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The Saga of ‘Sambo’s
July 14, 2014 5:23 AM   Subscribe

Not too long ago, Sambo’s had 1,117 locations in 47 states—and a reputation for pushing racist iconography along with its breakfasts.
posted by josher71 (120 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
The statue-of-negro-child-eating-watermelon of American restaurants. WHAT? It's not racist, it's our heritage!
posted by thelonius at 5:27 AM on July 14 [3 favorites]


It’s important to note that the Sambo now starring in those murals no longer looks like Bannerman’s Sambo. He has light skin, for one thing. His eyes are almost feminine: long lashes, an anime twinkle. He wears a turban with a gleaming red jewel in the middle. His shoes are curled at the toes.
So not better.
posted by Etrigan at 5:29 AM on July 14 [23 favorites]


“We do get the occasional complaint,” Stevens says. “They want us to know the controversy of the name. And yet for every complaint, there are about 1,000 people who say, ‘Wow, I can't believe it’s still here’—or ‘Open another one in our town.’
People are awful.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:35 AM on July 14 [24 favorites]


We had a Sambo's in Ann Arbor...

That's about all I got... Can't say much about it other than it was another cheap pancake place without much distinction other than the "I can't believe they get away with that name..." thought that crossed your mind every time you drove by...
posted by HuronBob at 5:35 AM on July 14 [3 favorites]


I have a few strange WTF memories of my childhood and one of them is regularly eating at Sambos with my grandmother. Every so often I'll see something and it reminds me of the restaurant and I'll have this overwhelming feeling of I'm-not-really-remembering-what-I-think-I'm-remembering right? I recently googled Sambos because I really thought I must have been mistaken. Nope, totally racist. I wish I could say the racism part would have mattered to my grandmother but I know different. She was born in Brooklyn and moved to FL in the 1950's and was a blatant racist often using the N-word casually in conversation. It boggles my mind that a restaurant like Sambos existed only 35 yeas ago.
posted by photoslob at 5:38 AM on July 14 [5 favorites]


This was always one of those "no, it can't be real" hazy memories I have had of my childhood. It is not gratifying to see that it was not something I imagined I thought saw.
posted by Kitteh at 5:46 AM on July 14


People are awful.

That's often true, but in this case it helps to remember that it's a self-selection effect: people who not only know that this restaurant chain is still around, but have actively sought it out to write to its owners. That can't be terribly large group.
posted by kewb at 5:47 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


FTA: The sad fact is, Battistone, Sr. and Bohnett weren’t racists; they were just businessmen who seized on a branding opportunity—then wound up on the wrong side of history.

This sort of thing bugs me -- the pervasive and mildly toxic idea that being "racist" is a state that, like Murder One, requires intent and malice aforethought. I say "mildly toxic" because it's actually kind of worse than nothing; it creates a category of can-I-touch-your-hair okay racism. I say this as a recovering can-I-touch-your-hair-type racist.

Battistone and Bohnett were racists. They may not have been ill-intentioned, overtly destructive racists. They may have been super swell guys who were just balls-ignorant. But saying they weren't racist isn't really super helpful in the long run.
posted by Shepherd at 5:51 AM on July 14 [65 favorites]


In the UK, Robertson's jams had a golliwog on their jars and publicity materials until 2001 apparently.
posted by epo at 5:52 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


The original story and illustrations is actually quite charming. It's rather a shame that later editions made it a byword for racism.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:52 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I ran across Sambo's as a fake ad in the mockumentary CSA. The movie itself took the form of a British documentary set in a world where the CSA had won the Civil War and promptly imposed slavery on the rest of the US. Running through the movie were several fake ads that duplicated what would presumably be running during a network showing of a documentary about modern slaveowners. They were effective, somehow being both over over-the-top and chilling, blithely showing the horrible world that the movie was set in. I mean, really, who in this world would call their restaurant 'Sambo's'?

I led a sheltered life, obviously.
posted by Mogur at 5:53 AM on July 14 [8 favorites]


My mom named her black cat "Sam". Facepalm.
posted by srboisvert at 5:58 AM on July 14


You don't have to be over 45. I think there was a Sambo's in Bowling Green, Ohio as late as the 90's or even the early aughts. I we pretty shocked when I showed up my freshman year in '92 and saw it there in the downtown. I think it was there after I graduated.

It isn't there any more. I'd say that's for damn sure but the fact it was there in 1992 (much less ever at all) removes any righteous certainty from that statement.
posted by charred husk at 5:59 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


If you get a chance, track down the mockumentary C.S.A. - The Confederate States of America. It's meant to be a Ken-Burns-style documentary from an alternate universe where the Confederacy won the Civil War, and is shown as if it's being screened on T.V. - with "ads" for "typical" products you could find in the 21st-Century Confederate States. But at the very end, they have an epilogue of the real-life things they based bits of the alternate history on - including the ads, which are pretty much directly taken from actual ads from the mid-20th-Century.

I saw it in the theater and the epilogue blew the audience's mind.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:00 AM on July 14 [10 favorites]


So the final season of Mad Men will have a scene or two there, maybe trying to capture the campaign?
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 6:01 AM on July 14


Yes racist and all, but, but, Tiger Butter

Then, when the Tigers were very wee and very far away, Little Black Sambo jumped up and called out,

"Oh! Tigers!
why have
you taken
off all your
nice clothes?
Don't you
want them
any more?"

And the Tigers were very, very angry, but still they would not let go of each others' tails. And they were so angry that they ran round the tree, trying to eat each other up, and they ran faster and faster till they were whirling round so fast that you couldn't see their legs at all.

And they still ran faster and faster and faster, till they all just melted away, and then there was nothing left but a great big pool of melted butter (or "ghi" as it is called in India) round the foot of the tree.


posted by sammyo at 6:03 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I ate at this place as a kid, and I had the exact reaction described by Langston Hughes, “It’s amusing undoubtedly to the white child,” Hughes wrote, “but like an unkind word to one who has known too many hurts to enjoy the additional pain of being laughed at.” It's sad that what was a pleasant story for me was hurtful to others. I am glad I was sheltered from this knowledge. I used to think out was amazing that the tigers ran around and turned into butter! Then you put the butter on your pancakes. Tiger butter! What's not to love?

