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#1
Old 09-10-2008, 02:37 AM
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Why is Little Black Sambo racist?

Seriously. Recently there was a fabricated story that ran across the blogsphere that Governor Palin had been overheard saying, to colleagues at lunch when they were discussing Obama's primary win: "So Sambo beat the bitch, huh?" The report was pure fabrication, and even DailyKos has backed away from it, but it got me to wondering (after I had picked up my rolling eyes off the floor at what some extremist bloggers think is "credible". Sure, it's believable that Sarah Palin, in a public restaurant, before God and the public, called Obama "Sambo". I believe that, really, I do. Say, didja hear about McCain? I heard John McCain say that after he was elected "We'll make the niggers pick our cotton like God intended them to do". Please. ), why is the term Sambo considered racist?

Here is the text and pictures of the original Little Black Sambo. I remember reading this book as a child. It's a charming tale of a boy ( a black boy, so? His blackness is not essential to the story in any way shape or form I can see ), outsmarting vain tigers, and coming home with a boon for his family (butter). How is that racist? Seriously, how is it racist? The black boy is the hero of the story. It seems to me to be a positive. The stupid tigers ran themselves into butter for pride, and Sambo profited from that. I don't deny that some ignorant people have used "Sambo" as a racist term, but where did that come from, the story itself doesn't seem racist at all, yet it has disappeared from the common societal experience. Why?

Last edited by tomndebb; 06-07-2014 at 10:08 PM. Reason: This ZOMBIE thread was revived in Post #73.
#2
Old 09-10-2008, 02:39 AM
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Nowadays it's considered kind of racist to just refer to people by their color, as if it is what defines them above all else. But at the time the book was written I don't think there was any malignant racism intended in it, I think it was just using the language of the time, but put forth no ill will.
#3
Old 09-10-2008, 02:41 AM
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Depends on how you use it. What does nigger mean, anyway? Anything inherently bad? I'm pretty sure not. But it's offensive because people have meant it offensively when they said it, and people have taken it offensively when it was said to them.
#4
Old 09-10-2008, 02:47 AM
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The epithet, "Sambo" was a racist term for East Indians before the book was written. It's not that the story is offensive, per se, it's that it uses a racial epithet as the character's name.

"Sambo" is a corruption of the word "Swami," which was pronounced as "Sammy" then "Sambo" by Victorian soldiers during the British occupation of India.

ETA, according to wiki my etymology may be wrong. That's the version I heard from an Eastern Religion prof who was supposedly an expert on India. He might have been repeating an urban legend.

Last edited by Diogenes the Cynic; 09-10-2008 at 02:52 AM.
#5
Old 09-10-2008, 02:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Mosier View Post
Depends on how you use it. What does nigger mean, anyway? Anything inherently bad? I'm pretty sure not.
As you hint, etymologically, it arose from terms meaning simply the color black, with no intrinsic racism. Which doesn't take away from its racist nature in modern English one bit.

Last edited by Indistinguishable; 09-10-2008 at 02:52 AM.
#6
Old 09-10-2008, 02:50 AM
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The actual original story was about an Indian boy, (no tigers in Africa and the author had lived in India). However, the story suffered from a couple of problems, one inherent and one added later.

The name Sambo is one that has been used in British humor and British erotic literature for a quite long time as the name of various characters who are portrayed as either/both stupid and seriously oversexed (both in the contexts of libido and penis size). I do not know how much that carried over to the U.S. in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but it was pretty well known by the middle of the 20th century.

Then, in the U.S., the book was reprinted with new illustrations that were horrible. (I do not recall whether additional text was inserted.) The features of Sambo, and particularly of his father and mother were the worst sort of the caricatures African blacks with excessively thick lips and rolling eyes showing an excess of the whites. I seem to recall that at the final meal scene, they were portrayed as drooling a lot, although that might be a false memory. (I've only seen that printing a couple of times.)

A lot of kids in the U.S. had to have grown up reading that version and a lot of black kids have to have seen it.

