Examples of Bigotry in American Culture: Past and Present
Listed below are ten examples of Bigotry in American culture. Examples are included for American Life, Institutions and Culture. Several of the examples originate from the 19th century and the majority of them are still in existence today.
Cotton Picking:The phrases “cotton picking” and “cotton picker” are both derogatory in nature, referring to Southerners in general and African American slaves in particular in reference to picking cotton for plantation owners during the slave era. Today the phrase is used as a socially acceptable alternative to swearing, but the racial slur is there, connecting a slave’s occupation with frustration.
Sexism in heels:Women’s relationships with their shoes have a long history. In Venice in the 1400s, prostitutes began wearing platforms to give them lift so that they were above their rivals. These platform shoes, called chopines, also gave the ladies an attractive gait used to entice potential clients. Delicate and heeled shoes were also adopted by aristocratic women as a symbol of prosperity indicating the fact that they had no need to work. The modern stiletto heel is worn today by numerous professional women seeking a boost. The added height gives a lift in confidence in an often male dominated society where women still feel underappreciated and underestimated. While the shoes are often uncomfortable to wear for long periods, women are still willing to wear them, considering the pain a small price to pay in order for them to see eye to eye with their male counterparts.
Frito-Bandito:In 1967, Frito-Lay sent out Frito-Bandito, their new mascot for Frito-Lay corn chips. The cartoon character was intended to be funny, swarthy character, but was found to be offensive due to the portrayal of the character as a bandit carrying a pistol, sporting a gold tooth and speaking with a Mexican accent. The Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Committee sited the offensiveness of this image, campaigning against Frito-Lay until they removed the character in 1971.
Land O’ Lakes Butter:In 1928, Land O’ Lakes adopted the Image of an Indian maiden as their official mascot, an image that we have all come to know. The image portrays the iconic representation of an Indian maiden with long braids, a headdress and a lot of beads. Recently, the image has been called stereotypical based on not only the typical portrayal of the maiden’s garments, but also because of her serene expression. It is felt that this expression belittles the suffering that indigenous peoples experienced at the hands of foreigners who invaded their land.
Cream of Wheat:Rastus, the famous icon seen on Cream of Wheat packaging is still in use today. Created in 1921, Rastus was portrayed as an uneducated, subservient black man and was sported holding up a sign stating “Maybe Cream of Wheat ain't got no vitamins. I don't know what them things is. If they’s bugs they ain't none in Cream of Wheat…”
Racist Drug Laws:The first drug law that was enacted in America was centered on the use of opium as well as the operation of opium dens. In San Francisco it was stated that respectable men and women were being enticed into trying opium and visiting Chinese opium smoking dens where it was believed that they were being morally damaged by negative influences. Use of opium outside of Chinese dens wasn’t included in the law.
Racism behind Professional Hairstyles:In the 18th century, African hair was often compared to sheep wool in texture, and after emancipation, many African Americans felt the need to straighten their hair in order to fit in. A 2017 study found that African American women still experience anxiety about their hair. They are also more likely to straighten their hair due to their work place than Caucasian women. Today there is still a lot of controversy about professional appearances and African American hair. In 2014 the United States Army banned many hairstyles that were considered traditional by African American standards, but the policy was rolled back later after careful review.
Racism in Craft Culture:Craft culture diminishes the influences of its original creators. Many craft products which are portrayed as belonging to a family tradition or a signature process or recipe can actually trace their true roots to African American creators. Whiskey, which is considered a Caucasian affair, actually can be traced to African American men and is just one example of craft culture. Jack Daniel (creator of Jack Daniel’s whiskey) learned how to make whiskey from a slave named Nathan Green. Green was considered one of the best whiskey distillers of his time, and Jack Daniel actually hires two of Green’s sons when he later opened a distillery of his own.
Racism in the National Anthem:The Star Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key was originally written with a 3rd stanza that was extremely racist in nature. Key portrayed himself as being against slavery but in actuality he felt that free African Americans were an inferior race who should be sent back to Africa. Slaves however, belonging to their masters, should be treated kindly due to their lack of intelligence. The 3rd stanza of the National Anthem refers to the blood of former slaves washing away the filth and pollution left by the British invasion. It took nearly 100 years for the song to be adopted as the National Anthem, and fortunately, the 3rd stanza was removed.
Racism and Cowboys:Despite popular portrayals in movies and books, one in four cowboys was actually African American. It is believed that the term cowboy is also derogatory, referring to African American cowhands. It is also believed that the Lone Ranger was actually based off an African American man named Bass Reeves. Reeves, who was born a slave, became a Deputy U.S. Marshal, rode a silver or white horse, had a companion who was Native American and was known for his various disguises.
The examples listed above represent bigotry found in America today. Some examples are more subtle than others, but most of them are still in use in some form today.