Little Black Sambo
Funky_Mimizu 631 Posts
edited June 2005 in Strut Central
Anybody have an opinion on this? Is it good for certain books to be "banned"?'Black Sambo' on best seller list in JapanBy Bruce WallaceLos Angeles TimesTOKYO -- A writer's death can do wonders for pushing that back catalog. Less drastically, a few books acquire cachet by getting banned.Which may help explain why a reissue of "Little Black Sambo," a turn-of-the-20th century illustrated children's book with a reputation for racism, is back on the best-seller lists in Japan this spring."Sambo" was a big favorite of Japanese families from the time it was introduced here in 1953 until it was yanked from bookstores in 1988 after a swift and effective anti-racism campaign. The rap against it in Japan echoed that in the West years earlier: Sambo was a long-standing racist term for American blacks, and illustrator Frank Dobias' portrayal of the main character, with his bulging white eyes and exaggerated lips, was tantamount to a boy drawn in blackface.In April, Zuiunsha, a small Tokyo publisher specializing in reprints, bet there was still a market for a book that had charmed generations of Japanese youngsters who, as adults, were now unable to find the book to read to their own children.The market agreed. Zuiunsha reportedly has sold 95,000 copies in two months since bringing out "Chibikuro Sambo." Despite being a child's read at a thin 16 pages, "Sambo" sits among the top five adult fiction best sellers at major Tokyo book chains."Some people buy it out of nostalgia," explained Tomio Inoue, Zuiunsha's president, who in picking up the rights gambled he wouldn't face a backlash for breaking the informal ban. "Many readers didn't know why it was out of print. They missed the book."So far, "Sambo" has returned to shelves with few objections in a country where blacks remain rare. There has been one complaint published in an English-language newspaper, written by a black resident in Japan. An online petition against the publisher garnered 262 signatures last week, most of them from non-Japanese, many from abroad.That is a far cry from 1988, when a mostly American campaign drove the book off Japanese shelves. The undoing was triggered by a critical story in The Washington Post noting the popularity of a book "that most Americans thought had died a well-deserved death years ago," as well as several Sambo-related doll items on sale in Tokyo department stores.It spawned a letter-writing campaign in Japan from The Association to Stop Racism Against Blacks, which was later revealed to be essentially a one-family enterprise. But it sparked a bigger backlash in Washington, where there were accusations of entrenched anti-black racism among the Japanese, resulting in protests at the Japanese Embassy and threats to boycott its cultural exports.This was the pre-Saddam Hussein, pre-Osama bin Laden era, when Japan and its then go-go economy was perceived to be a threat to the United States. Fearing the book was adding a culture war to the pack of existing trade disputes with Washington, Japan's Foreign Ministry had a word with the publishers, suggesting a picture book and its spinoffs were not worth wider trouble.Japanese publishers withdrew the book in less than a week. The dolls went too.In Nagano City, the education board sent letters to every kindergarten asking parents to burn any copies of "Little Black Sambo" they might have at home. Of course, Nagano's civic leaders had their eyes on much more than a children's book. The city was then bidding to host a Winter Olympics and anxious to appear cosmopolitan."Nagano was very nervous about its reputation," said Kazuo Mori, an educational psychologist at Shinshu University in Nagano. "The reaction was to be overcautious."But Mori said most Japanese were surprised to learn that "Little Black Sambo" had racist overtones. "It never occurred to us," he said. "It was just a story."Intrigued by the controversy over the book, Mori conducted academic experiments on readers that he said showed the Japanese take nothing racist away from reading "Little Black Sambo."He offered a group of kindergarteners and another of senior citizens a look at two versions of the story: one with the Dobias drawings, another with the central character drawn as a black Labrador puppy. The test groups found both illustrated versions equally amusing. Ergo, no racism, Mori concluded.He then fine-tuned the test's drawings of the puppy, found himself a publisher, and in 1997 released a "non-racist" version of the tale as "Chikiburo Sampo."That version has sold more than 50,000 copies."It's a sort of hit," he says with a laugh. "I bought a car."The original "Little Black Sambo" was published in London in 1899 and in the United States. Written by Helen Bannerman, a Scot living in India, it recounts the adventure of a