Between the association of the name with the lowest sexual humor and the racist portrayal of the human characters in the book, it was not hard to see why that particular name has made it onto the list of names that the U.S. black community does not consider acceptable.
#7
Old 09-10-2008, 02:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Argent Towers View Post
Nowadays it's considered kind of racist to just refer to people by their color, as if it is what defines them above all else. But at the time the book was written I don't think there was any malignant racism intended in it, I think it was just using the language of the time, but put forth no ill will.
Nowadays? It has always been racist to define people by their skin pigmentation only. Perhaps some people are only awakening to that fact now. But surely it has always been the case.
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Old 09-10-2008, 03:00 AM
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An image from one later American printing (and I am not sure that this was the really offensive version):

http://abebooks.com/images/RareB...BlackSambo.jpg
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Old 09-10-2008, 03:12 AM
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Chiming in to say that one of the big reasons for its deserved reputation is the illustrations. I didn't know about the history of the word "Sambo," but the illustrations I remember seeing showed extremely caricatured African people in an unflattering manner. Also, I just looked the story up online and his mom was called "Black Mumbo" and his dad was called "Black Jumbo"....mumbo jumbo...that sounds a little suspicious too. Especially given the racial climate of the time when the book came out.
#10
Old 09-10-2008, 03:32 AM
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Tangent: There was once a chain of restaurants called Sambo's. Although the name was derived from a the name of its founders, illustrations of the story were featured in the restaurants. In a nod to racial sensitivity, Sambo was depicted with fair skin, but the chain folded in the early '80s amid controversy. I was surprised to learn tonight that one location (the original) is still operating.

http://sambosrestaurant.com/
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Old 09-10-2008, 03:43 AM
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It's kind of a shame. I really loved that story as a kid -- I was especially fascinated by the tigers running around in circles and turning into butter -- and as a children's tale, it really is quite innocuous, as far as I can tell.

Nor were the pictures in the version I had particularly caricatured, as far as I can remember.
#12
Old 09-10-2008, 04:38 AM
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I like the story, & I used to eat at the restaurant!
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Old 09-10-2008, 05:28 AM
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I remember reading the the author was horrified at the pcitures added...and it is now published with the names changed to actual indian names.

if you go to the sambos resturaunt website they show the original illustrations.
#14
Old 09-10-2008, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by TWDuke View Post
In a nod to racial sensitivity, Sambo was depicted with fair skin
How is that a "nod to reacial sensitivity"? Being too scared to depict a character in the correct ethnicity is being sensitive?

As long as I live I'll never understand the American hang-up on race. Yes, I know there are lots of very good historical reasons why it is such a touchy subject, but in the 21st century people really should be worrying about more important things than melanin.
#15
Old 09-10-2008, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by foolsguinea View Post
I like the story, & I used to eat at the restaurant!
'Come for the racism. Stay for the food!'
#16
Old 09-10-2008, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Weirddave View Post
Seriously. Recently there was a fabricated story that ran across the blogsphere that Governor Palin had been overheard saying, to colleagues at lunch when they were discussing Obama's primary win: "So Sambo beat the bitch, huh?" The report was pure fabrication, and even DailyKos has backed away from it, but it got me to wondering (after I had picked up my rolling eyes off the floor at what some extremist bloggers think is "credible". Sure, it's believable that Sarah Palin, in a public restaurant, before God and the public, called Obama "Sambo". I believe that, really, I do.
Why do you find this so implausible? Note I am not claiming it happened, but it seems no less ridiculous than McCain singing about bombing Iran, or Jesse Jackson talking about Hymietown, or many of the other crazy things politicians have said. People make offensive jokes and comments when they don't tihnk other people are listening. Some of those offensive comments may even be racially based.
#17
Old 09-10-2008, 09:27 AM
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Is it okay if I say "Porch Monkey"?
#18
Old 09-10-2008, 09:28 AM
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Growing up, the little Golden version was one of my favorites. (On the left here.) Not the pickaninny version at all. Still have it.

When my kids were young, we got a reissue of the original version.

I don't think the book was originally intended as racist, but it was appropriated by racists such that it is considered politically incorrect. But I can imagine the very term "Sambo" had racist origins.
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Old 09-10-2008, 09:34 AM
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And here I had no idea it was set in India, or had anything to do with Indian culture. I wanna read that link, but is it safe enough to open at work? My office can be kinda prudish at times.

Eh, what the hell, I'll read it at home.
#20
Old 09-10-2008, 10:11 AM
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The only reason I'm familiar with the story is the restaurant, which I went to as a kid in the 70s. In the illustrations they used at that time, it's clear that Sambo is East Indian, and I wasn't ever sure why he was "Little Black Sambo" since he was obviously light brown (and at that time I'd never heard Indians called "black").

