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Production of race meaning in the films of Spike Lee

Although the United States’ media and government treat racism as a matter of past, racism is still present in the American society. Instead of being estimated by his or her personality, an African American is being determined and evaluated from outside, on the basis of his or her skin color. This means that African Americans live in the panoptic regime in which they are being held under constant surveillance. Because of the skin color they are recognizable and are objects of white people’s gaze and identification. White man who has the privileged place of viewer is the one who has the power of producing representations. Therefore the representations of African American life are produced in accordance with the demands of the white market. Instead of pointing out that black race is diverse, whites show an African American life as an unproblematic monolithic construction. Such representations send a message that African Americans can be easily assimilated in the mainstream culture. However, the assimilation is carried out by erasing African American specific qualities and their diversity. Public endorses the representations and thus perpetuates the racism. Contemporary theory holds that the problem is that people understand race as a biological quality. This view helps developing of the racial essentialism which holds that each race has its essence. Contemporary theory on the other hand points that race is a cultural construct which is constantly changing and being reproduced: race is a result of the struggle of meaning assigned to it by social groups. An example of how race and its representations are being produced can be found in the films of the director Spike Lee. His films are in conflict with hegemonic tendencies to represent African Americans through stereotypes.

Ivana Rogar

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