Comparing Stereotypes and Stereotyping in Measuring My Blood and The Artificial Nigger
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Conformity and Stereotypes in Measuring My Blood and The Artificial Nigger
Adults frequently make conscious attempts to pass on their values and judgments concerning a number of matters to younger generations by sharing their own views. Generally, the advice they pass on is helpful for one to become a successful, productive member of the general population; however, this process of indoctrination can be harmful if the views shared by the elder are racist. Gerald Vizenor's "Measuring My Blood" and Flannery O'Connor's "The Artificial Nigger" explore the circumstances in which racist individuals try to induce others into following stereotypical ideas and how their influence can lead to a negative outcome.
One reason older people project their negative, racist attitudes is so that they may boost their own self-image. For example, in O'Connor's "The Artificial Nigger," Mr. Head acts as if he were the world's foremost authority on African-American issues since he has interacted with them during several brief occasions in the past. In Nelson's uncultured opinion, his grandfather's seemingly unendless knowledge about black people is impressive, and "for the first time in his life, he understood that his grandfather was indispensable to him" (257). The elderly grandfather enjoys the rare occurrence of having Nelson look up to him and respect his authority. Generally, Nelson merely looks at his caretaker as just another poor, unsophisticated country redneck incapable of furthering his own well-being; however, when the issue of black people is brought to attention, he is finally taken seriously. Otherwise, Mr. Head is just an unsophisticated man who gains his sense of self-worth by abusing minorities. ...
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...is the transfer of racist ideas through the use of indoctrination. While the main difference between the two stories lies in the way a seemingly trustworthy source shares its stereotypical ideas with either a single individual or a large group, indoctrination, as evidenced in both stories, can be hurtful and damaging. Some individuals, such as Gerald Vizenor are able to see the racism often associated with the sharing of ideas, but other, less intelligent or caring people simply accept other people's opinions as their own.
O'Connor, Flannery. "The Artificial Nigger." The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1971. 249-70.
Vizenor, Gerald. "Measuring My Blood." Native American Literature: A Brief Introduction and Anthology. Ed. Gerald Vizenor. New York: Harper Collins, 1996. 69-74.