I loved the story and the pictures and thought that Sambo was very smart. It wasn't until much, much later that I learned about the racist connotations of the word.

FWIW, I would bet you that the restaurant in my town did *not* have to close due to the name. It had to close due to incredibly bad management.
#21
Old 09-10-2008, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Svinlesha View Post
It's kind of a shame. I really loved that story as a kid -- I was especially fascinated by the tigers running around in circles and turning into butter -- and as a children's tale, it really is quite innocuous, as far as I can tell.

Nor were the pictures in the version I had particularly caricatured, as far as I can remember.
Now there's a rewritten version, The Stroy of Little Babaji, with different names, where the family is just supposed to be a nice Indian family with a clever son. The Amazon review:
Quote:
Almost a century ago, when Helen Bannerman created the story of Little Black Sambo while traveling on a train to Madras, she never guessed that her simple tale would become a symbol of racism. It was the names she chose for her characters and the simple, crude illustrations that earned the story a place on the trash heap of politically incorrect literature. Underneath the racist veneer, however, is a simple and timeless story. Thank goodness for Fred Marcellino's new version. He saves the tale by changing the names of the characters to Babaji, Mamaji and Papaji. In doing so, he has resurrected a basically honorable tale from a largely undeserved fate. -
So you can now read the story to your kids without all the awfulness, if that's what you want to do. I'm not sure it sold very well; a lot of people are still uncomfortable with it.
#22
Old 09-10-2008, 11:30 AM
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My nickname as a child was Little Black Sambo. I never understood the racial connotation until much later, seeing as I was blonde, green-eyed and very fair skin.

Last edited by Kalhoun; 09-10-2008 at 11:32 AM. Reason: Forgot to add the reason was due to my last name.
#23
Old 09-10-2008, 11:42 AM
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We had the book when I was a kid. I don't remember it as shown in the link with the one exception of the tiger with slippers on his ears.
#24
Old 09-10-2008, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
How is that a "nod to reacial sensitivity"? Being too scared to depict a character in the correct ethnicity is being sensitive?
Uh, yeah, pretty much. I doubt they did it for purely aesthetic reasons. Call it misguided and unsuccessful, but it was obviously an attempt to be less offensive.[/QUOTE]
#25
Old 09-10-2008, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by villa View Post
Why do you find this so implausible? Note I am not claiming it happened, but it seems no less ridiculous than McCain singing about bombing Iran, or Jesse Jackson talking about Hymietown, or many of the other crazy things politicians have said. People make offensive jokes and comments when they don't tihnk other people are listening. Some of those offensive comments may even be racially based.
Oh for fuck's sake. Look, we're talking about a book here, why don't you go post in one of the zillion pit threads that allege that Palin wants to ban books or outlaw abortions or force gays to convert to straights or whatever ridiculous thing the loonie lefties have their underpants in a wad over today, ok?

I appreciate the answers here, I suppose that the best answer is because some people adopted the term as racist, and some versions of the story featured exaggerated caricatures of a black protagonist (and that's another thread that I may start one of these days). Like I said in the OP, it's a shame though, I found the story itself to be charming when I was a wee lad, it's a shame that it's now virtually banned not because of what it actually is, but because of how people react to it.
#26
Old 09-10-2008, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Weirddave View Post
Like I said in the OP, it's a shame though, I found the story itself to be charming when I was a wee lad, it's a shame that it's now virtually banned not because of what it actually is, but because of how people react to it.
Get the Little Babaji version mentioned above. The text is identical to the original except for the character names. (And I think they may refer to the butter as ghee.)

I agree that it's a shame that "Sambo" became such a racially charged word because the text itself is nothing but sweetness.
#27
Old 09-10-2008, 12:55 PM
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One thing about a book on a shelf. It doesn't change over the years, while sensibilities may swirl all around it.

My mother, a teacher of primary grades all her life, had the book (probably the Little Golden version, I'm not sure) in the classroom library in the 50's. No one considered it racist; it was just a funny folkish fable (mmm...pancakes...and tigers turning into butter, indeed!). When her classroom was integrated, the black children discovered the book and instead of being insulted, they made it their favorite. Caricatures or not, they could identify more with Black Sambo than they could with Dick and Jane.

I would be surprised to find any USA books published between ca. 1850 and 1950 with any illustrated black or brown characters that were NOT drawn in what we now consider a caricatured manner.

