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The Reinforcement of Racial Hierarchies in Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" and Neal's "The Black Arts Movement"

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Race and racial hierarchies are reinforced through the proliferation of a predominant, societal, white aesthetic and through the perceptions associated with physical characteristics. In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison first illustrates the reinforcement of racial hierarchies through the proliferation of a predominant, societal white aesthetic by recounting passages from the Dick and Jane books, a standardization of family life. Next, “The Black Arts Movement” by Larry Neal demonstrates the reinforcement of racial hierarchies through the proliferation of a white aesthetic by discussing how Black culture, including Black art, is in danger if the white aesthetic is accepted by Black artists.

The reinforcement of racial hierarchies through the perceptions associated with physical characteristics will also be discussed. Again, in The Bluest Eye, Morrison first shows how the practice of Black girls receiving blue-eyed baby dolls for Christmas establishes a standard of beauty. Then, Morrison introduces a light-skinned character in The Bluest Eye, and everyone’s reaction to that character again reinforces the racial hierarchies associated with physical characteristics. The last way that Morrison discusses the reinforcement of racial hierarchies built upon the perceptions associated with physical characteristics is through motion picture movies, with Hollywood setting the standard for beauty but including few Black people in motion pictures.

Race and racial hierarchies are reinforced through the proliferation of a predominant, societal, white aesthetic. Toni Morrison relates this white aesthetic by beginning The Bluest Eye with a paragraph of sentences similar to those from the Dick and Jane reading books. The main characters i...


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...ing, families are presented as the typical or standard white family, then these white families, this white lifestyle will continue to be viewed as superior because everyone is desirous of such a family. Moreover, if the physical attributes that are only associated with white people are considered the standard for beauty, then the opposing physical attributes, those associated with Black people, will be considered ugly. Essentially, and quite elementary, if the world is constantly viewed through white eyes, racial hierarchies are certain to be formed, reinforced and proliferated.


Works Cited
Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Vintage International, 1970.

Neal, Larry. “The Black Arts Movement.” The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004. 2039-2050.


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