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Re-framing Crime, Violence, and Poverty: new cinematic narratives of Black criminality in Imperial Dreams

Introduction: reframings

Redmond (2017) has noted that, in order to garner support for the punitive policies of the War on Drugs, Americans were presented with stories that framed those impacted by the war on drugs as enemies of the state. In the 1980’s, media outlets released a surge of stories covering the “crack crisis” that presented crime and drug use with a black face. Stories presented black males as “gangbangers” and played on historical stereotypes of black men being dangerous, predatory, criminals (Alexander 2012).

Films on the experience of inner city black Americans also reflected a negative image of these communities and their residents until around 1990. Before the 1990’s many films placed the blame for inner city problems primarily on the criminal actions of young black males (Alexander 2012, Brooks 1997).  For example, in the 1970’s, directors made movies about the experiences of black inner city Americans. These films were subsequently criticized for their exploitive depictions of urban black experience. This criticisms was in part due to the fact many of the these movies had white directors. This perception by commentators lead to the term “Blaxploitation” being coined in reference to films made in the era (Brooks 1997). Black character representation during this period was often as criminally deviant characters (Bausch 2013). It would be another 20 years before those subject to War on Drugs policy would start to be depicted as sympathetic characters (Brooks 1997).

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Black Lives Matter Syllabus Project, Call for papers, Uncategorized

The Anthropoliteia #BlackLivesMatter Syllabus Project, Week 17: Riché Barnes on #BlackFamiliesMatter, Especially Black Mothers

The editors of Anthropoliteia are happy to relaunch the second semester of an ongoing series The Anthropoliteia #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus Project, which will mobilize anthropological work as a pedagogical exercise addressing the confluence of race, policing and justice. You can see a growing bibliography of resources via our Mendeley feed.  In this entry,  Riché Barnes discusses #BlackFamiliesMatter, especially Black mothers.

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I was just about done with this blogpost when given this weekend and the past week’s news I had to regroup. The Trump administration’s war on families picked up momentum this week with yet another assault. As I watched people gathered in airports with hand-made signs reading “we want grandma,” while journalists interviewed people waiting, hoping, and praying their loved ones would not be detained, or worse, deported. As I heard people repeatedly say, “we talked to him as he was boarding the plane,” but we haven’t heard from him since,” I was immediately taken to that old refrain of not hearing or getting word, but somehow knowing something awful had happened and it would change the course of your life forever. Continue reading

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