Sunday, January 27, 2013

Nursery rhymes with a side of racism.

Isn't that just darling? A book to teach young children how to count, while also reinforcing racist stereotypes and the denigration of people with the wrong skin color.

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.


  1. Anonymous7:13 AM

    Such a beautiful example of love and teens:

    “I think it is the awsomest time I’ve ever had in my whole entire life.”

  2. Just to drive home the sublimity of it all, the contrast twixt this president and the predecessor couldn't be any more complete in every possible manner!

    1. Interesting how goofy Dubya is bracketed by the two best presidents since Lincoln (in my opinion).

  3. As your next piece entitled "Christian radio hosts call feminists unattractive, child hating, narcissistic, family destroying whores. Because you know they really never want to get laid again!" it is evident that some people are bringing back stereotypes, misogyny, racism, etc. I don't think we will ever get rid of bigots like we probably will never get rid of oil drilling and those who think climate change is a hoax. Bigotry appears to be a societal and class based phenomenon which perpetuates hatred and avoidance of differences between rich and poor, whites and people of color, those with disabilities, those with trucks, people from other countries, etc. I have observed children who play with other children who are different from themselves until their parents tell them it is unacceptable. This leads me to believe that as we grow up, we bow to a different set of rules in order to fit in to a particular group. What a distorted lesson we learn so early in life. Sadly, we don't retain our child-like innocence so the world could be at peace with its imperfections.

  4. Hugh G. Rection7:26 AM

    Thank you Jesse, too many in the world seem to think racism is a thing of the past. I lived in FL for 6 years, and spent alot of that time in the company of my 6'4" gay black best friend. Those of you who think racism doesn't exist, spend some time in the company of a black man in the south, and then watch the reactions when your caucasion wife gives him a hug and a kiss in greeting and goodbye. Yes racism is alive and well, unfortunately even in our families. The wife's mother was devastated that my best friend was the best man at our wedding.

  5. When I was a kid it was "if he hollars make him pay, fifty dollars every day." Because that was a huge sum that would create a near-permanent debt.

    Why yes. Yes, I am that old.

    1. Anonymous8:59 AM

      Ivyfree, we learned more to that song as we all joined hands and ran around in a circle singing it...."Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies, if he hollers make him pay, fifty dollars everyday....last one down a nigger baby"....and we would all fall down. Of course the last one down was eliminated and the song would start again until there was only one left and the winner. I can still hear us singing that out on the school ground. 1940's era. I also had the book, "Little Black Sambo"...and he ran around the mulberry bush as the tigers chased him and soon they all turned into butter. Sambo won!


    2. Ivyfree
      That's the same version that I learned on the playground and we used it as a method of solving disputes, to decide who batted 1st in a pickup game, etc. It had probably been passé down for 100 years by the time we learned it.

      By the way, neither my son nor his friends ever heard it. The cycle of racism and other forms of bigotry are broken or lessened by a good education in a diverse setting.

    3. Anonymous4:14 PM

      Anon 8:59, I was given the "Little Black Sambo" book as a young child, and if I remember correctly Little Black Sambo also used the butter for his pancakes. Nothing prejudice about using his butter on his Aunt Jemima pancakes.

    4. I remember the "make him pay $50 every day", and the Ring around the Rosie" too.

      My own children are grown now, and never learned those versions, thankfully.

  6. You know just to point out how far the children of today are from this racism. When I was working in the kindergarten classes we had to do a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.

    It proved nigh impossible to explain to these children why somebody might not want a person to have rights, or actually hate them, simply due to the color of their skin.

    In fact when I pointed out that some of the children had different skin color than others, they were shocked, as if it had never occurred to them to notice.

    It was one of the greatest days I spent in the classroom ever!

    1. Anonymous7:35 AM

      THat just makes me smile :)

    2. Anonymous9:34 AM

      That story G is EXACTLY why it is NOT in peoples DNA to be racist! It is LEARNED/Taught!

      That is why Education is the key also, and why R's hate education. It teaches that no matter what race, religion, creed we are all one.

      We are all the SAME!!!! Black, white, red or green!