I get why it was offensive, so am not defending it. I find it ironic this guy didn't learn from history.

Side note: They don't understand trademark law at all in that article. All the trademark would give them is some basic assumptions going into court. Instead of having the court already accepting certain things as fact hey would have to prove those things. Basically, they have a de facto trademark. It would just take more in legal fees to present a case in court. Assuming it followed the Redskin case.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:04 AM on July 14 [3 favorites]


I think there was a Sambo's in Bowling Green, Ohio as late as the 90's


You are thinking of Sam B's, an independent restaurant that used to be on Main St. just north of Wooster and is now in the old Kaufman's space. Sam B's has no connection with Sambo's.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:16 AM on July 14


The old Sambo's in Portland, Oregon.
posted by blueberry at 6:18 AM on July 14


Somewhere between the Dallas-Fort Worth area and the Texas/Oklahoma border (where my grandparents lived) was a Sambo's in the 70s. We always stopped there for pancakes, on my dad's insistence. Then one trip we came by and it was either closed or replaced by an IHOP. He was crestfallen and often sadly mentioned how much he missed their pancakes afterwards.

I had no idea there was anything racist, but I was about 8 or 9 at the time.
posted by emjaybee at 6:42 AM on July 14


As an aside about the "Little Black Sambo" story: Sam and the Tigers, written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (both African-Americans) is an interesting and really well-done reclamation of the story. Worth reading if you have any interest in tiger butter.
posted by Jeanne at 6:44 AM on July 14 [9 favorites]


1981 Article in which Sambo's sued the City of Ann Arbor for the right to use the name.. (it had been originally operated as a Jolly Tiger)
posted by HuronBob at 6:45 AM on July 14


I went on a motorcycle ride through Santa Barbara last year and I almost fell off the bike when I saw Sambo's. I definitely remember going as a kid.

I found this Sambo's Photos website then. It's kinda creepy.
posted by Sophie1 at 6:49 AM on July 14


My mom named her black cat "Sam". Facepalm.

Because of Sambo?
posted by josher71 at 6:53 AM on July 14


Once upon a time, there was a Sambo's down the street from me. I thought it was a little strange, even having moved from South Carolina northward, it struck me as kind of a strange thing to have. It eventually closed, in its time, but some strange curse lingered which my parents and I referred to as The Sambo's Curse: if they cannot have that space, nobody else can have that space. Year after year, some business would move into that location and it would fold. Sometimes in six months, sometimes in a year, but always that business would die a horrible death. It took a little over twenty years for the Sambo's Curse to die off.

I would still try some tiger butter, though.
posted by adipocere at 6:54 AM on July 14


"tiger butter" would make a great user or band name, except for all the connotations.

Thanks, racists!
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:08 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I was just talking about this chain Saturday. 30+ years ago they thought it was a good idea to open one across the street from my Jesuit High School.

The crazy thing is, no one seemed to mind.
posted by arkham_inmate_0801 at 7:11 AM on July 14


I remember the change to "No Place Like Sam's." The ads were seemingly all over the place on TV in the late 70s (or early 80s). They changed the mascot to a little old guy with round glasses and he was everywhere.
posted by xingcat at 7:15 AM on July 14


up here in Vancouver, we did things a bit different back in the day, one of the more popular downtown restaurants being a place called The White Lunch, which I only recently discovered was proof in advertising. Only whites allowed. And then I was doing a bit of research on a venerable old hotel in nearby Nanaimo and discovered ads from the 1930s guaranteeing "only white service staff".

Which gets me wondering where White Spot really got its name.
posted by philip-random at 7:17 AM on July 14


This article is oddly blase about the whole racism angle.
My understanding is that this artwork came first and was soon replaced with the “Sambo as a baby genie” motif. I can see why—although some people (Indians, Persians, genies?) might consider the newer mascot just as stereotypical as the older one.
What is this weird idea that the only people who can find imagery offensive are those who are targeted by it?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:22 AM on July 14 [13 favorites]


Previously.
posted by davidmsc at 7:31 AM on July 14


My fiancee is from Santa Barbara. I just could not believe my eyes the first time we walked by it. Her family had never eaten there and I ended up having to explain what was offensive about it, because she'd never heard anyone use that particular slur before.
posted by TrialByMedia at 7:31 AM on July 14


I'm just old enough to remember Sambo's as a regular chain, but the memory of going there as a child is so vague that if not for the confirmation from my parents and siblings that it did indeed exist, I would have thought it was something I dreamt up.

I was up in Santa Barbara for work earlier this year and stayed about a block or two from the one remaining Sambo's referenced in this piece. I guess I fell into the category of "Can't believe it's still around" nostalgic folks and went there one morning for breakfast. Probably my own fault for trying to eat healthy at a pancake house, but I ordered a (not particularly inexpensive) fruit and yogurt plate that was memorable for having not a single ripe piece of fruit on it. Eating there was much like trying to rewatch "Diff'rent Strokes" as an adult: A reminder that sometimes the past is best left in the past, lest my warm childhood memories be ruined by the harsh light of reality.
posted by The Gooch at 7:31 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


plastic_animals:
You are thinking of Sam B's, an independent restaurant that used to be on Main St. just north of Wooster and is now in the old Kaufman's space. Sam B's has no connection with Sambo's.
Huh, you're right. Wonder why I remember being shocked by the name when I first came to town.
posted by charred husk at 7:32 AM on July 14


$8.75 for two eggs plus pancakes? Ouch.
posted by sourwookie at 7:41 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


We had a Sambo's in my hometown in Maine in the 1970s, which got renamed "No Place Like Sam's" and then became a Denny's (which it remains to this day, 30-odd years later). In fact, I had been operating under the assumption that Denny's WAS Sambo's, particularly given some racial incidents in the 1990s, but I guess that was just my misapprehension.
posted by briank at 7:44 AM on July 14


My Breakfast With Blassie is at Sambos
posted by shockingbluamp at 7:48 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


My mom named her black cat "Sam". Facepalm.
Because of Sambo?


Unfortunately yes, he was named after Little Black Sambo about 20 years ago. I called him Samsonite instead and taught him how to box.
posted by srboisvert at 7:54 AM on July 14 [11 favorites]


The story of Sambo’s is one of the most incredible sagas—in the literal, you’re-not-going-believe-this sense of the word ...
And there was me expecting an ancient Icelandic tale of warrior folk.
posted by iotic at 7:59 AM on July 14 [5 favorites]


I vaguely remember one in my hometown when I was a child. It ended up as a Denny's, I think. Then I was digging through some stuff my mom sent me, and came up with this coffee mug.

