I still have not received my copy of Vamos A Cuba however I can not wait to read it. I think about how humiliating it must be when an person must be told what they can or can not read. It is probably even more insulting than racism itself. It is oppression by elitism. How many intellectual elites does it take to make a policy that in essence is censureship? No matter how it is rationalized it is still the act of filtering content based on policy.
We should ask questions. Rare books are a window into our history. Should we seek out and destroy books like Little Black Sambo because it defines in clear illustration our racist past? Should we allow mental caretakers to protect us from our emotional sensitivities?
Think about what defines African American Culture. It is clearly not the same factors that define black culture and I mean specifically black racial culture from areas outside of the United States. A comparison of slave societies from the Caribbean or South America shows one common factor. As Americans we have a hyper-emotional preaction to anything race related. And instead of facing this hyper-emotional preaction we have choosen as a group to hide from it and we allow our leaders to use it to control us a group.
The race stick is the cattle prod to keep us in line and clustered politically. So we do not see that African Americans are blacks just like the blacks in France, in Ecuador, Trinidad, in London and Brazil. We speak different languages but as a racial category we are the same. What makes us different is our damaged psyches from American racism. And then to think that the same instruments used to cause the damage should be hidden away from our very eyes to protect our sensibilities. This brings me back to Little Black Sambo. For anyone with low self esteem this series of books is humiliating. But who decided to make the decision for me to censure, to hide, to categorize unfit this book for me?
Today, even in Overtown we live in a multi-cultural society. We are no longer just defined as a culture based upon race. What about the other factors like political beliefs, religious beliefs, and aspirations. In reality most people in Overtown are classified by where we live and how much money we make. We are being conditioned to think that if we are not racial beings then we are not human beings. It is a challenge for those who limit themselves to the racial platform. Take a step in another direction and see if will expand your horizons.
*The Story of Little Black Sambo is a children’s book by Helen Bannerman, a Scot living in India, first published in 1899. The little boy who had to sacrifice to tigers his new red coat and his new blue trousers and his new purple shoes— which the tiger wears on his ears— but outwits the predators in his world, to return safely home and eat 169 pancakes for his supper, was a children’s favorite for half a century before it became controversial. The story takes place in a fairy tale India, and the tigers racing around the tree are turned into ghee, rendered as “butter.”
Helen Bannerman, the author of this classic, was an English woman who died in 1946 at the age of about 80. She wrote several other children’s stories, including Little Black Quiba and Little Black Bobtail.
The book has a controversial history. Many consider the work to contain racist caricatures and stereotypes, and the word “sambo”, partly as a result of the book, has a long history as a racial slur. The original illustrations portray Sambo in classic, “darky” iconographical form (see Blackface), with inky skin, wild hair and bright red lips.