A lot like Mark Twain's Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, all of these books were a product of their times. I find it hard to believe that any of those authors sat down to deliberately write a "racist" book or intended to offend any racial group. They were just expressing things the way everyone else did without much thought about it.

Maybe skins were thicker back then, regardless of color.
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Old 09-10-2008, 01:22 PM
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Useless anecdote

I was surprised recently to see the Sambo's restaurant still standing and operating in Santa Barbara, California.

Also, my mother always refers to people by race, for some unknown reason.

For example...

"The black guy at the store told me..."

"I saw this Oriental kid..." (Yes, Oriental).

She means nothing by it, race is never relevant to the story she tells, but yet she makes a point of noting and mentioning the person's race. Is that racist? Whatever the case, it makes me feel weird every time she does it.

At least she stopped using the term "colored" some time ago.
#29
Old 09-10-2008, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Bearflag70 View Post
I was surprised recently to see the Sambo's restaurant still standing and operating in Santa Barbara, California.

Also, my mother always refers to people by race, for some unknown reason.

For example...

"The black guy at the store told me..."

"I saw this Oriental kid..." (Yes, Oriental).

She means nothing by it, race is never relevant to the story she tells, but yet she makes a point of noting and mentioning the person's race. Is that racist? Whatever the case, it makes me feel weird every time she does it.

At least she stopped using the term "colored" some time ago.
But then now you get that stupid opposite. I had a patron come up to the desk and ask if I'd seen her study partner. "He's got, uh, brown hair and brown eyes and I guess he's kind of medium build... glasses..." Well, that's everybody. Didn't know if I'd seen him or not. Saw her with him later and she didn't happen to mention that the guy was Asian - gee, you think that would have helped me find him? But we can't say he has Asian features because that would be racist, or what? Stupid.
#30
Old 09-10-2008, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Weirddave View Post
Oh for fuck's sake. Look, we're talking about a book here, why don't you go post in one of the zillion pit threads that allege that Palin wants to ban books or outlaw abortions or force gays to convert to straights or whatever ridiculous thing the loonie lefties have their underpants in a wad over today, ok?
Find a single post I have made mentioning Palin before. I have also specifically said I am NOT saying she said it. If it was a "loonie left" posting, why would I have mentioned Jesse Jackson?

But you made a point of stating in your OP that you found it utterly inconceivable that she might have said this. If you don't want that part of the OP commented on, you should not have made it. if I post an OP that says it is inconceivable that Catholic priests could be involved in sex with children, and then goes on to discuss societal attitudes towards Lolita, do you not think it possible that people might pick up on my first comment, even though what I wanted to talk about was the second part?

You don't want to discuss that, fine. Then don't put it in the OP. But I'm not going to give you a free pass on a silly statement just because you no longer want to talk about it.
#31
Old 09-10-2008, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Svinlesha View Post
It's kind of a shame. I really loved that story as a kid -- I was especially fascinated by the tigers running around in circles and turning into butter -- and as a children's tale, it really is quite innocuous, as far as I can tell.

Nor were the pictures in the version I had particularly caricatured, as far as I can remember.
I always thought Sambo was awesome, and that the imagery was no more charicatured than say, Hanzel and Gretyl who I found to be kind of idiotic and loathsome.
#32
Old 09-10-2008, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by redtail23 View Post
FWIW, I would bet you that the restaurant in my town did *not* have to close due to the name. It had to close due to incredibly bad management.
The website said they had over 1,100 restaurants in 47 States in 1981. Sounds like pretty bad management of the entire chain to piss that away in a few years.

OED tells me that "Sambo" has been used as a nickname, a representative given name, and (more recently) a term of disapprobation, for blacks since the 1700s. It later came also to describe the stereotype of the mush-mouthed slack jawed "subservient" slave.
#33
Old 09-10-2008, 05:01 PM
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My mother used to read me Little Black Sambo. I still have the book and the doll (with jet black skin) somewhere. I thought it was just a neat story. Mom used it to teach me about diversity and racism.

'What do I need shoes for?'

'They would make your ears look handsome.'

And tigers turning into butter!