  7. Anonymous7:38 AM

    You could have put the first 2 posts together.
    Racism and sexism are not too far apart.
    Little people with little hateful minds, hating everything out of fear even their Mothers and sisters.
    very little uneducated people that live fearful lives.

  8. Anonymous7:46 AM

    How is it possible no one comes out of a womb Christian, Muslin or Jew if there is some great creator for their existance?

    1. Jews are Jewish from birth. Christians too, if their parents are some branch of it. Catholics are Catholics from birth, aren't they? They baptize them very quickly anyway.

  9. betsy s8:06 AM

    Prejudice might be undone a little faster if the MSM didn't describe the President as African-American every time he was mentioned. As they did during the inauguration, on all channels. We know he's African-American (which is a triumphant accomplishment) and don't have to be told about it each time he's named over the past four years and hopefully the next four.

  10. Anonymous8:17 AM

    What the fuck is wrong with you? There's no reason to dredge this up to make any point. You're losing it man.

    1. Anonymous9:30 AM

      Piss off.

    2. Struck a nerve, me thinks.

    3. Anonymous12:12 PM

      Anon @8:17 - it is best not to forget the ugliness of the past... as painful as it may be. Unfortunately, that ugliness is still with us. They popped out from under their rocks with the election of Obama.

    4. Anonymous8:20 PM

      Yep, sure did strike a nerve with me. That's the point of it isn't it?

  11. Anonymous8:29 AM

    If anyone was wondering whether the murder of 20 children would result in a moment of reflection by the off-the-rails NRA and other members of the gun lobby, I think we have our answer. There was a delay of, what, a week or so while LaPierre and others pondered how best to tell us that the murders were just fine, because trying to do something about them would be far worse.

  12. Ugh, I came out of a racist background. It’s a type of brainwashing and hard to get over, but many of us have made good progress.

    I’m rereading the Agatha Christie books since a friend collects them, and now I’m shocked at the casual racism. Also, Dame Agatha tried to set up her first husband for murder; I wouldn’t have wanted her as an enemy.

  13. Anonymous8:53 AM

    Sadly, those names are spoken aloud in public by people like my 90 yr old father, who is well educated but still sees nothing wrong with calling people "what they are." No one corrects him as everyone thinks of him as a very kind and generous person.

    Re hatred of African reminds me about how many better off families had Black maids growing up, or "mammy's" to help raise the children. And yet at the same time they are taught that "these people" are lesser than them. That can cause quite a disconnect in ones thinking.
    We weren't that well off when growing up, but for a few years we had a Black woman as a cook. My sibs and I would sit with her in the kitchen after school while she cooked dinner,listened to our day and helped us figure out things about our lives. My parents were more focused on us looking good and "what will the neighbors think?" and us not associating in public with "people like that." Because of her warmth and kindness, when I went to college I saw nothing wrong with talking to or dancing with the Black students at the college. My roommate and others pulled me aside and lectured me on how this behavior would ruin my reputation on campus. I was totally shocked and couldn't understand how they could judge someone so harshly without even knowing them. To this day it still doesn't sit right in my brain when I think about it.

  14. Anonymous9:23 AM

    Bristol and Todd's thrilling X-treme sport fun has it's crashers.

  15. Anonymous9:30 AM

    Speaking of bigotry:

    Boy Scouts Troop Drops Gay-Inclusive Non-Discrimination Pledge After Threats

    A Maryland-based Boy Scout troop has backed down on its non-discriminatory pledge toward gay participants after pressure from its regional council.

    As Mother Jones reported, Pack 422 of Cloverly, Md. had "anonymously voted and overwhelmingly approved" to adopt a non-discrimination statement, which declared that the group would not discriminate "against any individual or family based on race, religion, national origin or sexual orientation."

    By Jan. 26, however, Pack 422 officials posted the following message on the group's website:

    "Due to pressure from the National Capital Area Council, Pack 442 is being forced to remove its Non-Discrimination statement posted below in order to keep our Charter (up at end of Jan). Please feel free to send feedback to the following NCAC Leaders at 301-530-9360: Sarah Pelter, Director of Field Services; Les Baron, Scout Executive."

