Wednesday, August 19, 2009

display racist memorabilia in their homes

I had an interesting encounter with racism when I stayed at a "bed & breakfast" recently. It became one of those moments in which I now wish that I'd said more than I did at the time.

I've never stayed at a B & B before, and one thing I liked about this one was that the sole owner, a middle-aged white woman, was friendly and talkative. She lets her guests wander freely about the house, including the kitchen, where she prepares the breakfasts that are part of the lodging deal.

One morning I was in there with her, chatting about what to do in and around her small town, when I noticed a small statue of a woman, about eight inches tall, standing at the base of a door. I saw that it was shaped to look like Aunt Jemima, that old racist stereotype of sturdy, domestic, maternal black comfort. Comfort for whites, that is. Some whites, and less and less of them, I hope.

As I bent over to pick it up, I asked the B & B owner -- I'll call her Jenny -- if it was an antique. She said she wasn't actually sure if it was or not, and then I wondered what else to say about it. It certainly wasn't something I would display anywhere in my own home.

As I've been writing this post, I Googled Aunt Jemima, and I quickly found the exact same item (I guess I'd rather not identify with a link just where it's available for sale online . . .).

"Wow, this thing is heavy!" I said, surprised at its weight.

"Yes," said Jenny. "Makes a perfect doorstop."

"Um, perfect?" I said.

Jenny paused in mid egg-scramble to raise an eyebrow at me.

"Have you had any black guests stay here?" I asked.

"Yes, one. Once. He was a man. Why do you ask?"

"Well, I wonder what a black person would think of such a thing. In a white person's house."

"I don't know," Jenny said. "That one didn't say anything. But then, I'm not sure he saw it."

As I weighed Aunt Jemima back and forth in my hands, Jenny went back to her eggs as she added, "And you know, I hear black people actually collect those things. If they can afford to."

I had noticed before a lot of antique-y things in Jenny's place; I figured she was trying to match that decor with this old-timey item. Even if it wasn't an antique (and I now know that it wasn't), it certainly looked like a relic from another time. A more racist time. A time when many white people who couldn't afford the extensive, daily assistance of a black maid envied those who could. A time when few white people thought or cared about the costs to the lives, and to the family lives, of those countless black maids, who usually exhausted themselves with running the houses of very demanding white people. People who often paid such women a pittance.

All of which is why, I think, that for a white person to display such an item in her home, as if it's just another part of the pleasant, intriguing decor, is itself a racist act. No matter who ends up seeing it.

But something held me back from saying that to Jenny. Everything else about her, and about her B & B/home, had been perfectly accommodating and charming. Still, as I placed Aunt Jemima back on the floor, although I'd already said something, I felt I had to say something more.

"It's kind of appropriate," I said, "that you've got her holding open the back door, isn't it?"

By this point, Jenny was frowning a bit. I think she'd begun to wonder just why I found that simple doorstop thing that interesting.

"Why?" she asked. "Because black servants and such used to have to come to the back door instead of the front?"

"Yes, exactly."

"Hmm. Yeah, I guess that is appropriate, in a way. Anyway. These eggs are done. Are you ready?"

"Sure," I said, and turned toward the dining room, where other guests were already eating, drinking coffee, chatting and laughing. "But, you know . . . "

This had all become awkward.

"I really do wonder what a black guest of yours would think if they saw that thing. Don't you?"

"Well," Jenny said, looking down at her Aunt Jemima. "I don't know what they'd think. Maybe something bad, eh? Who knows!"

I smiled, because she was smiling.

"Yes," I said, "who really knows?"

And I for one did not really know.

But I did have at least some doubt now that Aunt Jemima would be holding back that door much longer.

CODA (8/25/09)

KatinPhilly wrote in with a description of her own amplified experience:

I had your experience magnified by literally 1000 times.

The B&B I stayed at in 1991 outside of Richmond was lovely. The owner invited me and the ex into the kitchen where we were surrounded by over 1000 racist salt and pepper shakers, cookie jars, "dolls", etc. I had never seen such a collection in my life. And they were antiques and museum quality pieces. The only thing missing was a loop of "Oh, Susannah" on the stereo.

We were absolutely speechless, our mouths agape in horror. And we found ourselves staring at two unsmiling, silent black employees sitting amongst this lovingly assembled paean to White Virginia's idealized racist past. They immediately read our reaction; one put their finger up to their lips to shush us before we said anything and maybe cause trouble for them. I kid you not.

