In “Only Skin Deep” By Coco Fusco, there were several points made about race and its impact in our culture through the photograph. Race is not a biological fact, it is a social construction that is still deeply imbedded in our culture whether we like to admit it or not. Race is a theoretical system of human classification, and the best method of recording this classification is through photography. Photography made racial distinction between people a fact though its objectivity as a recording device. One point made in this essay that I found interesting and agree with is the entertainment industries blatant commodification of ethnicity. Racial differences have become a multimillion dollar culture industry that has been reduced to a spectacle. Fusco states that “photography renders and delivers interracial encounters that might be dangerous, forbidden, or unattainable as safe and consumable experiences. Mass-marketed photography in the second half of the nineteenth century made racialized viewing into a form of entertainment.” Even though the individual might not consider themself racist, race is paid much attention to though the mass amounts of racial imagery that is produced for private consumption. Fusco brings up the example of the television show COPS, in which the producer admits that audiences don’t want to see white collar crime, they want to see police officers chase black men. Race is being reduced to a spectacle in a negative way that reinforces this as normal in these communities which will perpetuate this behavior. In a more historical example of ethnic minorities being made a spectacle of through being treated as second class human beings is the photograph of the elderly Navajo and the white nurse. This is a beautiful example of how white superiority is produced by the white nurse having the technology and education to heal that the Navajo lacks. Fusco called this “cultural termination via assimilation.” Photography’s ability to capture the fantasy of an individual is met in the power of the marketplace. Fusco speaks of racial fantasy experienced in photography from exotic places. Steichen altered the look of the Hawaiian hula dancer to provide a more primitive look in his photographs. This would appeal to the white American that fantasizes about the ethnic differences seen in the “Other”. Steichen was aware of the commercial commodification of theses photographs and capitalized upon it. The photographing of racial differences was a lucrative business, and is still out in force today.
Speaking of racial stereotyping in media
In the film “Trading Places”, brothers Randolph and Mortimer Duke (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) make a bet that a black con man, Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) is incapable of learning to be a high society business man because its in his blood to live his life in poverty.