supposedly Indian boy who is stalked by tigers and bargains for his life by surrendering his fine clothes.But the tigers fight over who is the grandest among them, pursuing each other in frenzied circles until they dissolve into butter.To its defenders, Sambo is heroic and the story a harmless fantasy. "The little boy faces dangerous situations, but he manages to escape every time by his quick thinking," Japanese publisher Inoue maintains. "Sambo was small but smart."As the West developed more racially sensitive antenna in the years after World War II, Bannerman's book ran afoul of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other campaigners who pointed out Sambo had been a racist epithet for blacks since the mid-18th century. Because Bannerman never retained the copyright to her work, other illustrators were commissioned for subsequent editions over the years, most portraying Sambo with the exaggerated lips and simpleton look that critics found cartoonish and derogatory. (It has never been definitively explained why artists opted for African characters to illustrate a story set in India.)The book was banned in many American schools, and by the 1960s had been chased out of most libraries, gradually disappearing from bookstores as well.But a Sambo boom was on in postwar Japan. The prestigious Iwanami Publishing Company issued a version of Bannerman's story, using Dobias' drawings that had been done in the 1920s for an American edition. Although there were as many as 40 other Japanese editions published, the Iwanami version became the Japanese standard, reportedly selling up to 1.2 million copies.The Japanese read it at bedtime, and they read it at school. And the Dobias drawings were a hit in a country that loves animated characters with garish features, from the futuristic Pokemon crew to the stylized, frightening children drawn with ballooning heads by pop artist Yoshitomo Nara."The Japanese people can be racist when it comes to Koreans living here -- it's well known," said psychologist Mori. "But racist against blacks?"We have no experience in dealing with black people," he continued. "Where would we get it from?"Special correspondent Naoko Nishiwaki contributed to this report.
Are you joking?
Interesting side note, in an interview, Del (and the Beatnuts I believe) said he found it interesting in Japan that people in their crowds would carry little Black Sambo dolls.
...Apparently this toothpaste was sold in Japan using this image until the 1980s:
This statement is completely absurd! I've spent 1/3 of my life in Japan (Okinawa) and Korea and they run neck-and-neck in the xenophobia contest, hands down. Just because people don't have an immediate sociohistorical context to attribute their ideas to doesn't make them any less racist.
Banning is like when a doctor treats the symptoms of a disease and not the causes. Ideally, we shouldn't need to tell people that making offensive things like this is wrong, but that they should know better. Unfortunately we are a long way from that, but we can change ourselves and speak to those around us about how to treat other people.
"dont you wish your girfriend was hot like me
dont you wish your girlfriend was raw like me
dont you wish your girlfriend was a freak like me
and i almost hate it...but its one of those songs you find yourself singing along to....like "whoa ...i cant believe i know the words to this shit"....next thing you know your bobbin' your head to the bullshit.....
and trust me the song is corny,ghey and terrible... but i know the words...this is scary right?
I SEE THE VIDEO...AND THE CHICK SINGING IS BANGIN!!!!!!
the next big thing ya'll!!!!.....that chick going to make moves in this real world...mark my word.....JESUS..I WISH VIDEO JUKEBOX WAS STILL AROUND ...I'D ORDER THAT SHIT ALL DAY TO STARE AT HER STRIPPER MUG...
ok... carry on....
I actually have a tube of "Darlie" toothpaste that a friend brought me back from Hong Kong in the early 90's. I was dying to have a tube of "Darkie", but they were forced to change then name just before he went over there. The package proudly proclaims, "New Name, Same Great Taste!" with the same illustration. It's one of my most treasured posessions.
Re: Book censorship. I can think of almost no circumstance where I would ever condone censorship. To me, there is so much more potential to -- to use a phrase in literature -- "make meaning" when people examine these books in a classroom, roundtable, etc.
i agree & disagree...
I DO NOT condone censorship,banning or burning of this or any other material racially,sexually,religiously sensitive under any circumstances
This book or any other book blatantly racist...sexist..etc...etc.. should not be allowed in a classroom
it should be kept around as a historic document/record...but not taught...and an examination is not necessary..examine what?
