Why Limiting Imagination is Racism’s Most Effective Tool

By | January 31, 2012

One of the most effective ways to ensure that racism stays intact and continues to thrive and reinvent itself is through crushing dreams and severely limiting individuals ability to imagine.

The difference in the way that myself and anyone who truly desires to end domination (which is the same as committing to love according to bell hooks)challenges our thinking exhibits the commitment that we have to ridding our lives and the world of racism.

While the culture is currently caught up in the guise of social change known as “p.c.”, there is still a need to address racism and the ways it effectively and consistently reinvents itself and continues to wield its crippling power. My committed partner and I are firmly involved in both loving one another well and allowing this love to be a beacon of hope for others.

If we don’t intelligently examine the ways that we interact that might be based in racist insights and beliefs, we limit our interaction to goofy mistakes, misspeaking and hurting one another and those whom we say we care so deeply for.

Discussing Little Black Sambo recently revealed that the person sharing this story on television and entertaining young black and white minds was a black woman.

It seems odd that something so racist could be peddled to the ones that it may hurt the most by someone who looked trustworthy and familiar. This is racism’s most effective tool.

By deliberately choosing a particular representation, racism goes unchecked because it is served up, as “fun”, only “entertainment” and for “children”. As a recent adult influence and guardian (via marriage) of several young children between the ages of two and thirteen, I am aghast at the things I’ve witnessed regarding race and privilege.

While watching a recent revamping of the “Jungle Book”, it was clear to me that the message these little children were receiving is one that says people of color, in particular black folks, greatest asset and hence greatest contribution in any situations is to be comedic, lighthearted and provide a place of escape (sometimes with a jivey song and dance number to go with it).

What my young charges were learning on several levels is that p.o.c.(people of color) can never take anything seriously, or offer any type of deep, reflective thinking.

While some might say this is only entertainment, we are all influenced by the media. Regardless of how many people proclaim : “I don’t watch T.V.”, the images we consume (t.v., film )determine what we think is possible. Racism and in its most extreme version, White Supremacy, is responsible for so much of our representation that it is astounding.

People often assume that if something is created by us and starring us that is positive, uplifting and more or less on the up and up.

Nothing is more ludicrous or dangerous.

bell hooks often talks of decolonizing our minds. Many people either don’t understand the term or get visibly disturbed when it is explained and used as a filter through which to view and exist in the world.

As avid lovers of film, my partner and I periodically have very different takes on what is worthwhile and entertaining.

While he enjoys a good Medea film, I am unmoved. Madea nor Tyler Perry are the problem. The real issue that no one is willing to look at is representation. Not that she (Madea) shouldn’t exist. Instead, why does this character and its creator get the treatment that says thank god you’ve arrived now black cinema can be saved ?

Why is there not room for several interpretations of the black experience both here and abroad?

Madea rakes in the chips no matter what she’s doing and yet the kind, lush, brilliant character that is Precious Ramotswe from The Number One Ladies Detective Agency gets canceled after one season.

My young friends would love these stories of a brilliant, black woman of size using her friendships and intellect to solve mysteries , uplift her community and make those around her better human beings.

How will they see this if it is no longer on the air?

When will there be an opportunity to comparatively discuss and view two different types of blackness and understand that a person’s mind and thinking (the writer of the book series that became a television series was a Scotsman) is what determines certain things and that someone’s representation stems from their mind’s ability to imagine or not.

Check out what true brilliance and an unfettered imagination looks like-

We must teach that reality and its creation is an individual’s choice and not predetermined nor beyond being critically examined.

2 thoughts on “Why Limiting Imagination is Racism’s Most Effective Tool

  1. Dan Collier

    Very moving article, Anthony. Moving and so clearly deeply heartfelt.

    And so very true!

    Thanks much for posting this.

  2. Ama Yawson

    I could not agree with you more. Einstein agrees as well. His advice with respect to how to raise smarter kids is to read them fairytales and more fairytales. The sad issue is that the media images that many black youth consume seems to regulate them to nice supporting roles at best and major roles as thugs and vixens at worst. This has real consequences and the article below demonstrates that this is not accident. The Hip Hop Holocaust and the Prison Industrial Complex are inextricably linked for private oligarchic profit while communities of color suffer devastating economic, health, mental and emotional consequences.


    I believe that our response should be to ferociously promote our own images. You already know about my kickstarter project.


    This post has encouraged me in my efforts.

    Thanks for your truth-telling.

    Ama Yawson


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