I've been a bit stumped about what to do with the darn thing.
posted by underflow at 8:06 AM on July 14


In the junior hockey league I played in as a child the teams were named for the businesses that sponsored them. I played for Sambo's one season. Not anything like The Sambo's Tigers, just Sambo's. I remember hearing the story long before I ever knew there was a restaurant with that name. The murals in the one that sponsored us featured the lighter-skinned version of the character. I didn't learn until much later that the very name was pejorative, then I was appalled and embarrassed.

Thankfully I played for Lee Johnson Chevrolet the next season.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:11 AM on July 14


There were a couple Sambos in my hometown when I was growing up, one about a mile from home. When we were kids we'd occasionally ask to go there, but our parents wouldn't. We were too young to know.

Sometimes your parents are pretty cool, and you don't realize it until a lot later.
posted by ardgedee at 8:14 AM on July 14 [5 favorites]


I've been a bit stumped about what to do with the darn thing.

I was going to suggest throwing it in the trash or selling it on Ebay and giving the money to the NAACP or a similar organization. But they don't seem to be going for much more than $10, so I'd throw the damn thing in the garbage.
posted by marxchivist at 8:17 AM on July 14


> I've been a bit stumped about what to do with the darn thing

Donate it to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, if they want it.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:20 AM on July 14 [6 favorites]


Wikipedia says Arby's is named after the Raffel Brothers.
Looks like Confederate States of America is on YouTube.
posted by Bistle at 8:32 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Sambo's makes me sad- on the one hand, the horrible racist imagery is simply indefensible (and the new imagery isn't really an improvement); on the other hand, a number of the restaurants were gorgeous examples of mid-century design.

Still wouldn't eat there, though.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:34 AM on July 14 [8 favorites]


When I first heard about this controversy, I was puzzled - because I never heard "Little Black Sambo." It was always just "Little Sambo" in the book I had as a kid, and he was clearly Indian, not African, anyway. Finally, to me, it was a story of overcoming adversity, not being overwhelmed by your fears, and resourcefulness; nothing in the story I read belittled Sambo at all.

It was like finding out Little Red Riding Hood was anti-Semitic or something.... Huh, whuh?

Of course, that was just my microcosmic world view. My parents obviously chose the nonracist book for my library; I remember eating in a Sambo's once, and it was as exciting as if we ate in a Popeye's chicken - cool for a 5yo because of the "celebrity" appeal, but not exactly as wonderful as a Chuck E. Cheese.

So, in short: fuck the Sambo restaurant chain. My ignorance of their racism is no excuse for their existence.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:35 AM on July 14 [4 favorites]


I would love to own a restaurant that looks exactly like this one, TheWhiteSkull. And serve nothing but ultramodern deconstructed food.

(Obviously the name would have to change because uggggh. I just can't understand anyone thinking that kind of naming and branding is okay post-1965 or so.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:38 AM on July 14


I wonder if there was ever a Sambo's in White Settlement, Tx?
posted by item at 8:40 AM on July 14


While not quite an original depending on your definition, there's still one in Lincoln City, Ore too.
posted by Nosmot at 8:50 AM on July 14


We had a Sambo's just a few blocks from my home. It was the only place a couple of stoned high schoolers could go at 3am for a cheap stack of pancakes and endless coffee without fear of being hassled by anyone, including cops. It was kind of a neutral zone.

Great pancakes.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:51 AM on July 14


Santa Barbara California was the corporate headquarters for this restaurant chain. I went to school there and lived there for awhile. I remember years ago driving by the main location with twenty guys all wearing white shirts, ties, and dark pants standing outside taking a break. Management training. Back in the seventies in the local press there was the occasional "isn't that rascist" article. The company always responded with the usual "oh it's not rascist, it's just a cute reference to a sweet children's story."
posted by njohnson23 at 8:52 AM on July 14


you know you fucked up when your restaurant chain gets a report by the human rights commission
posted by p3on at 8:53 AM on July 14 [8 favorites]


Also I can't believe we've gotten this far in the thread without bringing up Ghost World.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:54 AM on July 14 [6 favorites]


My family took lots of road trip vacations when I was a kid in the 70s, and I'm sure at some point on one of them we ate at a Sambo's, although Denny's was our more usual choice. I was young enough that I thought Sambo's was just sort of "Denny's with a different name." But I do remember when the lawsuits and controversy about the name were on the news.

Along with TheWhiteSkull above, nowadays I do find myself missing some of that mid century architecture.
posted by dnash at 9:02 AM on July 14


Joe in Australia, no. The original illustrations aren't "charming". They're racist.
posted by truex at 9:09 AM on July 14 [4 favorites]


It's sad that what was a pleasant story for me was hurtful to others. I am glad I was sheltered from this knowledge. I used to think out was amazing that the tigers ran around and turned into butter! Then you put the butter on your pancakes. Tiger butter! What's not to love?

Yeah, exactly. And 50-yr-old me wants so bad to defend what 5-yr-old me loved. "But Sambo was the hero! He outsmarted them! It's not derogatory at all!" But if it's hurtful, it is. Better, I guess that I should keep my pleasant memory for myself, but let it die in the outside world.
posted by tyllwin at 9:30 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I've eaten at the Santa Barbara location within the last 10 years. Tiger butter pancakes!
posted by Chuffy at 9:36 AM on July 14


Also, too, we have restaurants named Cracker Barrel in the midwest...nothing to see here.
posted by Chuffy at 9:38 AM on July 14


There was a Sambo's near where we lived when I was a kid and we'd eat there every so often. I was innocent enough that I didn't understand it for what it was until I was much older.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:41 AM on July 14


Either way, it would be impossible to believe if it weren’t 100 percent true.

I've never heard of this before but I have absolutely no problem believing it.
posted by brundlefly at 9:44 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


When I first heard about this controversy, I was puzzled - because I never heard "Little Black Sambo." It was always just "Little Sambo" in the book I had as a kid, and he was clearly Indian, not African, anyway. Finally, to me, it was a story of overcoming adversity, not being overwhelmed by your fears, and resourcefulness; nothing in the story I read belittled Sambo at all.