    Last week, NCAC CEO and Scout Executive Les Baron revealed to Mother Jones that Pack 433 had been told they "will not be recognized as an organization" unless they erased the reference to sexual orientation in their non-discrimination statement.

    "The policy of the Boy Scouts are what they are and my job is to not bring into (it) my own personal feelings, and all I am trying to do is maintain the quality and integrity of the Boy Scouts of America and its policies,” Baron told NBC.

    Pack 422 had also posted an online poll asking families to vote on whether or not to maintain the non-discrimination policy.

    Among those to condemn the NCAC's threats was Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) President Herndon Graddick.

    "To think that the Boy Scouts would rather cast out elementary school children than accept a parent-approved policy allowing gay children and parents to participate is just unconscionable," Graddick said in a statement. "This despicable act of bullying and intimidation is yet another reminder that the BSA is out of touch with its members and the American public at large.”

    1. Dis Gusted10:43 AM

      the Boy Scouts also discriminate against atheists and children who do not officially belong to a church of organized religion.

    2. And yet, when you give to your local United Way, a portion goes to BSA, but not Girl Scouts.

  16. Lay-off. Without this book the Palin kids would not be able to count their illegitimate kids nor their failed marriages.

  17. Anonymous9:38 AM

    The Vietnam War era photographer Larry Burrows has been featured this past week.|editors-pick#1

    I was going over these pictures with my daughter. The week the issue included above came out, I was a senior in high school, at a Catholic convent boarding school. In talking about it, I remembered several things that were so painful at the time. Many of us came from small towns and received the weekly paper from 'back home'. We came to dread that; there would be a picture of someone we knew from church or school, dead in Vietnam. The only comment made by the adults around us was in the line: what a fine American hero he was, dying to keep us free! and we were, silently, thinking: what do you mean? what does dying in all that mud have to do with our freedom?

    The other aspect of this particular issue of LIFE was the image, Reaching Out, and the cover, which showed a white soldier cradling a wounded black buddy. Very upsetting to many...and the fraternization between the races over there really accelerated social change here in the late '60s.

    Hadn't thought about all this in years...was going to only comment that when I was young, Brazil nuts were called nigger toes...that's just what they were. Casual racism passed down the generations...


  18. deebee9:47 AM

    Education helped overcome my racist background. Still, when I voted for Obama it was with residual tarnish of doubt because of his "blackness".
    Now, after his first term, my core feelings have totally been transformed to total admiration with awe. This president and his family are truly the best America has. I once again am proud to be an American. Thank you Mr. President!

    1. Anonymous6:12 PM

      I am glad you have overcome your childhood, it was a long road for my husband too.

  19. Stella10:25 AM

    Warne - same publisher as Beatrix Potter. Go figure.

  20. Anonymous10:38 AM

    I prefer that things like this are best left in the past where they belong. It hurts me dearly to see it brought up again.

  21. Dis Gusted10:42 AM

    Little Black Sambo was my favorite storybook as a child. I just loved pancakes......

    Poor Sambo got banned when Sambo became noted as a racial slur (the 50's?) - the book was re-written, the characters renamed and it's still a great book.

    1. Anonymous6:10 PM

      and you remain a racist, how sad for you. I hope you haven't procreated because you would be huge embarassment for your issue.

  22. Anonymous11:12 AM

    When I was five, 60's, I was at my grandma's house VERY sick on vacation with my parents and spent the whole week in bed. Books to keep me occupied and one was the "original" Black Sambo.

    I learned to read early and, when someone came in to check on me, I pointed out to them that "nigger" was spelled wrong, as in "negro." I am now 55 and the hatred continues in all of them.

    I am PROUD to say I voted for President Obama in '08 and '12, and $arah "Sambo beat the bitch" Palin is getting her comeuppance.

    How many times DOES that door have to slam shut, Queen Esther, before you get it?? Enjoy your blood money you're milking from the low-IQs. Judas only had thirty pieces of silver. I do believe you're WAY ahead.

  23. I have have normally sane sister in CO who is self-employed, has no insurance because of something "Pelosi did!" and who cannot stand the President. She calls him arrogant' and has from the first time she saw him. She also insists she watched every second of the Benghazi hearings and that Queen Hillary deflected every she was watching on everyone's favorite propaganda network, where they interpreted every sentence for her. This woman also hates the right (just not as much as the 'commie' left, although I can't get her to spell out WHY we are commies) so I don't think she even votes.

