The Crows in Dumbo

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Childhood is an extremely critical time for socialization into a given culture. Children learn from parents, teachers, and friends about the norms and beliefs of their community. Language is an important category to be socialized into as language and ideologies surrounding language are intertwined with race, class, and status. Although there is no official language of America, English is pushed as the official language so much so that historically non-English speakers were forced by violence to shed their culture’s identity and language and subscribe to the “English-only” agenda. While the use of corporal punishment is not prevalent in modern society as a means of restricting non-English languages, the general attitude towards anyone who speaks something other than Standardized American English is unfavorable. The crows in Disney’s Dumbo show the ways in which language is used to stereotype a group of people which also acts to socialize young children to stigmatize people either directly or indirectly. In Jane Hill’s study on the use of Mock Spanish, she concluded that mock Spanish is directly linked to ideas of racism by saying, “racism is largely produced in and through everyday talk, not through the obvious racist slurs that most people today condemn but through unintentional, indirect uses of language that reinforce racist stereotypes” (Hill, 2008).  Furthermore, Rankin and Karn’s study on Ebonics led them to the conclusion that “anti-Ebonics ideology is transmitted by a simple set of strategies which suggest one can ‘speak’ Ebonics by simply pejorating standard English” which then “produces a racialized language stereotype of a subordinate group” (Rankin & Karn, 1999). Disney’s portrayal of an animal who is colored black and speaking in a stereotypical manner of African Americans would further push the ideology that this is how all African Americans speak. This portrayal would then be normalized and viewed as acceptable based on the influence and power of media especially on children.

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