It was like finding out Little Red Riding Hood was anti-Semitic or something.... Huh, whuh?


I had about the same reaction, for the same reasons, when I first found about the Song of the South(disney movie). Those stories (the Uncle Remus Stories) were presented to me just the same as Aesop's Fables and something to gain wisdom and reasoning from...

And I remember the time we ate at a Sambo's on a road trip (I was pretty young-maybe 1st grade?) I thought the food was terrible. 0 stars.
posted by bartonlong at 9:53 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Well, we still have Trader Vic's.
posted by Skwirl at 10:03 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I've eaten at the Santa Barbara location within the last 10 years.

Seriously? And you're comfortable with admitting this in public?

Also, too, we have restaurants named Cracker Barrel in the midwest...nothing to see here.

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty certain Cracker Barrel's etymology isn't mired in racism. Crackers used to actually be stored in barrels in oldschool general stores. So not really sure at all what you're trying to get at there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:09 AM on July 14 [5 favorites]


The Sambo's restaurant website is a mite defensive (their bolding):
Over the years many myths and rumors abound about the "SAMBO'S" name - its origin seemingly subject to many ideas as to how the restaurant got its name.

The fact is - SAM (the Founder) was a real person and BO (his partner) was a real person.

Sam is Sam Battistone and Bo is Newell Bohnett, known affectionately to his friends, family and associates as "Bo". Despite all the other stories you may have heard - this is really how SAMBO'S got its name. 'The Story of Little Black Sambo' by Helen Bannerman was an afterthought.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:18 AM on July 14


'We added the racism later! So it's all good.'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:19 AM on July 14 [27 favorites]


I actually had a copy of the original book when I was a very young child, and loved going to the restaurant (my grandmother lived in Santa Barbara).

No, that book is not charming, unless you enjoy racist stereotypes -- and how the hell are there tigers where that family lives? and don't they know where butter really comes from? Jeebus.

Cracker Barrel is quite obviously named after the actual cracker barrels that used to draw old folks to sit around the General Store and eat crackers out of barrels. But the amount of "weren't things much better before the 60s?" memorabilia one can buy in the lobby assures us that CB's racism is not against white people (as if that were possible).
posted by allthinky at 10:19 AM on July 14


Sam is Sam Battistone and Bo is Newell Bohnett, known affectionately to his friends, family and associates as "Bo". Despite all the other stories you may have heard - this is really how SAMBO'S got its name. 'The Story of Little Black Sambo' by Helen Bannerman was an afterthought.
"Also, ampersands were crazy expensive back then, so 'SAM & BO's' was right out."
posted by Etrigan at 10:28 AM on July 14 [5 favorites]


My mom named her black cat "Sam". Facepalm.

Because of Sambo?


When I was a teenager, a family friend's black cat was straight-up named Sambo. I called it Sammy instead and was corrected for not using the cat's real name. This was maybe ten years ago. Facepalm indeed.
posted by zeptoweasel at 10:31 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


corrected for not using the cat's real name

because they hate it when you do that
posted by thelonius at 10:33 AM on July 14 [10 favorites]


Oh gosh. Etymology aside, Cracker Barrel is an awful example to bring up for a not-racist restaurant. They were investigated by the DOJ as recently as 2004 (two-zero-zero-four!) for systematically segregating customers into White and Not-White sections.

They have since been court ordered to have a robust diversity training, which may have helped some, but that hasn't exactly fixed their ongoing issues with sexual harassment and homophobia. (http://nashvillescene.com/pitw/archives/2010/02/10/cracker-barrel-makes-great-strides-its-now-only-the-third-worst-place-for-gays-to-work)
posted by Skwirl at 10:42 AM on July 14 [3 favorites]


Skwirl, it seemed like Chuffy was saying the name was racist, all I was doing was pointing out how not even wrong that was. No disagreement that as a company it has some/a lot of obvious institutionalized racism/$_ism going on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:46 AM on July 14


I had been operating under the assumption that Denny's WAS Sambo's

Me too, until now. All the Sambo's I was aware of magically turned into Denny's so I thought they'd simply changed their name.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:53 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


"I’ve come to Santa Barbara to see for myself, because sometimes, reading about a phenomenon like Sambo’s on the Internet isn’t enough", he writes, for readers on the internet.
posted by Flunkie at 11:08 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


The whole article is a stealth ad for the Santa Barbara Board of Tourism.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:10 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Silence means security, silence means approval
Watchin' Zenith on the TV, tiger run around the tree
Follow the leader, run and turn into butter


---R.E.M. "Begin The Begin"
posted by sourwookie at 11:14 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


You want to talk racist restaurants? I give you Coon Chicken Inn

The Portland OR building still exists, they just plastered over the giant negro head.
posted by SPUTNIK at 11:17 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


My mom named her black cat "Sam". Facepalm.

Think that's bad? My grandparents had a neighbor who gave her black cat two names: N*****man and Nelson Mandela. My mamma taught me right, because even as a little kid I knew that was horrifying.
posted by brundlefly at 11:22 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Those stories (the Uncle Remus Stories) were presented to me just the same as Aesop's Fables and something to gain wisdom and reasoning from...

Well, Disney is as Disney does. But are you familiar with the books? Clutch your pearls and avert your eyes if you must, but Joel Chandler Harris is actually worth reading.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:35 AM on July 14


Oh, racist names for pets? Yeah, there were black dogs and cats named "N-word" in recent memory of my family. It was a really common (and shameful) practice in the South. I hear now and then of people still doing it; they just don't tell other people what the animal's name is unless they know they'll be ok with it. Petty stuff.
posted by emjaybee at 11:55 AM on July 14


No, that book is not charming, unless you enjoy racist stereotypes -- and how the hell are there tigers where that family lives? and don't they know where butter really comes from?

The book is set in India, where tigers live and where the author resided. Hence the melted butter, ghee, which is a staple ingredient there. India under the Raj was very different to the USA; racism was definitely a huge factor in that society, but her characters (as originally depicted) aren't caricatures; they look and speak like real people. At least, the ones in the color plates do; the black-and-white ones aren't as good. The color plates are full of whimsy, though, and Sambo is depicted as a hero and full of agency.

