Social Construction of Race

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There is perhaps no bigger and more expansive social construction known to man than the construction of race. In earlier times race meant a tie to national origin, Greek race, Roman race, etc. race underwent a big change in meaning to it’s more contemporary form to distinguish biological differences of physical features and skin color (Wiegman 157). Film and television in this century and the twentieth century have aided and perpetuated stereotypes of race. These stereotypes have been most associated with minority or non-white groups in particularly, and most discussed pertaining to African-Americans in these mediums. Dating back to the earliest silent films all the way through the 20th century and into the new millennium African-Americans have been consistently been portrayed as the “other”, as Benshoff puts it, “there still is a concept of this group, African Americans as markedly not white, unlike several of the other cultural groups” (B 78). This research paper will discuss issues of race in film and television and will explore how other groups have “become white”, black experience and portrayal in film by comparing and contrasting different readings and texts.
In order to examine how African-Americans are stereotyped negatively, the portrayal of whites is important to understand. Particularly how formerly “other” groups have been absorbed into whiteness in society at large and in film. From the early days of Hollywood filmmaking in the early until about the middle of the twentieth century some groups have been absorbed into whiteness, perhaps the most storied is Jewish Americans. In Daniel Bernardi’s review of “The Birth of Whiteness: Race and the Emergence of U. S. Cinema” in The peer reviewed scholarly journal Film Q...

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...ywood. By comparing and contrasting different readings and texts a clearer picture is defined about how race is constructed and religions mostly overlooked role. In the readings there has been an uneven progress, Jews, for example lead some of the most prominent film studios while were not widely seen in staring roles in early cinema to being prominent and fully white. African-Americans who did not have any film studios in early Hollywood have become more prominent as of late but still have more trouble than other white groups. It is fascinating how religion and race could at times compliment and unite or complicate and divide groups from the societal norm. It will be interesting to read what film scholars in the future have to say about the near future when America is becoming more racially and religiously diverse. One can only wonder how Hollywood will respond.
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