve seen many movies that could be taken as ‘make the blacks out to be hoods’, but it’s still just a movie and should be viewed as such. (No one complained about the Ewoks being a bunch of violent bears…ok…it’s a stretch…but I think you see my point…). Enjoy the movie and try to understand what it is telling you…not what it is not.

Vile, I understand your question, but regardless of whether the ST exists, all that matters is, “Do you believe it?” If so, then you need to do some deep soul searching…if not (And I’m sure you don’t.) then don’t worry about what others think of other races… (It’ll give ya an ulcer. =)

My 2 Cents.

There was a study done by some profesors here (University of Colorado) on ‘The Etimology of Acting White’. When I go to stat class today I’ll pass by their poster presentation from a conference on Social Psychology, from which I can extract where to find the study and the references used in the study. Would people like to see that info?

I’d be interesting in reading this…could be good for a laugh.

Maybe I could act white to! (And considering I AM white! You’d think this would come naturaly. =)

The things people put money into to research =)

I hope The Tim reappears with that study.
I had a conversation last night with an educated black male named Chuck. It went something like this.

Me: Look at that guy. He comes in the bar and goes around to all the white people and asks them for a cigarette and a beer. He does this at every bar in the neighborhood all night long.

Chuck: Yep.

Me: Listen I throw him out of here three or four times a night and he screams racist every time, can you do something?

Chuck: What should I do?

Me: Tell him he’s legitmizing the prevailing feelings of racism in the neighborhood.

Chuck: Then he calls me a white boy and we still get nowhere.

Me(joking): What? You don’t speak ebonics?!

Chuck: Just leave him alone, if people are going to buy him a drink, who cares?

Me: I don’t really care except that he annoys a lot of the customers, which is bad for business.

Chuck: Shrug.

Now, I don’t know if this is a good example, but I think that Chuck is as guilty of perpetuating the stereotypes as the guy who begs drinks all night (a middle aged black male btw). I’d like to see the responsible blacks actively fight this stuff. When I have to throw these guys out of the bar on a regular basis and sometimes it gets pretty rough, and never does Chuck or any of the Blacks who frequent the bar pitch in, it makes me consider adopting a racist opinion myself. Chuck didn’t hesitate to jump into the fray when it was a mexican who was being belligerent. Actually I see the sam e thing with the Vietnamese regulars. They’ll never help out when it’s another vietnamese who is being tossed out.

Yes, it’s a real scumhole of a bar that I work at part time. But, it’s a real mixing pot of cultures and there’s a lot of good pool competition. There is a core group of good people that keep the place sane most of the time.

Well, I seem to be the first person who’s actually seen the movie. I liked it a lot, though it wasn’t as good as some of Spike’s other films.

I don’t think the message he was trying to send was that blacks are necessarily responsible for their own stereotypes, but that they have an oppressed, victim mentality that causes them to mirror the stereotypes that were forced upon them. I don’t know if I agree with this, and of course I’m not talking about all black people; that’s just my interpretation of the film. I was annoyed at the ending

Some stereotypical black gang thugs kidnap and then shoot and kill (on the Internet!) one of the actors from the show.


…until I thought about it and realized that Spike was trying to say a lot of what people do to end the stereotypes just contributes to them. A sort of twisted cycle, I guess.

The Etiology of Acting White
Angela Bryan and Lerita M. Coleman

Sorry no cites on the thing, I don’t know why because it looked like normal APA format. I’m assuming its because of the presenation style.

Any who to summaraize them (I’m still looking to see if or simular studies online).

Essentially it was testing the hypothesis that african americans label certain behavoirs as white, and for what reasons they do so. It found that certain behavoirs are labeled as such and one of the reasons is false kinship, where in black people assume black people are more alike eachother than any black person is like a white person. As such peer pressure is exerted upon black individuals who act in a way that is called white, because its breaking the kinship link. The other effects were too complicated to quickly read and record in the three minutes.
There is lots of interesting social psychology research into stereotypes and prejudice. One part is self fufilling prophecy, in which if you expect someone to act like something you will behave in a way towards them to cause them to act that way. Thus whites who hold stereotypes help hold them in place. Combined with the fact that there are african american communities that enforce stereotypes within them, including by the way that Spike Lees film gets across, its hard for individuals to break the stereotypes and those who do just get themselves sub-typed, having no impact upon the stereotype as a whole.

We’ve got a viscious circle then? Somebody a long time ago stereotyped the Blacks. The Blacks then began acting like the stereotype because of it. Then the next generation believed the stereotype because the blacks actually were exhitbiting the characteristics. And it can never end now?

There are going to be ignorant whites as well as ignorant blacks. We can’t stop that, but I think that the educated blacks could just accept the “breaking the kinship” thing for a while until the black stereotypes were weakened. I strongly suspect that new stereotypes would then appear, but I would hope they would be more positive. Do the educated Blacks hate whites so much that the “acting white” label is massively offensive? Is the value of kinship to the ignorant blacks worth so much it’s not worth risking? Are the stereotypes , which these educated individuals have somewhat avoided getting trapped into, really not much of a problem and so not worth any effort toward eradication?

