Growing up as a child during the 1970s in Lynwood, a predominantly African American neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles, I never realized the differences between my playmates and myself. Although my mother and I eventually moved to the suburbs, my father remained there. However, it was not until late childhood, while visiting my father on weekends, that I began to differentiate between my friends and myself. Maybe the piercing stares and turned heads at the neighborhood market led to this discovery. Or perhaps the racial epithets exchanged in anger between childhood friends made the differences obvious. But, more than anything else, I attribute my discovery to the disparaging nickname given to me. They referred to me as “Casper.” Yes, I am white¬¬––chalk white, milk white, even ghostly white. If others had not continuously pointed this out to me, I doubt I would have noticed at such an early age. Nevertheless, when you are young and searching for your identity, labels have a way of adhering to you and images become engraved upon your mind for years to come.
While this self-image endured for decades, the numerous derogatory labels applied to an entire race of African Americans are far more demeaning. According to sociologist Dr. David Pilgrim, during the era of Jim Crow (1877-1965), various “stereotypical depictions of Blacks, helped to popularize the belief that Blacks were lazy, stupid, inherently less human and unworthy of integration” (“Who Was”). Promoted and exploited by the entertainment industry, the stereotypical black “Mammy” and faithful “Tom” permeated American culture in the form of cartoons, movies, radio, television and theater, dehumanizing Blacks and ultimately providing a perverted rationale for jus…
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