It was almost midnight, and we decided to stay (I wish we didn't, but the ex pointed out that could have caused problems for the workers too). We cut our visit short and left the next morning, without breakfast.

See the comments to this post for other stories involving these objects, from both sides of the color line.


  1. "And you know, I hear black people actually collect those things. If they can afford to."

    The "If they can afford to" bit of this quote makes me really uncomfortable...

    But what she said, it's true... in a way it's remembering the past and not allowing it to be forgotten.

    I no doubt you are aware of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

  2. Yes, that's a great site gooblyglob, thank you for the link to it. In fact, you've given me a better word for my title. I'm going to change "antiques" to "memorabilia," since a lot of these things (including this one) aren't technically "antiques."

  3. I think it's very different for people to collect them as historical reminders and if they're collecting them just for the kitsch factor.

  4. I often wonder why White people would want to keep such a thing in their homes.

    People like this woman probably keep such a thing to provoke conversation or perhaps, to continually feel in some strange way superior to Black people?

    I don't really get the psychology behind the whole thing. Seems very strange behaviour to me.

  5. In my 41 years, I've never seen what you're talking about even once. And I would remember it, believe me. Maybe it's a regional thing? Shrugs.

  6. I think you said enough in your encounter. You planted the seeds in her mind, and she might rethink keeping the doorstop. Unfortunately, if the Black guest said something to her about it, it may have gone in one ear and out the other since Black patrons aren't her bread and butter. So thank you for speaking up!

  7. This type of memorabilia is a part of our shared culture, it can serve as a reminder of where we were and where we should be.
    Original peices are quite sort after and can cost quite a bit of money.
    She is right Black people do collect it..

  8. I saw nothing wrong with any part of her actually having and displaying it but the bit about being able to afford it was offputting. Having antiques (that may be linked to any form of oppression) is not inherently racist unless you ignore said link and the role it played). I think people should understand what they display and what it might mean to the culture represented.

  9. In a liberal California city last year, a local sewing store displayed recently and locally made quilts. One of them was on a gollywog theme (the Jim crow museum has an article on them). I suggested to the owner that it was a problematic theme and he might not want to display the quilt. He said that the maker had told him he might get complaints and maybe he should have put up a sign explaining how it wasn't racist. I said that would have been even worse. That it was a complex issue and had people in strong disagreement and that he should at least look up the issue online and see if he still considered it appropriate for the store. It was gone from the wall next time I went in. The owner, myself, and most of the clientele are white.

    The quilt was colorful, elaborate, done with a high degree of skill, downright gorgeous, and made in the past few years. It's certainly not just racist 'antiques' that we (whites) display.

  10. I've seen these before in the home of my (generally pretty liberal) extended family and in the home of an old boyfriend. In both cases, it was something pretty small - a salt and pepper shaker in one case and I believe a thermometer in the other.

    People think racism is funny, and they think these little figurines are funny. It's that, and everything that goes along with that - superiority, etc.

  11. @The Takeout Wench. said...
    I think it's very different for people to collect them as historical reminders and if they're collecting them just for the kitsch factor.

    yeah you're right, I doubt that a person who collects such objects for their historical significance would actually use the item for its designated household purpose, these "racist" items would more likely be kept as part of a specific collection.

  12. Oh man, I ran across something very similar last year at the State Fair of Texas. A collection of black slave salt and pepper shakers had won first prize for collections, or something, and they were on display in the arts and crafts building.

    It was weird. Even more so because every single person in the building at the time was white. I couldn't help but wonder who the owner was, why they'd collected these objects, who the judges were, and in what spirit the collection was awarded first place.

  13. I realy do not think you should judge anyone for what they display in their homes... it might've been a gift...and seen just as something heavy enough to prop the door open...or, it might be seen as having historical value (and it does!). Personaly, I love antiques, and specialy collectable personal items, and everything that tells a story, wether good or bad...
    As for the "...if they can afford to" bit...that sounds like prejudice(even so, not necessarily racism...). i do not understand peolpe who tip toe around racism. In Europe we speak of it more openly... I would've just said waht I thought... and maybe she would've surprised you with her answer...or confirmed your suspitions ,who knows :)

  14. Had it been an actual antique, or had it been in her family, I don't know that I would have much of a problem with it, particularly if she were more aware of its history.

    BUT, given that she seems entirely unaware of its offensiveness (particularly in her placement of it), I'm peeved.

    Incidentally, I have seen these collected by black friends. I don't really get that, either, but whatever.