I agree it's a sweet little story that got dragged into the mire of racism.
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#34
Old 09-10-2008, 05:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
But then now you get that stupid opposite. I had a patron come up to the desk and ask if I'd seen her study partner. "He's got, uh, brown hair and brown eyes and I guess he's kind of medium build... glasses..." Well, that's everybody. Didn't know if I'd seen him or not. Saw her with him later and she didn't happen to mention that the guy was Asian - gee, you think that would have helped me find him? But we can't say he has Asian features because that would be racist, or what? Stupid.
I try to use race as the first descriptor no matter who I am referring to, to be consistent and offer it as neutral information about someone. 99 and 44/100 % of people around here are white but I still start out "He's white, with brown hair..."
#35
Old 09-10-2008, 05:52 PM
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I try to use race as the first descriptor no matter who I am referring to, to be consistent and offer it as neutral information about someone. 99 and 44/100 % of people around here are white but I still start out "He's white, with brown hair..."
[/some comedian on television making fun of reluctance to do this and perverse results that follow]"Uh, you know, that guy. With the hair. Wears shoes. You know -- he . . . he . . . HE LIKES FRIED CHICKEN!"
#36
Old 09-10-2008, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Bearflag70 View Post

"I saw this Oriental kid..." (Yes, Oriental).
I really think we ought to cut older people some slack about not using the racial term that's in vogue at the moment.

I still think of Asians as Orientals... that was the term in the late 80's-early 90's when I was a teenager, and actually lived in a pretty heavily Asian part of Houston (Alief, specifically near Bellaire & Wilcrest). That was the term we used, that was the term that the Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and Cambodians used as a generic term for themselves and it wasn't a big deal.

Now I'm some kind of horrid bigot if I slip and say it, even though I don't mean anything by it- it's not like I said "chink", "gook" or "slant".
#37
Old 09-10-2008, 07:33 PM
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I still think of Asians as Orientals... that was the term in the late 80's-early 90's when I was a teenager, and actually lived in a pretty heavily Asian part of Houston (Alief, specifically near Bellaire & Wilcrest). That was the term we used, that was the term that the Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese and Cambodians used as a generic term for themselves and it wasn't a big deal.

Now I'm some kind of horrid bigot if I slip and say it, even though I don't mean anything by it- it's not like I said "chink", "gook" or "slant".
I argue that it's more precise to say Oriental than Asian, because it (implicitly) at least limits it to East Asia. Going with "Asian" lumps Chinese and Japanese in with linguistically/ethnically very different Kazaks and Indians and Pakistanis.

I've always found the proffered explanations pretty stupid. "Carpets are oriental, people are Asian!" Except that Japanese netsuke is Japanese, and Japanese people are . . . Japanese; French Impressionism is French, whereas natives of Paris are properly referred to as . . . French. The mildly-less-stupid rejoinder is the professorial "Oh, well 'orient' refers to the East, which presupposes a Western frame of reference. When we're in Asia, we don't define ourselves in terms of being East of you!" Well, we're speaking (at the moment) a Western language, in a Western country. If I thought the Japanese or Chinese or Vietnamese term for people of European descent were anything near as neutral as "Western" or "Occidental," I'd consider that I had little to complain about.
#38
Old 09-10-2008, 07:43 PM
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Isn't it enough that plenty of Asians don't want to be called Oriental? I don't think you're a horrible bigot or something when you use it, I just think one should at least try to find out what the audience likes. I'll complain about it, once maybe, and then move on.


Anyway. I just read that Little Black Sambo and all I have to say is what the fuck..? Is he Indian or is he black? Indian kids aren't generally black.

The Mumbo-Jumbo names for his parents I didn't like much. Sure sounds like someone making fun of Indian or black names that they can't possibly pronounce.

Little Black Sambo has Indian hair.

Other than those things, the story itself is not uncute. But would there really be a story called Little White Julie? It does feel like the race/color of the kid and parents is pointed out unnecessarily.