    1. Anonymous4:06 PM

      Politics beside,
      your sister needs help. Like it or not it is your responsibility

    2. Anonymous6:08 PM

      a 72 hr hold and eval are not that hard to get.

  24. Anonymous1:00 PM

    This is the side of our cultural past that most Americans are aware of and probably quietly wish we could revert to. At least, this is what is meant by "taking our country back."

    Now maybe you could share some little-known African American history. If you could dig this up, maybe you can give equal time to the "Colored" regiments that fought in the Civil War.

  25. Anita Winecooler1:51 PM

    I remember a lot of these children's books being covered in a Literature course I took in College, it's shocking to us, but it's how people were raised. I remember the outrage over inter racial relationships when "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" first came out.
    In my lifetime, I've seen the influence media had in moving causes forward. All in the Family is still pertinent today as it was when it originally aired, Maude, Murphy Brown and Golden Girls tackled taboo issues we're still talking about to this day. Abortion, Women's Rights, LGBT, RWNJ's. Liberals, Birth Control, Body Image, Gun Rights, War, End of Life issues, class warfare.. etc. etc. etc.

    Yeah, we had a Polish Pope, we have an African American President, and we have women in powerful positions, but we're still dealing with the same issues. We've still got a lot of work ahead of us.

  26. Anonymous1:59 PM

    Come out come out, Sarah, you COWARD! What NOW will you try "stealing in the name of the Lord?" Oops, that's right, you're in Old Testament times. There IS no Sermon On The Mount.

    Can't wait until your next psychotic morph into who you decide to be next! If your family doesn't care, why should I? You're done politically. BOOYAH.

  27. Anonymous3:51 PM

    My middle name is Samuel, and when I was young in the 50"s my grandmother bought me a book most people have probably have never read titled "Little Black Sambo". It was a very short book, maybe around 10 pages, but I could never understand why anyone would think the book had any value or importance in literature. Looking back now, it was probably just a means of passing down a parents prejudices to their children in the form of a fairy tale. Thankfully, the book seems to have faded from the memory of people's minds where I would hope it continues to do.

  28. Anonymous4:04 PM

    Re the book titled *Ten Little Niggers*

    I never realized there was such a rigorous math requirement in home schooling curriculum. It takes a special type of parent to teach such high-order math skills.

  29. Craig4:08 PM

    Anonymous9:38 AM mentions Brazil nuts being called Nigger Toes...I remember that & one of my favorite candies was the black jelly 'Nigger Babies." I had no idea of what Nigger meant other than a description... the word was not used in my household other than this

  30. Anonymous5:02 PM

    Well that book may of been published a bit ago, but last Halloween, at my daughters school, a first grader got a best dressed award for dressing up like Pocahontas.

    Also on a radio show another mom gets on the radio and asks why it's racist to let her kid honor Pocahontas by dressing up as the Indian ON HALLOWEEN.
    The mom on the phone said her kid was part Indian and it was a way of honoring Indians.
    LoL On Halloween. Too stupid to know your racist is you ask me.

    1. Anonymous6:06 PM

      Why would an Indian dress up as Pocahontas? Or do you mean a Native American? and if you do we are not from India.

  31. Anonymous5:36 PM

    Counting with the Home-Skkkooled Children of the KKKristian Taliban:

    Link for the poem *10 Little Niggers*

    Comment by a satisfied mother of a 12 year old home-schooled child. "Johnny can count all the way to 20 now when he's barefooted. And 21 when he's in the tub. I'm so proud of Little Johnny because he's learning so much more that the, um, animals in public schools. I really think the violent themes in the poem help keep Little Johnny focused on learning to count and on disregard for racial equality, which is just awesome! Where else can you learn skills in both? At our home school, we just love 10 Little Niggers. The book, I mean. Not real black people, of course. lol Like any other good christian family, we would never let 'those people' in our home. "

  32. Anonymous7:03 PM

    @ LostMN 7:48AM




Don't feed the trolls!
It just goes directly to their thighs.