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The Racist Trope That Won’t Die | The New York Times

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The Racist Trope That Won’t Die | The New York Times The toxically racist ape characterization has been pushed to the margins of the public square.

Racism, American Racism, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN, KINDR'D Magazine, KINDR'D



The comedian Roseanne Barr resurrected one of the oldest and most profoundly racist slanders in American history when she referred to Valerie Jarrett, an African-American woman who served as an adviser to President Barack Obama, as the offspring of an ape.

This depiction — promoted by slave traders, historians and practitioners of “scientific” racism — was used to justify slavery, lynching and the creation of the Jim Crow state. It made the leap to the silver screen in deeply noxious films like “The Birth of a Nation” and haunted American popular culture well into the 20th century.

The toxically racist ape characterization has been pushed to the margins of the public square. Nevertheless, a growing body of research shows that it has maintained a pernicious grip on the American imagination. It is especially problematic in the criminal justice system, where subhuman treatment of African-Americans remains strikingly visible.


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