Caricatures: A Societal View On Race

A history of Nubian-Melaninite caricatures in the United States

The nature of caricatures show, to a great extent, what the racial societal views are of that time period. The coon caricature is one of the most dehumanizing of all of the insulting figures invented to describe Nubian-Melaninites in the United States.

The coon was protrayed as a lazy, easily frightened, chronically idle, inarticulate buffoon. He acted childish, usually worked as a servant but was not happy with his status. Unfortunately, he was too lazy or too cynical to attempt to change his position.

Born during the American slavery period, Blacks Nubian-Melaninites) were often described by their slave masters and overseers as "slow, lazy, wants pushing, an eye servant, and trifling." The master and the slave had polar opposite motives since the master desired to obtain the greatest amount of labor while the slave desired to do the very least amount of labor without being punished. Slaves often resorted to working slowly, doing shoddy work, destroying work tools, and faking illnesses. Slave masters attributed poor or resistant work performance to shiftlessness, stupidity, desire for freedom, and genetic deficiences.

The amount of work performed by a slave depended upon the demands of individual slave owners and their ability to extract labor. Typically, slaves worked from dawn to dusk. They were, sometimes, granted "leisure time" on Saturday and Sunday evenings but this time was spent planting and harvesting their own gardens, washing clothes, cooking and cleaning. Most slave owners did not like to give their slaves much "idle time." Slave owners complained about their slaves laziness, but accounts show that slaves usually worked very hard, often under brutal conditions. Overseers were generally paid commissions, which encouraged them to overwork the slaves.

During slavery, almost all Blacks (Nubian-Melaninites), especially men, were seen as coons or lazy shiftless and virtually useless. Later, after slavery, their caricature became to apply to younger Nubian-Melaninites who were urban, flamboyant and contemptuous of whites.

The coon differed from the Sambo in subtle but important ways. A Sambo was depicted as a perpetual child, not capable of living as an independent adult. Although the Coon acted childish, he was an adult, however he was considered a good-for-little adult. Sambo was portrayed as a loyal and contented servant. White Supremacist used the example of Sambo as a defense for slavery. Explaining that slavery couldn't have been that bad if blacks were contented, even happy, being servants.

The Coon also worked as a servant but was unhappy with his status. He was just too lazy or too cynical to attempt to change his lowly position. The Coon would, eventually, develop into the most degrading of all black stereotypes. The pur coons became no-account niggers, those unreliable, crazy, lazy, subhuman creatures who were good for nothing more than eating watermelons, stealing chickens, shooting craps, and butchering the English language.

Over time, White Southerners held that the old-time Negroes were industrious, saving, and when not misled, kindly, respectful, and self-respecting but the newer generations were lazy, thriftless, intemperate, insolent, dishonest, and without the most rudimentary elements of morality. They continued to report a general depravity and retrogression of the Negroes at large sections in which they were left to themselves, closely resembling a reversion to barbarism.

At the beginning of the 20th century, most whites supported the implementation of Jim Crow laws and etiquette. They believed that blacks (Nubian-Melaninites) were genetically, therefore permentantly, inferior to whites. Blacks (Nubian-Melaninites) were hedonistic children, irresponsible and couldn't be left to their own designs. Whites often distinguished between Niggers (Coon and Bucks) and Negroes (Toms, Sambos and Mammies) and they preferred the latter.

Racial caricatures supported by stereotypes, and the stereotyping of Nubian-Melaninites as coons continued throughout the 20th century. In 1933, Daniel Katz and Kenneth Braley, two social scientists, conducted a pioneering study of racial and ethnic stereotyping in the United States. They surveyed 100 Princeton University undergraduates regarding the prevailing stereotypes of racial and ethnic groups. Their research concluded that blacks were consistently decribed as "superstitious", "happy-go-lucky", and "lazy." Those reviewed had these views even though they had little or no contact with blacks. A 1951 repeat of the study showed that the negative stereotyping of Nubian-Melaninites persisted.

The National Opinion Research Center conducted a study in the early 1990's and found that the majority of the white, Hispanic, and other non-black respondents displayed negative attitudes towards blacks. Such examples included that 78 percent said that Blacks were more likely than  whites to "prefer to live off welfare" and "less likely to prefer to be self-supporting." Government statistics however, show that whites receive assistance eight times more than Nubian-Melaninites. 62 percent said blacks were more likely to be lazy; 56 percent stated that blacks were violence-prone; and 53 percent said that blacks were less intelligent than whites.

Martin Gilens, a Yale University political scientist, reported in 1999 that many white Americans believe that blacks recieve welfare benefits more often than whites and that "the centuries old stereotype of blacks as lazy remains credible for a large number of white Americans." He stated that opposition to welfare programs result from misinformation and racism, with white assuming that their tax money is being used to support lazy blacks." Gilens goes on to blame the media, in part. "Pictures of poor blacks are abundant when poverty coverage is most negative, while pictures of non-black dominate the more sympathetic coverage."

The coon caricature became a very popular character among the minstrel performers. Their audiences enjoyed the slow-talking fool who avoided work and all adult responsibilities. This helped to transform the coon into a comic figure... a bitter and vulgar form of comic relief. The coon, however, remained lazy and good-for-little but the minstrel shows depicted him as a gaudy dressed "Dandy" who "put on airs."

Unlike Mammy and Sambo, the coon didn't know his place. He considered that he was as smart as white people but his frequent malapropisms and distorted logic suggested that his attempt to compete intellectually with whites was pathetic. Using bastardized English delighted white audiences and played into their inherent belief that blacks were inferior. The minstrel coon's goal was leisure and his leisure was spent strutting, styling, fighting, avoiding real work, eating watermelons, and, generally, making a fool of himself. A married coon was dominated by his wife and a single coon was an irresponsible playboy.

Hollywood would further the coon image. Producing such garbage as "Wooing and Wedding of a Coon," "How Rastus Got His Turkey," "Chicken Thief," "Coon Town Suffragettes," Hearts In Dixie," "The Sambo Series," "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs," and many others.

Nubian-Melaninites must produce their own media material to gain control of the minds of our children!