Visual Racism

The article discusses methods for analyzing how people are represented in images. Through these methods the article recognizes and gives examples of several means of visual racism.

The article first says that images need words to anchor their meaning. Words give images their intended context. Words however, can sometimes be racist, and the following example was given: a toothpaste brand name “Darkie” was changed to “Darlie” because it was considered racist. However, the image on the package, a black face with shining exaggerated white teeth, stayed because it wasn’t considered racist. This is pure visual racism.

The article then talks about the relationship between the image and the viewer. It first talks about distance; the further someone in an image is to us as viewers, the more of a stranger they will be to us, and the closer they are to us, the more we feel that they are “one of us”. Then the article talks about social relation; angles of the image give different connotations. If people are portrayed at a lower angle than the viewer, this connotes that the people in the image are of a lower social status and less power. If the angle is facing the person in the image, it makes it seem as if we are confronting that person. If the angle of the image is a horizontal one, it gives a feel of detachment or involvement; as if we are doing the same thing as the person in the image or experiencing the same thing, or ignoring each other… it depends on the context of the image. Social interactions are also very important in images, the three key factors depicting social interactions in images are “distance, angle, and the gaze”.

The article talks about depicting people in images. It first says that exclusion is a part of representation. By excluding something from an image, you’d also be representing it. For example, ethnic families were excluded from the main Playmobil toy sets, and this exclusion represents the racism against these ethnic groups. The article then talks about roles of people in images. Racism in images can be noticed by the roles that are given to black or ethnic people in these images. They are often portrayed doing low end jobs such as servants for example…  Visual racism is also seen through stereotyping and generalizing ethnic groups; an example is when blacks are all drawn to look the same, or Arabs are all drawn with exaggerated noses and dressed in typical traditional Arab clothes. The article also noted the depiction of individuals and groups in images. For example, in Gulf War images, US soldiers were mostly depicted as individuals, while Iraqi soldiers were always depicted as groups. This “homogenizes them” and “diminishes their individual traits”. The article finally talks about racism through categorizing ethnic groups. It gives examples of posters comparing black people to raccoons and labeling them “coons”, or comparing them to apes or drawing them with exaggerated big lips and white teeth.

Whenever we see visual racism, let’s point it out and scorn it… let’s stop racism.

About author View all posts Author website

Reviews Universe