FU*K*N' HER MAN!!!!
that's right baby...CHECK THAT MIC!!!!!
Ed's title is
Are you so sure that this book is "blatantly racist"? Have you read it? I haven't... So I don't know. But are judging it's racist nature by its use of the name "Sambo" alone?
Did you know that little black Sambo is not an African, but an Indian? I dunno... Sounds alot like the movie Jungle Book... If that characters name was Sambo, would you be saying the same thing?
And what about books like Tom Sawyer? Is that blatantly racist, and should that not be studied?
From a US perspective, I would say that banning would be an absolute no, I don't support banning of any type - mayyyyyyyyyybe detailed instructions on how to makegrowwhatever anthrax, that's about it. And I'm maybe on that one.
Just from a general good taste perspective, I wouldn't put it on the 11th grade summer reading list. I'm sure it has its place in academia somewhere, like a class on period pieces, but yeah, no need for required general reading.
People in Japan, as racist or whatever as they may be, are not going to have such strong feelings as they do in the US, though. The background isn't there.
YES I AM...I haven't read it and i'm never going to read it....
you know why???
because i wouldn't read a book that had the word Porch Monkey in the title and a picture of a n*gga with big ass red lips,bugged eyes and a goddamn top hat on his head
Excellent point. Although Mark Twain is a literary institution in the US, where to draw the line for school reading?
I think Tom Sawyer has great relevance as a depiction of a time period, whereas Little Black Sambo is more of a quirky period piece but not in and of itself that important (it doesn't depict anything in the story that is of much interest).
Well, sure - to a point. For one thing, our media in the US still seem to think that it's fine to stereotype Asian cultures openly, and that's mostly because Asians are almost as anomalous to Heartland, USA as African-Americans are in China. I mean, who hasn't seen the "asian = tourist/braniac/slut" thing ad nauseum on TV or movies?
Either way, racial depictions are an issue of sensitivity to us, and rightfully so. But I don't expect folks from countries on the other side of the globe to immediately and adequately understand issues like the American slave trade and city-wide racial segregation. For one thing, the average American doesn't really know about their own history, much less ethnic issues in countries that they couldn't locate on a map (until a war erupts there).
I mean, do we really know about Mongolian caste groups? How about past Guyanaese slave labor and how it affects their country even today? Or the ethnic strata of Laos? I mean, we wouldn't exactly walk into these countries with racial effigies, but most of us have no idea what it's like for people to live in other countries. Sheeh: we used the term "eskimo" to label Pacific Islanders for centuries, when it's extremely offensive to many Inuit.
I had a friend in college that came from what must have been a remote part of Belgium. He had only been in America, much less Chicago, for a few weeks. He had apparently heard the term "nigga" in American rap music and used it once around me in a jocular manner ("what up, my nigga?"), without thinking of its connotations. I set him straight about the word, but he couldn't understand why a term used so flippantly in popular music would be so offensive if he used it himself; he was just trying to adapt to our culture. But that's just the way it is. Strange as it seems to some of you, I wouldn't expect the average Japanese 13-year-old to be able to tell me why a depiction of a character in blackface might be considered a severly offensive image to most Americans (even non-Blacks).
Look, I'm not arguing for the inclusion of the most deragatory book imaginable in a classroom, I'm just arguing against their being censored. Again, I think they have value, however besmirched that value is.
Would you buy a record with picture of a n*gga with big ass red lips, bugged eyes and a goddamn top hat on his head?
Anyhow... The original version didn't have that... It was a little Indian boy. It was written by a Brit in India (saying they prolly have their own stereotypes, but they aren't really the same ones you are referencing, unless you lump all of the worlds oppressed brown peoples into the same category, like the Americans did who turned Sambo african), and I think it was in later American versions, that they made Sambo an African.
I dunno... The reviews I've read for the book all seem to make Sambo out to be a very clever little hero.
The jolly and exciting tale of the little boy who lost his red coat and his blue trousers and his purple shoes but who was saved from the tigers to eat 169 pancakes for his supper, has been universally loved by generations of children. First written in 1899, the story has become a childhood classic and the authorized American edition with the original drawings by the author has sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
Little Black Sambo is a book that speaks the common language of all nations, and has added more to the joy of little children than perhaps any other story. They love to hear it again and again; to read it to themselves; to act it out in their play.