I'm not saying the books can or should be reclaimed, but I think we should at least clear the author of any malicious or callous intent.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:07 PM on July 14 [2 favorites]


I had a fairly sheltered childhood, so I never understood the controversy over the Sambo's name. My view of the Sambo's character was and remains what joe in australia described. The murals in my local restaurant clearly depicted an Indian boy with tigers. I didn't learn about the Little Black Sambo character and its racist connections until much later in life.

Like tyllwin, the 47-year old me wants to defend the 7-year old me's interpretation and memories of the restaurant. Had the clearly racist iconography been in my local Sambo's, I would have had a much different memory of it (my parents would most likely have never allowed me to eat there).

Does having pleasant memories of a chain restaurant whose mascot was a small Indian boy who does fun things with tigers make me racist, even if I was completely unaware of the larger controversy?

Incidentally, the curse of Sambo's is definitely a thing. My local restaurant was the site of a long string of failing restaurants until it finally became a bank.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 12:26 PM on July 14


Joe in Australia, I'm so confused -- the illustrations are clearly caricatures; in the "original" that you linked to above, Sambo's mother may as well be Aunt Jemima, and Sambo's father is simplistic and childlike in his facial features.

There's a mention of ghee, but then they all have pancakes for dinner -- are these meant to be sweet dhosas? And each member of the family eats more than 50? How charming!

Assuming that Sambo and his family were originally meant to be (and illustrated as) South Indian or Tamil, there's every reason to believe that she was portraying "the colonials" as simplistic people of color, which is racist; their actions are undeniably childlike. (Hey! Look! a puddle of butter! I'll bring that home to my wife!)

Oozy rat and Joe, the point is not whether some memories make you racist (jesus, I grew up in white America -- I know I'm racist) or whether Bannerman had a "callous" intent. The point is it feeds on an overall ideology wherein people of color are silly, infantile, colorful little characters with simplistic motivations.

And there's just no doubt that the presence of the chain and its long fight to keep its "authenticity" has been harmful in the US.
posted by allthinky at 12:34 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I was looking at the photographer's website linked above, trying to figure out which Oregon Sambo's we ate at, and maybe... all of them? Me and my sister liked it a lot better than Denny's, which was basically the same exact food, because hey- it was a restaurant, themed after a children's storybook, with cool pictures to look at everywhere, and- I think- games on the placemats.

It was a little confusing though, because I also remember having a Little Black Sambo storybook, but the restaurant Sambo didn't seem 'black' at all. (here's a picture that shows the approximate color of the restaurant character- he's obviously not black but yellow, actually lighter than Uncle Sam.)

Having approximately the same amount of real-world and historical knowledge of African Americans, and people from India, at the time- which was basically nil, being a 7-ish year old white kid in the 70's in Oregon- I never understood how Sambo was Black, I just liked how he outsmarted the Tigers, and got his awesome umbrella and pants and shoes back, and then everybody ate 50 pancakes! 50!

Cartoon-character-based racial indoctrination is a pretty weird thing, especially when you add in the glorification of gluttony like that ...
posted by hap_hazard at 12:57 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Tell me again how the original books are innocent of any racism.
posted by elizardbits at 1:09 PM on July 14 [5 favorites]


"full of whimsy"?
posted by elizardbits at 1:13 PM on July 14


"full of whimsy"?

Sambo is depicted as a hero and full of agency.

What do you make of JIA's latter claim?
posted by josher71 at 1:15 PM on July 14


It's sort of the same argument used by people who don't want racist American sports teams to change their names to things that don't offend Native Americans. Saying "oh but we chose this name because your people are such brave fighters, it's a compliment" is fairly similar to "well yeah it's a grotesque caricature but he's so heroic!"
posted by elizardbits at 1:23 PM on July 14 [6 favorites]


Joe in Australia: “The original story and illustrations is actually quite charming. It's rather a shame that later editions made it a byword for racism.”

Those are not the "original" illustrations. They are by Florence White Williams, who was born in 1895. I'm not sure when she did them, but I'm betting she didn't do them when it was first published in 1899, because she was only four years old then. The original illustrations are by the author, Helen Bannerman.

elizardbits: Tell me again how the original books are innocent of any racism.

Those are not the illustrations from the "original books." They are the illustrations from the 1908 edition, and they were apparently drawn by John R Neill, not the author, Helen Bannerman.

As far as I can tell, nobody here has linked to the original illustrations by Helen Bannerman. I am guessing the cover illustration for the first US edition in 1900 is probably at least similar to Helen Bannerman's illustrations, but then I'm not sure. I'm not sure I have the patience to do much more digging.

In any case, maybe we could be more careful about pointing at the "original" version of something that was reprinted dozens upon dozens of times.
posted by koeselitz at 2:13 PM on July 14 [6 favorites]


(As far as whether or not that cover illustration for the first US edition in 1900 is a racist caricature, it could be. I can't see it very well. As far as I can tell, the face is a big black scribbly ball, with barely-discernable eyes and lips. Maybe the person is wearing a hat; I can't really say. The only apparent accoutrements – an umbrella and some pointy shoes – aren't really stereotypical for black caricatures of the time, as far as I know. But I guess we'd have to see the rest of the book to know.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:16 PM on July 14


(And apparently some people put Florence White Williams' birth at 1900, so it's even less likely that she illustrated the 1899 first edition.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:19 PM on July 14


Upthread there's a link to the Project Gutenberg version, with illustrations; they are credited to Florence White Williams, not Helen Bannerman. There are definite "stylistic" differences between the color and b/w drawings. It's definitely possible that the PG images are not representative of the 1900 edition. I'm not familiar enough with the PG process that might result in a mis-mash of text, attribution, and images drawn from disparate sources.
posted by achrise at 2:35 PM on July 14


Okay, having looked a bit at the book:

Textually, I think it's clearly not intended as a racist caricature of Africans in America – although I have not seen the original illustrations, and cannot find them online anywhere, the text suggests that this isn't a story about Africans in America at all. It's about an Indian boy. It was written by a Scottish woman who spent much of her life in India. The fact that it's not a racist caricature of Africans in America does not mean it isn't a racist caricature of Indians, however. I'm tempted to point out that, if it is such a racist caricature, it's clearly a much more affectionate portrait than any of the racist caricatures about Africans in America at the time.

