Sunday, January 27, 2013
Nursery rhymes with a side of racism.
Doesn't get more educational than that!
The book is of course not a stand alone piece of racist propaganda, there is also an old English song to go along with it. You can hear that here. (Quite a catchy tune don't you think?)
From what I have been able to discover this book is from around the turn of the 19th century. (In fact there was a little animated short of the same name made in 1912.) However the song seems to originate from the times directly after the Civil War, when there was a concerted effort to dehumanize the black man.
And you know this is not the ONLY time that the word "nigger" has shown up in book form by any means, in fact Agatha Christie's famous book "And Then There Were none" was originally titled "Ten Little Niggers" in reference to ten figurines that were used to represent each person who had escaped justice and was brought to an island together to be punished for their crimes. (Later the book was entitled "Ten Little Indians" and the figurines were changed to Native Americans. Because you know that is SO much less racist.)
And the word "nigger" also showed up numerous other times in nursery rhymes as well.
"Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch an tiger by his toe. If he hollers let him go. Eeeny, meeny, miney, moe," is a favorite of children all over the world, except of course tigers don't holler. However the original version featured someone who might.
I bring this up, simply as an indication of how far we have come as a country. Today we have a black man sitting in the White House, an idea that would have been considered nothing less than blasphemous back when this book and song were popular choices in nursery rooms around the country.
And it also gives an indication as to why racism came roaring back to life after Barack Obama won election. It was as if racism was part of people's DNA and once Obama rose above the approved station for a man of color, that racism could no longer be denied.
Suddenly seemingly reasonable people felt perfectly justified in referring to him with racial epithets, denigrating his abilities, and blaming him for everything that had ever gone wrong, or ever WOULD go wrong, in this country. He receives so many death threats that he could probably use them as wallpaper and cover every room in the White House if he saw fit to do so.
The Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama is contrary to everything that has been drilled into people's heads going back decades, and decades. It goes against even those lessons they were taught as tiny children at their mother's knee.
What has been done over generations CANNOT be undone overnight, or even in four years.
But slowly it IS being undone. As are the prejudices against women, against the LGBT community, and against those who do not practice a particular religious faith.
Time is on our side, progress is coming, and watching it happen is, to me, an incredibly glorious thing to behold. And once in awhile it does us good to reexamine the ugliness of the past in order to truly appreciate the beauty of our future.