American Mass Popular Culture (Fredonia, NY) — Reading: Blackface Minstrelsy and Jacksonian Ideology

Reading: Blackface Minstrelsy and Jacksonian Ideology

Author(s): Alexander Saxton


For the overwhelming majority of my life…I’ve been aware of the color of my own skin. If i ever I had to have been reminded of that, one good look at me in a mirror in the midst of January; there’d be no denying: my skin is as white as the driven snow.

but that’s easy…

However, if the question were geared towards my experience of rac-ism, my first noteworthy experience would be with some old friends back in the 7th Grade. My two friends: Fitz and Fonzie, and I all had computer lab together. And like a typical group of kids, we were basically nothing but trouble.

The way i remember it was, conversation first would become heated (because children take things to seriously); and then that would lead to insults (because kids say terrible things).

Me and my closer friend, Fitz, developed an inside-joke against Fonzie. We always thought Fonzie was so mean (rude, weird, illogical, some dumb made up reason…), so we decided to “name” him “Bubbles”; after Michael Jackson’s pet monkey…

Not to long (perhaps a week) after that regretful joke began, Fitz and I were called into the principal’s office. The Principal, Mr. Feng  told us a “student” came forward, and told him about our little joke. He mentioned the name-calling, “‘Bubbles’. ‘Monkey…'”

We told him the truth.

I remember thinking/saying something along the lines, “Well Fonzie is just so mean all the time… he’s not even acting like a human being.” It was a then-genuine response as I personally recall.

Then our principal leaned toward us behind his desk and sternly said, “Did you know ‘Monkey’ is a RACIAL term?”

I remember the feeling I had when i heard that. My gut sank instantly. It was as if my gonads became swallowed up inside me from the shame I had for myself.

I had no idea.

It was as if it were like Kindergarten all over again: the time where I got in trouble for saying “bitch” because i repeated what another girl in the cafeteria said, AND I QUOTE, “My brother called my mother a ‘Witch’ last night, but instead of the ‘W” he used a ‘B’.”

Silly me… but I knew what I had now done was much worse.

Once I was informed, amends were made. Fonzie, whom I (and many of my friends) refer to as “Denzel” was a part of my group of good friends throughout all of high school – middle school included.

I really haven’t had any issue in that sort of regard since that day. Although, in 9th Grade Spanish class, ironicallly enough, myself and a kid who I thought to be a bully of sorts, Francis, got into a comedic/hurtful spat. I had the last word: “Wetback”.

There was no conflict after the fact; but truth be told – I deserved smack right in the fuckin’ face.

Kids: when will they ever learn, right? Ha-ha ha.

Could it  have possible that racist association of “Bubble” and “Monkey” was inherent in my way of thinking? Without even realiizing it?

In regards to the reading…it is evident that racial propagation is not only inherent to the history of American Entertainment, but it is also one of the foundations, and building blocks of American Mass Culture.

What initialized the country-wide spread of Minstrelsy was the culmination of political parties and mass communication via printed newspapers and magazines – Media.

Not only did a more advanced manufacturing of media propagate the endorsement of minstrel entertainment and humor, but minstrel entertainment and humor was also widely identifiable to the ideas of hundreds of groups of people, namely the working-class white men of middle America.

The extreme popularity of the show, which Mark Twain recalled as, “the most popular form of entertainment in the United States.” Was a natural movement of an that was idea (Minstrelsy) that formulated by the few (Thomas Rice, Dan Emitt, E.P. Christy, and Stephen Foster) that appealed to the common people on a nation-wide scale. Not so long after that, they’re performing at venues in the biggest cities to the broadest audiences.

It’s only fitting in that these men I’ve fore-mentioned all appropriated their practices from tunes and dances stolen from their slave race of people whose bones we’ve built our homes on.

I am not perfect. I observe and perceive. I am human.


One thought on “American Mass Popular Culture (Fredonia, NY) — Reading: Blackface Minstrelsy and Jacksonian Ideology

  1. This entry makes me really glad I’m doing a blog assignment (I go back and forth about the value of it). Because this is what a blog should be: well-written, thoughtful, self-reflexive, and analytical in ways that reach beyond the immediate topic. Plus, it’s just really fun to hear your voice in this mode. You integrate personal observation (and a very self-interrogating one at that), class reading and discussion, and some larger thoughts about invisible or unconscious racism, really effectively here. One thing I’d like maybe a bit more of is your exploration of what it means to be white and male, and to be aware of those things–for most, it goes without saying. You mention your awareness, but not really what that’s like. Keep in mind that that’s not necessarily a shared awareness for your audience, who is perfectly happy to hear about it and learn another perspective.

    Well done!


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