Moving on to that: as evinced by the illustrations in the many subsequent editions, the book's great popularity seems to rest on a fair amount of misreading and misunderstanding of the text by racist Americans.

For instance: early in the text, we have this –
And Black Mumbo [Sambo's mother] made him a beautiful little Red Coat, and a pair of beautiful little Blue Trousers. And Black Jumbo [Sambo's father] went to the Bazaar and bought him a beautiful Green Umbrella and a lovely little Pair of Purple Shoes with Crimson Soles and Crimson Linings. And then wasn't Little Black Sambo grand?
Now, as far as I can imagine, this Scottish woman who had lived much of her life in India was honestly charmed by this sort of exotic outfit which she's describing, and although there's something racist in that, at least it's an honest charm she finds.

But on the other hand, note that one of the common tropes in the stereotypical portrayal of Africans in racist American literature was the "black person tries to put on fancy clothing but looks silly, because black people can't help being silly." I admit that my feel for the racist mind is not always perfect, but I can imagine this making for an entertaining revisionist read of this text: Little Black Sambo gets all dressed up, how silly and stupid he appears! Racists generally don't have a great feel for foreign cultures, so I can see how this book might be assumed to be about black Africans. They have tigers in Africa, right? (Spoiler alert: no.)

So I can see how this book by a Scottish woman living in India could be totally misunderstood and misread by racists in America. I think there's a bit of paternalistic racism in the original, but it is not the sort of racism people here seem to be expecting or believing.

As for the restaurant? Yeah, pretty obviously racist. As almost any American depiction of "little black Sambo" is likely to be.
posted by koeselitz at 2:39 PM on July 14 [3 favorites]


If anyone would like to look at the original illustrations by the author, Helen Bannerman, they can be seen here, I think.
posted by koeselitz at 2:45 PM on July 14


I think there's a bit of paternalistic racism in the original, but it is not the sort of racism people here seem to be expecting or believing.

Yes. It's a nice example, actually, of the way racism structures and deforms our perceptions of entire discursive universes. It's easy enough to imagine a world in which Little Black Sambo's text is entirely innocent (the illustrations are a more debateable area). I mean, some of the things in it that people are trying to read as race stereotypes in this thread are just standard kids fantasy elements of the Just So Stories variety (as, for example, the fact that the hero eats so many pancakes at the end or that butter doesn't actually come from tigers [shock!]). I don't think there's anything in the story that inherently sets the protagonist up as a joke or as structurally inferior to the imagined reader. And yet it is also clear how easily the story could be assimilated--without any changes--into the racist expectations and understandings of the US--and also how inextricably interwoven with that framework it would become.
posted by yoink at 3:09 PM on July 14 [2 favorites]


Yoink, that's the thing about systemic racism, though -- the same things that would be merely playful in other folktales can perpetuate all kinds of pernicious stereotypes in a story about people of color. (Kipling seems like a problematic comparison in this light.)

The book I had as a kid (which my grandmother brought me and had the Florence White Williams illustrations) portrayed Sambo and his family as a very stereotypical "pickaninny" and his Mammy of a mother and silly father. Everything portrayed therein thus seemed to be silly because *those people* were silly, at best.

I could not have been more than 5, but that message came through loud and clear.

The *actual* world in which the author, as a Scot, told this story about Indians (or Tamils) doesn't really allow for the innocent interpretation, as charming as it might be in some other possible world.
posted by allthinky at 3:26 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


The *actual* world in which the author, as a Scot, told this story about Indians (or Tamils) doesn't really allow for the innocent interpretation, as charming as it might be in some other possible world.

Oh, absolutely. That's what I mean about the deforming power of racist discourse--it fucks up pretty much everything it touches. That's always the problem, though also the pathos, of appeals to innocent motives (as, e.g., that the founders of the restaurant chain didn't have any racist intentions etc.)--in the end, it just doesn't matter, because we all inhabit the discourse and it has its effects regardless of our "intentions," no matter how immaculate.
posted by yoink at 3:41 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid--this was the Fifties--our Wednesday night babysitter, the beloved Mrs. Geise, always arrived with a selection of Little Golden Books, one of which was Little Black Sambo. I marveled at tigers turning to butter.

My favorite, though, was The Big Brown Bear, because at the tender age of 6 or 7 I recognized that the husband bear was a doofus, and it made me feel superior. Well, and for what reason I don't know, I thought the gigantic bandage on his nose was awesome.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:23 PM on July 14


I think this is the first edition - Grant Richards of London, 1899 - with Bannerman's illustrations.

However, it's maybe more relevant that US printings put in new illustrations in which the protagonist and his family were made to look more like racist depictions of Africans. Which kind of brings us back to where we came in.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:32 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


I think there's a bit of paternalistic racism in the original, but it is not the sort of racism people here seem to be expecting or believing.

I suspect it's even more complicated than that. There's the factor of social hierarchy both English and Indian to consider. We're talking upper middle class woman writing about peasants. Imagine if she had stayed home- we'd have the story of Wee White Willie outwitting the Scottish wildcats. Butter for oatmeal or some such.

Anyway, you look hard enough, you can find the nasty in anything. Doesn't mean it's there. Though you can always convince yourself, if you really want to, and it makes you feel righteous
posted by IndigoJones at 5:08 PM on July 14


Anyway, you look hard enough, you can find the nasty in anything. Doesn't mean it's there. Though you can always convince yourself, if you really want to, and it makes you feel righteous

Yep. If there's one thing we know to have been an unalloyed moral and cultural good, which had no negative qualities and which people only ever find fault with to feel righteous, it's the British Empire.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:13 PM on July 14 [2 favorites]


One could also see the whole tale as an allegory for successive waves of Colonial Powers (the tigers) making themselves grander at the expense of the Indigenous Working Class (Sambo), who ultimately wins back his birthright with a moderate helping of tiger butter (I don't know what that represents).

