Students gathered in the Woman’s Resource Center living room last night for an event about the role of race in Ecuador. Part of the Women’s Resource Center’s Faculty Favorite Lecture series, and cosponsored by the Multicultural Resource Center, the idea for the lecture came from Ethan Johnson, a PSU Black Studies professor.
Students gathered in the Woman’s Resource Center living room last night for an event about the role of race in Ecuador.
Part of the Women’s Resource Center’s Faculty Favorite Lecture series, and cosponsored by the Multicultural Resource Center, the idea for the lecture came from Ethan Johnson, a PSU Black Studies professor. During the lecture, Johnson discussed the impact of popular art and the idea of blackness the Ecuadorian city of Esmeraldas.
Esmeraldas is the only city in Ecuador with a black majority, Johnson said. Historically high instances of racial intermarriages in Ecuador resulted in diversity and the belief that racial inequality is less of a problem, he said.
Due to racial mixture, members of the same family occasionally identify with different racial identities, said Johnson, but “a movement toward whiteness” has influenced Ecuadorians to prefer both cultural practices and physical appearances that are perceived as more European.
From his first trip to Ecuador in 2002, Johnson used slides of statues and murals to demonstrate the shift from traditional representations of black identity to contemporary depictions. “The statues and murals were very sensualized renditions of blackness,” Johnson said.
He stressed that traditional representations primarily depicted images of Black Ecuadorians dancing or cooking, which reinforced pervasive stereotypes while ignoring the diversity of the Black community.
Johnson noted that some of these traditional murals were still on display as late as 2002.
While contemporary art was more “aesthetically pleasing” and did not exaggerate physical features, the shift in art was “not real substantial inclusion,” Johnson said.
After 2000, the first black mayor of Esmeraldas, Ernesto Estupinan Quintero, initiated a significant shift from traditional depictions to modern representations by establishing a few murals and statues in central locations, Johnson said, explaining the visible change that has gradually spread throughout Ecuador.
Although the overall shift in art and popular culture challenged some of the stereotypes found in traditional art, the “inclusion was result of guilt and marginalization,” said Johnson, suggesting the necessity of portraying the diversity with the Black community.
Current advertisements still rely on often derogatory stereotypical images in their attempts to sell more products, which according to Johnson, suggests that blackness is still presented through a narrow framework.
Following Johnson’s talk, there as an open forum Q-and-A session. During the session, students asked about any similarities and contrasts between Ecuador and America’s perception of race, as well as Johnson’s input about the notion of colorblindness. “Some changes are out there, but archetypes continued to be used,” Johnson said. “The media consistently portrays black people negatively.”
Confronting racial stereotypes is important in order to really learn about other cultures, said Yuko Amano, a junior and woman studies major.
“It’s important to discuss the role of race in other countries and to work towards having a cross-cultural understanding,” she said.
Shelly Dunlop, a junior and liberal studies major, suggested that race is often ignored in many daily discussions.
“Race is very dynamic–our perception of race is evolving even though people tend to think that it is static,” Dunlop said.
While representing Black Ecuadorians as an integral part of mainstream society is valuable, “the specificness of the black experience is true,” Johnson said.
The WRC’s next lecture, dicussing family health, will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, in the WRC.