There are some influences that are known to be subliminal. We all know racism, bigotry and misogyny for example are learned. We usually think of these attitudes as being learned from parents, teachers or other adult influences in our lives. I don’t think that many of these influences are intentional, that we may not even realize we are teaching these ideas at all.
Fairy tales, bedtime stories. tales around the campfire, legends and literature have other things in common other than being sources for entertainment, they all subliminally influence or ideas of racism. The Knight in shining armor on a white horse, the young beautiful blond haired blue eyed princess or handsome prince who lives in a beautiful crystal palace always represent whats pure and good, what’s desirable to be or to have. The fallen warrior or bastard son of a king on a black horse, wearing dark clothing or armor, the old ugly witch or dark haired spinster that lives in a dark cave always represent whats tainted and evil, what’s undesirable to be or have.
Brides wear white, they are innocent and naive, widows and mourners wear black, they are old and mean. The good witch of the north wore white and had blonde hair with blue eyes, the wicked witch of the east wore black, had dark and eyes. Doctors where white coats, they cure and save lives, morticians are usually dressed in dark suits, they embalm and bury dead people. Snow is considered crisp and clean while mud is considered slimy and dirty. The white flag is used for a truce while a black flag is an emblem for piracy or anarchism. Angels wear white, god wears white while demons are black skinned and have dark eyes. Daytime and sunlight are considered safe while night time and the darkness are something to be afraid of. The unicorn is white while the devil dogs are black. White is good and beautiful. Black is evil and ugly.
In the middle ages when owning possessions began to determine your social status, women were such a possession and her appearance set her worth. Lady’s of class were expected to have the whitest of skin. This skin color distinction came from the fact that the working class would labor outside where they were in the sun. Servant women were the ones who hung out the wash, got food from the garden, went to the market etc. Their skin would tan, darken. A lady never did these menial tasks and therefore not exposed to the sun, leaving her skin a nice white complexion. Pale skin was desirable because the life of a lady, a life of wealth and luxury with servants was what every woman wanted, it was good. No woman wanted to be a servant. Dark skin was undesirable because the life of a servant, a life of labor and poverty serving others was not what any one wanted. White is desirable. Dark is loathsome.
These influences come from books, movies and advertisements. These subliminal messages have to influence our ideas about race. On some level. We are all in these subtle ways part of the problem when we tell those stories to our children.
Hitler carefully and purposefully used the word ‘exterminate’ the Jews. Not kill, not murder not put to death…exterminate. One murders or kills people, one exterminates insects or rats. Using that word subliminally is part of the reason Hitler was able to get an entire nation to help with this cause, or at least to be indifferent about it.
Then there’s calling a storm violent, or raging or even harsh not only personify how we look at weather but it subliminally convinces people that these events are the result of gods wrath.
The use of a word however inconsequential it may seem can brainwash an entire population. The use of an image can blind a generation. Subliminal messaging can oppress and enslave entire races of people.
Just something to think about.