But you can read what you want in things. Those illustrations are still a gross representation of the supposed hero. Even at the time, artists knew what they were doing when they were drawing their bunnies fluffy, their superheros square-jawed, and their little Black children savage caricatures. That message matters at least as much as the subtext of the story in a picture book for kids.
posted by Freyja at 6:21 PM on July 14


Elizardbits, here's the image you linked to. Here are the ones I was referring to: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. There's a huge difference between them. Florence White Williams' illustrations (which I should not have called "original") aren't caricatures; they show respect for the characters and the people they represent. They're also quite charming IMO. Allthinky criticises them by saying that "Sambo's mother may as well be Aunt Jemima"; I think that's a retrojection that misses the point. Aunt Jemima started as a racist caricature and was adopted as a racist stereotype: the Black house servant who is endlessly obliging, and happy to serve and whose accomplishments are in no way threatening to her mistress' position. Sambo's mother is ... just Sambo's mother. She makes him a nice outfit at the start of the story, and she cooks pancakes for him at its end.

I'm not saying that there aren't any problematic aspects to the story. The idea that the characters' racial identity is salient and should be part of their name is racist, or at least Orientalist. None the less, the faults are pretty minor, given the period it comes from; these particular illustrations are rather good; and it's a shame that the book carries so much baggage. If it wasn't for that legacy and the business with the names I think the story would be worth giving kids today.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:58 PM on July 14


I don't know if anyone else is super intrigued by the fact that the link at the top of this FPP was about how weird it is that this legacy diner with a racist name is still kicking in Santa Barbara, and has now morphed into an attempt to recuperate Little Black Sambo, which I guess would make the diner retroactively not racist. Which kind of removes the curiosity value, and means it would not have been chosen as an FPP.

A paradox!
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:17 PM on July 14


Okay so I've caught up on this thread and holy shit, are people really defending Little Black Sambo?

The original intent of the author or illustrator or whomever is not the point, here. It never was. The book is a product of a systemically racist society and it reflects that regardless of Bannerman or Williams' intent.

If one were to apply the same standards I'm seeing here to other media you'd end up arguing that classic minstrel shows aren't racist. I mean, they portray black people as full of humor and jocularity! Those are good things, aren't they‽ Also, why do Asian people get mad when I assume they're all good at calculus?
posted by truex at 7:25 PM on July 14 [3 favorites]


I think the diner chain's trademark was doomed to end up as a racist caricature, because the USA is not India or the UK and because using a character as a trademark necessarily divorces it from the story. But in any event, they did go with racist versions of the illustrations, so it's a moot point.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:31 PM on July 14


Here's the thing. It doesn't matter if you don't think that Little Black Sambo is racist. Other people do, and to dismiss that because you can somehow divine the non-racist intent of dead people is to dismiss the real concerns of real living people for the sake of your own emotional comfort.
posted by truex at 7:32 PM on July 14


Okay so I've caught up on this thread and holy shit, are people really defending Little Black Sambo?

Maybe? I thought it was an interesting discussion about the racism that went beyond what seemed like the obvious elements.
posted by josher71 at 7:52 PM on July 14


I think the discussion skips over, rather than going beyond, some obvious elements - like that Sambo is not a Tamil name, but rather a name given in the nineteenth century by white people to black men and boys, without them having much say in the matter. I would hypothesize that Bannerman probably picked it up from Thackeray, who named the Sedleys' dark-skinned Indian manservant Sambo. Thackeray in turn, I imagine, picked it up from the Americas: there are two characters in the roughly contemporary Uncle Tom's Cabin called Sambo, both slaves.

(Speaking of names, there's also the fact that the mother and father in Bannerman's book are called Mumbo and Jumbo - seriously. Mumbo. Jumbo.)

The fact that "Sambo" has been a diminutive/pejorative form of address used by white people of and to black men for over a century doesn't hopefully need to be evidenced. But what is interesting, maybe, is the question of why all the rest of Bannerman's books have been totally forgotten, with this single exception (even the other ones with very similar titles). I'd hazard that it is precisely because of the pejorative nature of the word. Is it because of the possibility for legitimation, as in the case of the diners? Or just that it's so wildly offensive that it sticks in the mind (and the culture)? Probably both, to different extents and to different people.

As has been mentioned, anyone charmed by the story has other options, including "Sam" and various bowdlerizations, most recently "The Story of Little Babaji", with art by Fred Marcellino. However, I think there's something else going on here; oozy rat says something interesting above:

Does having pleasant memories of a chain restaurant whose mascot was a small Indian boy who does fun things with tigers make me racist, even if I was completely unaware of the larger controversy?

I think that often "is this racist" becomes "does this make me a racist?", or "are people thinking I'm a racist?". Again, Joe In Australia, above, says:

I'm not saying the books can or should be reclaimed, but I think we should at least clear the author of any malicious or callous intent.

And again, I think an interesting question there is why? And, for that matter, how? She died nearly 70 years ago, and lived in an imperial culture that would be alien to us - one that was predicated on the idea that India was better off governed by white Europeans.

So, yeah. I think that there's an interesting thing going on there, and there's a potentially interesting parallelism with the history of the diner. But I'm not sure the discussion about whether or not Little Black Sambo is offensive is that interesting thing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:35 PM on July 14 [5 favorites]


I took a really amazing class on African Americans in Children's Literature when I was in undergrad, from Gerald Early , a pretty fantastic professor- the course started around Little Black Sambo, and ended with folks like Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Paul Curtis. I learned a lot, including the fact that just being a good-intentioned, nice and smart white person isn't really enough to keep me from accidental racism.

Anyways, a few years ago, the Wash U libraries curated a really large collection of versions of the book. Professor Early had the following to say about the book at a big symposium they held:
“I remember telling a friend once that as a boy my favorite book was Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1912). It is hard to find a book that is more rabidly, insanely racist, far more so than Little Black Sambo, which seems liberal by comparison, and as a child I recognized the racism of it. But the book taught me about manliness, courage, standing up for one’s beliefs, resourcfulnees, grace, sacrifice. Reading Tarzan actually made me braver as a kid and enabled me to stand up to bullies in school. I learned the same from superheroes in comic books, even though all the heroes were white. Never underestimate the good to which a child’s imagination can put any book. Yes, literature is political, but it is not only political. It is also about other important things. Children’s literature cannot help but reflect that which is wheat and that which is weed in us. It does not matter how good the intentions of adult writers may be, there will always be bad things in children’s literature for a kid to read, unless authors sprout wings and become angels. After all, as Helen Bannerman once expressed in a letter to her son, artist can do only what they can, not ideally what they want. They are limited by time, place, the prejudices of their day, and their own peculiar frailities as individual human beings. But how else can a child learn about life and literature except through imperfectly conceived, indeed utterly flawed artistic expressions? So, this is the risk we run in having a children’s literature at all and the risk we must bear. For a children’s literature worthy of the name is not without its costs or its potential to do as much harm as good. And we will always be unsure, no matter our moral vehemence, of the nature of the harm or the good.”
source
posted by ChuraChura at 8:37 PM on July 14 [6 favorites]


