Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Racist Collectibles? Made in Taiwan

Alternet discusses how racism is alive and well in the collectibles market, with a little help from Taiwan...

That may be, but it's no mistake that swapping, selling and collecting a huge array of racist furnishings and home decorative pieces is a brisk and lucrative business. These items adorn thousands of American homes. There's a Coon Chicken Inn dinner plate, and a little Black Sambo block. They sell for hundreds of dollars. An original Aunt Jemima Cookie Jar can net upwards of $2,000. There are hundreds of counterfeits on the market. They sell for only a few dollars. The original Jolly Nigger Bank made in the early 1900s sells for hundreds of dollars at auctions. Even the hundreds of fakes of this grotesque little item are sold at swap meets and on the Internet for a few dollars.

Then there's the Sambo Dart Board. The All Metals Products Company, an outfit out of Michigan, originally made it in 1940. Fifty years later the AAA Sign Company in Ohio reproduces the Dart Board as a decorative tin sign and mass markets it at about $15 dollars. AAA Sign also makes, and sells, hundreds of wall clocks, ashtrays, and plates emblazoned with choice depictions of Sambos, Mammies, Toms and Coons. There's more than one kitchen where the cook lights up their stove with matches from matchboxes that have Nigger Head shrimp, Nigger Head oysters, and Mammy Brand oranges on the box cover.

The sale in racist furnishings is so good that many other countries have jumped into the business. Fake Jolly N[igger] Banks, for instance, are made in Taiwan exclusively for the American market....

Yeesh.



5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Couple of years back a Japanese publisher saw fit to bring back Little Black Sambo.

walter said...

This is part of the reason I want to go to Japan as an English Teacher. I also intend to be a part of the anime production there (as in being in a position to either produce or influence the way anime characters are drawn....usually 90% of the time with mainly Caucasian like characteristics and they don't even look remotely Japanese) and try to include more racial diversity or at least more color diversity in the caste of the anime characters. Anime is a very big influence and I think including more diversity in that area would maybe debunk some of the stereotypes about ANY minority group in general (not just blacks or any particular race).

Anonymous said...

2. I have seen the argument that anime characters are drawn with Caucasian characteristics many times now. I really don't understand why people feel that (non-Caucasian) anime characters look Caucasian. IMHO they don't look human at all, although they look pretty. It is true, however, that Caucsians in animes are extremely sterotypical and look more like caricatures than anything (to me, that is).

1. Here's a blog about an African American English Teacher in Japan: http://www.gaijinsmash.net

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Where in Africa is that teacher from? My step-dad is from Kenya. He had some bad experiences in Japan, but over-all it was good. After realizing that he was the first black man that many of them had ever seen in their lives he sort of got in the flow better.

How do you think Taiwanese people see Africans?

Anonymous said...

The prevailing myth would be that they are athletic and musically gifted. It may sound like positive traits, but somehow I feel that it is sometimes said in a way that is somehow condescending. I can not speak for anything else because Taiwaness people don't agree with each other on many things. Yet if you are to hold a speech contest about racial issues, almost all of the kids will tell you about the importance of equality.

I read, many years ago, a book called Black in Taiwan by Paul LeJOY, published in 1998. It contains many stories about misdemeanors against Hei Ren/Oh Ran in Taiwan such as (men) staring / (girls) giggling at them; not sitting next to them on bus or getting up to take another seat; people covering their noses and mouths with pieces of cloths on bus near them, etc. I felt it strange then to see that they consider those things that happened on bus discriminating, until years later I was scolded by a bus driver in NY for trying to walk on the bus when it's still moving. Having commuted on bus all my high school days I can say the following with certainity: Taiwanese always switch to empty or more spacious seats when they are available. Many women cover themselves with handkerchiefs on bus, especially when it's an old bus.