I suspect that the educated blacks just see the stereotypes as so pervasive and ingrained that efforts toward eradication would be futile. I think that society has progressed to the point where such efforts would not be entirely futile. I think that the educated blacks would find themselves in the position of power in most situations. Knowledge is empowering after all. Ignorant whites would be somewhat of a barrier to this process but I, for one, would be willing to make a special effort to support the educated blacks when confronted with ignorant whites. Let us educated PEOPLE cooperate regardless of color. After all, the main bit of education that I am talking about here is the fact that race does not affect a person’s worth.

Sorry to preach. I was very frustrated by the conversation I quoted in my previous post, and I have had similar discussions in the past. I spent some years looking for a way I could work toward reducing racism and instead found myself adopting in frustration some racist attitudes myself. I concluded that Whites could not make the change, they could only assist Blacks who were acting to make a change. Then I began looking for Blacks who were doing something about it and I didn’t find many. This Gragory Kane, who is a writer for the Baltimore Sun, is one of very few. I have met none of them in person. One of my three best friends is Black, and married to a white woman. He is no help. He is like Chuck and I can’t convince him that he is wrong to be this way.

(I am ignoring to some extent the blacks who are educated but still persist in acting out the full stereotype. I lump them in with the ignorant blacks.)

It’s difficult to have a discussion about “stereotypes” and and behavior by blacks vs. by whites, etc., without making value judgments about acceptable behavior.

<<Somebody a long time ago stereotyped the Blacks. The Blacks then began acting like the stereotype because of it. Then the next generation believed the stereotype because the blacks actually were exhitbiting the characteristics. >>

Let’s take minstrel shows for example. White people parodied in a belittling way the song and dance styles and speech patterns of black people. This was to make fun of a group that was foreign to those white people and assumed to be inferior. But it was based on the legitimate style of expression of people of African descent. Whites’ difference of expression made them distinct from black people. Black people did not then adopt the stereotype shown in minstrel shows, because the basis for that stereotype was already a part of their behavior. And a perfectly legitimate part.

It’s when natural expressions are judged unacceptable that the problem occurs. There is a whole spectrum of possible behaviors and forms of individual and group expression, but it’s when some are given greater validity and worth than others that there is trouble.

I just have to say that I’ve never heard a Jewish person call another Jewish person a “kike”, I’ve never heard a gay person call another gay person a “fag”, and I’ve never heard any “type” of person call another person of the same “type” some derogatory name, except in the case of black people. To me, this is an example of propagating their own stereotypes.

Really? you must not get out much…

I grew up in a low income area. My friends and I would constantly call each other “ghetto child” and “poor sauce”. We also playfully (in refrence to our facination with technology) call each other “geek” and “wierdo”. Those are all derogotory terms that we call each other to kind of co-opt them as our own. It’s a rather common activity.

Well let’s see last Spike Lee “joint” I had seen was “Summer of Sam”. Not a black in sight in that one. Although it might have sterotyped Italians, Hispanics, etc. Which Lee seems to do quite often in his movies too. I would also think he has a very firm basis for his character portrayals being from Brooklyn or some other such New York City melting pot as that.

Are we responsible for our own sterotypes…I believe we most certainly are, I’ve said it many times when referring to Southerners. It always makes other Southerners mad but it still doesn’t change the fact that often our actions speak for themselves.

The biggest problem I see with sterotyping blacks is that some black sterotypes are rooted in 200 year old fear and bigotry that often ended in violence. I don’t think we hanged thousands of Irishmen over this period for being drunk. I can’t recall that we have executed a single Jew in this country simply because he was a Jew or a “Christ killer”, although I’m sure there were social injustices done to this group too. The best comparison for rampant and ridiculous stereotyping would be with Asian Americans. They have perhaps suffered the most next to blacks in this country due to sterotyping. Does anyone see the correlation between how we view these people with their physical traits? The farther you get away from typical “white” physical features the more threatening the group becomes.

I haven’t seen this movie yet and probably won’t until it comes out on video. I think holding a mirror up to ourselves is good. In Spike Lee’s case this is especially good. He’s a black man and his message will be recieved more favorably by other blacks. I go around all the time telling Southerners to put down that damned Tennesse Battle Flag and stop looking like a bunch of Civil War hold outs. Mostly it doesn’t work. They seem to have their own compelling argument why the rest of the country should view them as being “patriotic” and not predjudiced. You can hold up the mirror but a lot of people are still gonna see themselves they way that fits in with their own view.


I saw ‘Bamboozled’. Great first half, lousy ending.

The black writer in the story intentionaly writes an offensive, racist minstral tv show in response to a demand for a ‘real’ show about blacks from his pin-head boss. He fully expects to be fired for it, but the pin-head loves the idea.
The writer is amazed that the show is both loved and reviled. What was interesting was the reactions to the show.