Anyway, them's my two cents, from an E. Indian (Asian!) girl.
#39
Old 09-10-2008, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
But would there really be a story called Little White Julie?
We do have Snow White and Goldilocks And The Three Bears.
#40
Old 09-10-2008, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Weirddave View Post
I appreciate the answers here, I suppose that the best answer is because some people adopted the term as racist, and some versions of the story featured exaggerated caricatures of a black protagonist (and that's another thread that I may start one of these days). Like I said in the OP, it's a shame though, I found the story itself to be charming when I was a wee lad, it's a shame that it's now virtually banned not because of what it actually is, but because of how people react to it.
As has already been pointed out in this thread, "Sambo" was a racist term well before the children's book was written. Here are a few citations from the OED:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oxford English Dictionary
1735 J. ATKINS Voy. to Guinea, Brazil & W. Indies 170 If you look strange and are niggardly of your Drams, you frighten him; Sambo is gone, he never cares to treat with dry lips. 1781 I. JACKSON Divorce II. 34 So then, Sambo, you want to be in the fashionable world, I see?.. Timothy, show the black Gentleman down~stairs. 1818 ‘A. BURTON’ Adventures J. Newcome IV. 222 His Steward was a scoundrel Sambo, And in his own conceit a d----d beau; A true Barbadian being born, He others held in utter scorn. 1866 W. REED Hist. Sugar 32 Sambo tells him the skip is ready; but it would never do for the sugar master to seem to be taught by Sambo.
I don't think it's a coincidence that a book about a boy named Sambo wound up being illustrated with racist caricatures. These pictures may not have been what the author would have wanted for her story, but they were consistent with the long established use of "Sambo" to mean a crude and foolish dark-skinned man.

The history of the term or the text of the book aren't really relevant in this context, though. If someone called Obama "Uncle Tom" then that would rightly be understood as a derogatory remark, even though the name "Tom" is very ordinary and Uncle Tom's Cabin is an anti-slavery novel.
#41
Old 09-10-2008, 07:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Weirddave View Post
Seriously. Recently there was a fabricated story that ran across the blogsphere that Governor Palin had been overheard saying, to colleagues at lunch when they were discussing Obama's primary win: "So Sambo beat the bitch, huh?"
I'm guessing that somebody misheard her saying that "Dumbo beat the bitch!"
#42
Old 09-10-2008, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
Isn't it enough that plenty of Asians don't want to be called Oriental? I don't think you're a horrible bigot or something when you use it, I just think one should at least try to find out what the audience likes. I'll complain about it, once maybe, and then move on.
Yes and no. It was originally completely non-derogatory (other than the very attenuated "who are you to decide what the geographic reference point is?" academic argument). Demands to change a perfectly good language need (I argue; YMMV) something more than personal preference; at least that's where critiques of PC come from. People got annoyed when the quite-justifiable demand to substitute "colored" or "Negro" (both terms that many black leaders found quite unobjectionable years ago) for the clearly-offensive N word were followed by demands to go to "black" ('60s), "Afro-American" (70s), then "African American" -- the annoyance compounded by the fact that the new "bad" term was often the old "good" term that the same group had contended for.

Sorry, obviously hijack. Back to Sambo.

IIRC, and if Geo. MacDonald Fraser is to be trusted, many in the British Empire were fairly liberal (that is, illiberal) in referring to any pigmented people as "blacks" or "colored" or worse. I certainly seem to recall Flashman referring to various persons not of any African lineage as "n_____s." Maybe the Raj-era authoress of Sambo had the same usage -- certainly some Indians can be a very dark brown color.
#43
Old 09-10-2008, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Huerta88 View Post
I argue that it's more precise to say Oriental than Asian, because it (implicitly) at least limits it to East Asia. Going with "Asian" lumps Chinese and Japanese in with linguistically/ethnically very different Kazaks and Indians and Pakistanis.
I don't see that "Oriental" is any more specific, as the term has a very long history of being used to refer to "regions lying to the east of the Mediterranean, the ancient Roman Empire, or the early Christian world; of or relating to the Near, Middle, or Far East" (OED). Historically it was more strongly associated with "Near" than "Far" -- the famous Orient Express was so named because it went all the way to Istanbul. More recently the term "Oriental" is most often used to refer specifically to the Far East, but "Asian" is commonly used in just the same way (at least in the US). If I were to say "My friend Jenny is Asian" I don't think anyone would assume I meant she was Afghani.

Considering that both "Oriental" and "Asian" can apply to a very broad area, I'd consider "Asian" more useful. This is partially because at least it refers to a real geographic region, but mostly because it is the term preferred by the people to whom it applies (again, at least in the US). If greater specificity is needed, "East Asian" is unlikely to cause offense and is more clear than "Oriental" without taking any longer to say.
Quote:
I've always found the proffered explanations pretty stupid. "Carpets are oriental, people are Asian!"
Interesting that you use that as an example. The term "Oriental rug" can apply to carpets produced across a wide geographic area, but is most strongly associated with Persian (Iranian) and Turkish carpets. That's the Near East, not the Far East. There are Chinese and Tibetan carpets that are known as Oriental rugs, but Oriental rugs aren't traditionally associated with, say, Japan.