Classic story for children, October 26, 2000
Reviewer: A reader
When my wife asked me to try and find several classic children's books for her new baby grandson, I smiled at the mention of the titles, recalling with great fondness the stories being read to me by my mother when I was a child. Little Black Sambo was one of those stories. It is, of course, a shame that there arose some time ago individuals who equated the story with "racism". To the intelligent mind, it is truly a pity that some are so intent to find "racism" that they will envision same where none even vaguely exists.Such is the case with this fanciful, harmless classic story for children; a story that has been told to generations of children who have listened in wonder as the tigers melted into butter for (the little Indian boy) Sambo's pancakes!It is a story that returns one to a simpler time, long before child psychologists, political correctness (and who indeed is qualified to judge what is or is not CURRENTLY "correct"? Perhaps we're better off not knowing their identities, God help us!), shootings committed by school children, and all the other wonders of this wonderful Modern Age.Little Black Sambo is an American classic. As for racism: it can be found wherever one desires to find it. And if it exists not where they look, tis easy enough to invent.
The Other Side:[/b]
Racism starts in young, May 8, 2005
Reviewer: M. Lauture "Sociologist in Training" (Ithaca, NY) - See all my reviews
Whether Sambo is African, African American, or Indian, he still represents a colonized or enslaved people who are nearly always identified as childlike and ignorant. This was true for the Indians who were colonized by the British, the Africans enslaved by Europeans, and African Americans enslaved and held down by structural racism in America. And they continue to be portrayed like this main character. The problem with this book is that the racism is masked within a child's story, and is therefore entertaining. For those of you who don't see the harm in it, imagine reading a white counterpart in this story. What if the character were Polish? How would your reaction be different? It is perhaps easier now to see then that this story may be hurtful to some people? Other white counterparts of Sambo include the invariably inebriated Irishman or Scotsman, the ever questioning and unintelligent Swede, or the ever mob-affiliated Italian--all of which are extraordinarily offensive, though they have been lodged within various forms of entertainment for years such as movies and jokes. The fact that sometimes this book sells off the shelves is no surprise because most people don't understand the racial significance of this book and don't care to know (as seen in such reviews celebrating the greatness of this book). The privilege of calling ones preferences "not racist" comes with scrutinizing every aspect of things we like, and rooting out anything that is even in the slightest bit racist. If for you this book is a great book devoid of racism, well, you might want to think twice about thinking yourself as a progressive, unbiased person when it comes to race. If you're reading this book for any reason, it should be coupled with a class on racist ideology and how American culture is infused with it in the shape of seemingly benign forms of advertising and entertainment (i.e. Dairy Queen's "Moolatte", Aunt Jemima, etc). This is therefore not a children's book. For something a lot less offensive, that introduces your kids to other cultures, try Favorite African Folktales edited by Nelson Mandela.
NO...i'd take a shit in my left sock...roll that shit real tight..cut a hole at the end and squeeze my dookie out that bitch like frosting and write FUCK THIS RACIST ASS RECORD on the record jacket.
and fuck your sarcasm
how the fuck is this not offensive
LITTLE BLACK SAMBO books have zero value....the only reason they should not be destroyed is to remind ALL OF US what WE come from
Actually, I think most people in the US are programmed to think that that style of illustration is racist. But, really, what's so racist about that picture? So it's a caricature-ish little black kid sittin in the middle of some tigers. So? I don't think that's any more racist than a Kewpie Doll:
All you need to see to understand the fact that Sambo the book is something to be removed from our culture yet is not a method of "censorship," is to ask if it would be acceptable for Quaker Oats to bring back this famous brand:
It's that same bullshit denial of the racist culture that was so prevelant from the late 19th century to the end of World War II in America that was used when the owners of "Sambo's" restaurant claimed the name was "just an amalgam of Sam & Bob, the founder's names" as if the use of a small black boy with huge lips and bugged eyes was irrelevant.
I'm not saying we should ignore or deny America's shameful cultural history, I'm just saying we should NOT perpetuate it, which plenty of people would try to do, if allowed.