So yes, it’s still my favorite movie, and yes, I am excited to see it on the big screen next month!
But I was reminded again today of how insidiously racism has been woven into the fabric of our nation . . . and how easy it is for us in the 21st century to remain ignorant of our nation’s history . . .
Here’s an excerpt from the book 1904 World’s Fair: The Filipino Experience by Jose D. Fermin:
A driving force behind the 1904 fair, as well as with other major U.S. expositions during this approximate period, was America’s belief in the racial superiority of whites over darker peoples. By publicizing the supposed backwardness of nonwhite races for all the world to see, the 1904 fair organizers were able to translate the United States’s national and global accomplishments into grounds for acknowledging the transcendance of Caucasian races over their “colored” counterparts. Fermin writes in his book that “In measuring their technological achievements and national progress against those of other nations, Americans laced the fairs with racism.” Hence, they “considered themselves above the nonwhite peoples of the world and regarded them with a negative and demeaning attitude.”
It’s true that these “expeditions” were meant to showcase the best of the USA, and to foster pride in our nation, but even admirable steps (like the film at the 1964 World’s Fair, To Be Alive!) were hardly enough to erase a few hundred years’ worth of negative stereotyping.
(Ah . . . interestingly, the 1964 fair in NY was not an “official” World’s Fair. who knew?! It also seems like it was bogged down by lots of bureaucracy. In NYC?! no way!!!)
So what do you think? Were you aware of the history behind the 1904 World’s Fair? Is there something else you learned in school that you have since learned was wrong? (hint: the answer to that last question is “yes”–and if it’s not, then you just haven’t explored enough just yet!)