Racial Impersonation In Cinema

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The Enduring Impact of Racial Impersonation in Cinema
Impersonation is an ambiguous term; the word itself has negative connotations implying cheating or fabrication, but can be positive, such as when an entertainer impersonates celebrities. The negative label is applicable when the impersonation is demeaning, fraudulent or leads to negative stereotyping whether of gender, ethnicity or other social categories. Although race divisions are no longer accepted as having any scientific basis, yet racial impersonations have been represented frequently in the media; according to authors Omi and Winant race exists as a social category and is a representation of "the perceived corporeal and phenotypic markers of differences and the meanings and social practices that are applied to these markers".
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Further, forms of racial representation accumulate meaning over time and the historical image of the black man as chattel, initially to perpetuate and justify his role as a slave, has today transformed into what Alexander Michelle calls "the racial caste system". In this essay, I will argue that blackface, as an act of racial impersonation, matters because it continues to evoke and sustain negative stereotypes that manifest in racial prejudice and discrimination. Nowhere is such negative stereotyping more evident than in the 1915 film, "Birth of a Nation" : an explicitly racist film that continues to stir conflict and has even been used as a recruitment piece for the Ku Klux Klan. Despite the psychological damage of such works, an examination of the popularity of the film at the time helps us in understanding the ideological influence of such representation. Although racialized representations of stereotypical black images were already in existence in print media, it was Birth of a Nation that brought to the forefront black stereotypes in cinema and portrayed major anti-black caricatures: loyal "Toms", the clownish
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