Speaking of Japan, when I was in Okayama I happened to be staying near the Okayama Orient Museum. This museum is home to a collection of artifacts not from Japan or China, but from places like Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

Last edited by Lamia; 09-10-2008 at 08:40 PM.
#44
Old 09-10-2008, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by DocCathode View Post
We do have Snow White and Goldilocks And The Three Bears.
I wouldn't count Goldilocks, it's about her hair, not her skin color, but you are right with Snow White.

As for the Asian/Oriental thing, it's enough that I expect my friends to say "Asian", and will give them a funny look if they say Oriental, though I don't get irritated. It's a matter of respect among friends, IMO.

Other than that, I don't really care. I've even gotten used to introducing myself as E. Indian, since "Indian" seems to be now Native American.
#45
Old 09-10-2008, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Zsofia View Post
But then now you get that stupid opposite. I had a patron come up to the desk and ask if I'd seen her study partner. "He's got, uh, brown hair and brown eyes and I guess he's kind of medium build... glasses..." Well, that's everybody. Didn't know if I'd seen him or not. Saw her with him later and she didn't happen to mention that the guy was Asian - gee, you think that would have helped me find him? But we can't say he has Asian features because that would be racist, or what? Stupid.
What do you mean, "Asian" features? India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Siberia, hell, Saudi Arabia and Jordan and TURKEY, fer goodness sake, are all in ASIA. There is no such thing as "Asian" features.
#46
Old 09-10-2008, 11:40 PM
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Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
What do you mean, "Asian" features? India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Siberia, hell, Saudi Arabia and Jordan and TURKEY, fer goodness sake, are all in ASIA. There is no such thing as "Asian" features.
But that's just being obtuse: when someone says Asian, the vast majority of the time he is shortening East Asian, and if he weren't, he would be more specific. No one, in common parlance, calls Kyrgyzstanis "Asian". And while it would be better to know the person's country of origin, that's not always feasible; I personally cannot reliably tell the difference between a Japanese person and a Korean person any more than I could differentiate between a Dane and a Swede. Anyone who takes offense at a more general term being substituted for an unknown specific one, where people would obviously know what features he's talking about is being unnecessarily argumentative.

I mean, I, as a Southerner would not be offended if someone called me a "Yank" or "Yankee" (even though those terms are not directly equivalent with the "Asian" example because they're using an incorrect specific term instead of a general one, like calling Peruvians "Mexicans").

Valete,
Vox Imperatoris
#47
Old 09-11-2008, 04:34 AM
Zoe Zoe is offline
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Vox Imperatoris: I mean, I, as a Southerner would not be offended if someone called me a "Yank" or "Yankee" (even though those terms are not directly equivalent with the "Asian" example because they're using an incorrect specific term instead of a general one, like calling Peruvians "Mexicans").
But is it incorrect to refer to Peruvians and Canadians and Mexicans as "Americans"?

I have one page left from my copy of Little Black Sambo. I assume that it is from the 1940s. No later than that. The illustrations are by Ethel Hays. The characters look very Americanized except the mother looks like a young Aunt Jemima. She has the scarf in her hair and the hoop earrings. The skin tones are not as dark as in the linked story, but they are darker than the Indians I know. Their hair is like the untreated hair of African Americans. The lips are not exaggerated. No one is drooling. There is a lot of white in the eyes, but I find that true in illustrations of whites in children's books too. The characters are pleasant and attractive.
#48
Old 09-11-2008, 04:52 AM
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Generally the white characters in Fables are complete psychopaths. Cinderella's sisters are vain and greedy. Snow White's step-Mother wants to kill her for being prettier than her. Hanzel and Gretyl are idiots, who find themselves in the Black Forest running from a cannibal. Ariel in the original ends up as sea foam when she finds out that her prince charming has no interest in marrying her and that's she's just a flight of fancy, a dalliance.

Sambo's just all around awesome, and so is his Mother compared to those degenerate rejects in the European fable land. While we're at, so is Brer Rabbit.
#49
Old 09-11-2008, 06:38 AM
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Oriental? Not a big fan of the term but have we forgotten this zinger?
"I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live." - Senator John McCain
But of course he was only referring to his captors. That's cool. I'm sure if he got robbed by a couple of Black folks and said "I will hate those niggers as long as I live," it'll all be dandy too.
#50
Old 09-11-2008, 06:41 AM
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Great, because we don't already have enough anti-McCain threads.
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