I worked as a busboy at No Place Like Sam's in Hamden, Conn. Most of our supplies were trucked in from elsewhere and still had the Sambo's packaging. I knew it was wrong, but it was $2.35 an hour (or whatever min wage was in 1981) and I needed the dough. One day the manager didn't show up, and eventually the cops found him at a motel in Massachusetts with $3,000 worth of frozen meat in a couple dozen coolers. The place shut down for good shortly thereafter.
posted by stargell at 8:40 PM on July 14 [3 favorites]


We used to drive past Sambo's all the time when I was a kid. Sometime around 1976-77, when I was 5 or 6, I asked my dad what kind of food they had and why we never ate there. He said that they had good pancakes but he didn't like the mean pictures they had of black people on the walls. This puzzled me since I knew he didn't like black people.

My dad grew up in the south, casually used the n-word when I was little and has still never come to peace with the idea of interracial marriage. He told me when I was a little older that there was a big difference between "keeping the black man in his place and rubbing his nose in it like they did at that restaurant." The first was (in his mind) Just The Way Things Were. The second was "losing sight of your own place as a white man."*

He liked the pancakes, but Sambo's was too racist for even him to eat there. I think that's part of what killed them. Lots of people were and still are racist, but fewer and fewer were willing to be seen openly reveling in it. Over the years casual slurs blurted openly have become whispered secrets confided between the like-minded in private.

(His racism has softened a bit over the years but I was stunned when he told me in all seriousness that he voted for Obama in 2012. While I collected my jaw from the floor, he explained that Obama hadn't really fucked anything up in his first four years and, much more importantly, that since he was now a resident of Ohio, it was imperative that his vote not go to "that godless, lying, worthless sack of shit Mitt Romney" to become president. This was after he told me in 2008 that as a white man from the south, he could never vote for a black man.)

* - I was about 11 years old when I gave the matter some thought and realized what an unbelievably fucked-up world view this was.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:46 PM on July 14 [9 favorites]


I have been GISing for Sambo's restaurant, trying to find images of the illustrations they'd have on the walls, trying to see if my vague memories of his skintone are correct. I remember him looking like he does in the thing I linked above, from '76. BTW, I do not necessarily recommend doing that search- a disturbing amount of Obama cartoons come up, as well as images from stormfront, which, go figure.

About all I came up with was, first, a photoset from- I'm guessing- the 50's, and maybe just from the original restaurant, not the chain. Sambo is very black indeed. So and then there's this, from, apparently, much later on. The style looks right for my recollection, but he's danged well pink by this point. So I guess they progressively (ha) altered his skin tone over the years.
posted by hap_hazard at 8:53 PM on July 14


This version was available for sale at my local grocery store in 2005 or thereabouts. It's been quite clearly set in India with new names for the characters. I bought it for the tiger butter but never really felt too comfortable with it (and the boys didn't like it) so it was retired very quickly.
posted by h00py at 9:01 PM on July 14


Joe in Australia: "Florence White Williams' illustrations (which I should not have called 'original') aren't caricatures; they show respect for the characters and the people they represent. They're also quite charming IMO. Allthinky criticises them by saying that 'Sambo's mother may as well be Aunt Jemima'; I think that's a retrojection that misses the point. Aunt Jemima started as a racist caricature and was adopted as a racist stereotype: the Black house servant who is endlessly obliging, and happy to serve and whose accomplishments are in no way threatening to her mistress' position. Sambo's mother is ... just Sambo's mother. She makes him a nice outfit at the start of the story, and she cooks pancakes for him at its end."

Well - I disagree. Florence White Williams' illustrations are different from the John P Neill illustrations elizardbits linked to above - they're not this abject, virulent racism that demonstrates pure hatred for a race - but they are still racist. You say Williams' illustrations show respect; I think that's quite unwarranted.

Williams' illustrations show affection. And they're a part of a sort of affectionate racism that was and is popular in the America, particularly in certain areas and among certain people. This affectionate racism is often a softening of, or reaction to, the cruder variety of racism. Note that the really awful racist images came early - that Neill set was from 1908, and Williams' probably from much later. It's still hideous racism, but it cloaks itself as an endeared love of a race for its pure, simple features. It was, for example, once popular among liberal right-thinking whites to declare that blacks were "more spiritual" or "gifted with natural rhythm" or "simple but proud" or something like that. It's a kind of condescending fetishism, a weird cartoon.

truex makes a good analogy with minstrel shows above. A lot of minstrel shows were like this, blackface not as pure hateful spite but as affectionate homage to a dumbed-down character everybody loved. That complicates it a little, but it doesn't make it less racist.
posted by koeselitz at 9:21 PM on July 14


Koeselitz, heaven knows there is and was a lot of that stuff around - but it seems to me that the book's audience is expected to identify with the clever, quick-thinking Sambo. Doesn't this take it out of the affectionate-racism category? Contrast this with things like Disney's Song of the South, in which the African American characters are there to serve or entertain the protagonist.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:44 PM on July 14


They have tigers in Africa, right? (Spoiler alert: no.)


A Tiger? In Africa?
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 12:24 AM on July 15


I hate to derail, but this is beautiful. Remarkably clean interplay of 17 in this thread, with it telling you right there that there are four sevens in total. However, by posting this, it's gone.
posted by Philipschall at 1:22 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


One day the manager didn't show up, and eventually the cops found him at a motel in Massachusetts with $3,000 worth of frozen meat in a couple dozen coolers.

"I know it isn't exactly the Ritz, darling. But tomorrow we'll be in Vermont, and then Canada, and nobody will be open to tell us who to love."
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:02 AM on July 15


(Gah! "open" = "able". How ironic that my sausage fingers should have messed up the autocorrect on a joke about falling in love with $3,000 worth of frozen meat.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:22 AM on July 15


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