Stereotypes In The Film Imitation Of Life

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In Sociology, stereotypes are described as "pictures in our heads" that we do not acquire through personal experience. I believe that stereotypes are a mental tool that enforces racial segregation and self-hate. As well justification for dehumanizing minorities. Such as Black women are "Mammy", "Welfare Mothers", "Uneducated", " Inferior", and "Poor". White women are "Pure", "Desirable", "Affluent" and "Superior". These stereotypes are labels that evoke images of oppression, segregation and exploitation of minorities in America. Meanwhile reinforcing the dominance in a social hierarchy.
The film Imitation of Life (1959) indicates the power behind stereotypes. It strongly depicts the relationship between a Black American woman, Annie Johnson
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As a child, she recognized that her imitation of ‘White” afforded opportunities of mobility, education, acceptance and privilege. Her mother’s appearance as “Black” afforded opportunities of poverty, inferiority, and inequality. So, she fails to mention her mother’s identity and occupation to classroom peers and teacher. Sarah Jane wants cultural assimilation and white privilege.
In the Imitation of Life, Sarah Jane dates a “White” teenage guy who later becomes physically and verbally aggressive towards her when he discovers she’s Black. I believe this scene was intended to dehumanize Sarah’s racial identity. While reinforcing the stereotype, Black women are “Inferior”. Moreover, demonstrate consequences are taken to oppress racial and ethnic minorities to keep them in a subservient position.
Overall, this film has provided me with a visual depiction of how stereotypes are a mental tool that enforces racial segregation and self-hate. The label of “White” became a necessity for Sarah Jane to achieve in society. To attain it she needed to move to a new city, change her name and deny her mother. More importantly, deny the essence of her race, ethnicity and culture due to
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