chapter  5
29 Pages

Racial Mockery

Blackface fantasies articulated contrary feelings via the positive and negative versions of 'nigger' stereotyping, and betrayed a deep fascination with the black Other while at the same time offering wholesale affirmation of white racial identities. The blackface mask and all that stemmed from it was crucial in this, for minstrelsy's stereotypical representations of blacks operated through the dynamics of minstrel performance and proved durable because of, and not in spite of them. Their mutual reinforcement was vital in turning racial mimicry into racial mockery, and helping to make the stereotypes stick. Minstrelsy encouraged all social classes in Britain to think in racial categories, and to rank those categories on the basis of allegedly innate inequalities between races. Audiences in this respect attended in both an immediate, conventional manner to the various entertainment components of a minstrel show, and a less direct, analogical mode through which they drew certain essentialist notions of black character and culture.