  15. Eva, I don't think I did "judge" Jenny -- I judged the casual, uncritical, and apparently uninformed placement of that Aunt Jemima figurine at the base of her back door. I judged an action, not the person who committed that action. As some commenters above noted, perhaps if such items are displayed, and discussed with guests, in such a way that their historical significance is recognized, that might be a non-racist way for a white person to display such an item in a domestic setting -- I'm still not sure about that. More generally, I always make an effort (though I don't always succeed) to identify and focus on racist actions, rather than racist people.

    As for tiptoeing around racism, yeah, white people do that a lot in the U.S. Most whites here have somehow gotten very sensitive to the possibility that they themselves are being labeled a "racist" whenever someone points out anything related to race in something they've said or done. Given that, and the situation we were in, I thought that getting Jenny to rethink her display of that item would work better if I found some more subtle way of calling attention to the weight of its racist historical significance. As I wrote at the end of the post, I hope my effort worked. And if Jenny is like most white Americans I know, I doubt that saying something more direct, like, "Hey, this thing is flatout racist, and here's why," would have worked as well. It probably would have made her defensive -- personally self-defensive.

  16. I have a sort of run in like this every morning. On my bus, there is a woman that seems like the liberal, artsy (museum pins on her backpack) NPR type... which suits me fine, except for her jewerly and purse. Her purse.

    It is fashioned after some sort of african tribal art (though I doubt she could tell the region)and the whole purse is actually an stylized african head made out of leather, as seen on some masks (ala this ). And of course, she has the wooden rings and necklace to match. It just seems completely like cultural tourism, and the fact that she has a representation of a head from my continent as a purse really puts me off. I try to hold back, but I'm sure my disdain shows on my face, because now she avoids my disapproving glances at the ugly thing.

  17. My Grandmother in Appalachia had this statue in front of her house along the creek.

    When I was little (like 5) I used to sit next it like he was my buddy and actually cast a line with him.

    It was very common to have stuff like this in that area - and it certainly would not have been expensive, at least not at the time.

  18. @ Alicia,

    I see the woman sitting on a bus wearing African tribal rings and having the tribal purse a little different from a person keeping memorabilia that is so obviously racist and offensive.

    My best friend's mother who is from the Carribbean used to keep mementoes of the Royal family in the UK. Also, a number of my friends would buy me little souvenirs (non-racist/offensive) when they back from holidays from various locations around the world.

    But someone taking pride in keeping memorabilia that is so obviously racist, deliberately hateful and derogatory towards a certain race is very thoughtless to me, especially in a bed and breakfast where people are more than likely going to see it and get offended by it.

    However, I am not surprised in the least anyway as I have seen worse.

    If that was in a specialst museum etc I could understand, but to keep it, to me is like having a joke on the people it is supposed to negatively represent.

    Anyway, my friend says I spend far too much time on this site.

  19. You started your post off with the sentence, "I had an interesting encounter with racism when I stayed at a "bed & breakfast" recently."

    this was not a racist encounter.

    in no way was that figurine a suggestion by "jenny" of her superiority, discrimination, intolerance, hatred or prejudice of the african american race. it was just a collectible that she decided to display. it was not a suggestion of race whatsoever. she may have just liked looking at it while she went about her daily chores at her establishment. she probably would not have seen any difference if there was a white version of the figurine sitting there. if you would have stayed at a black owned establishment, would you have said the same things? the feelings that you had were of your own doing and no one else's. due to you dealing with race issues on a regular basis is what made it offensive to you. most likely she will not be made to feel guilty by your comments because she saw nothing wrong.

    this is just my opinion. thanks.

  20. I must say, I tend to agree with XIRUS. I find the whole concept of this blog, disturbing...maybe it's just my european way of realy not understanding how americans are so race and "origin" realy confuses me.
    And macon d, I hope you don't think I meant you should've confronted her in that see...this is exactly what I mean about americans! Why could you not've just asked if it had never occured to her that it might be considered in pour taste, for her black guests ( your american expression poc realy makes me think this is a sad world indeed...). I think discussing racism is a very interesting in my country (as you might know, or not, an ex_african colonizer... but also, the very first country to abolish slavery when Brasil was a Portuguese colony...). Racism is also a part of our lives here, unfortunately...due to many factors.... but getting back to your post, I realy do not understand your approach ... why would you separate a racist person from their actions? Do not their actions derive from beeing racist? What's the diference?? None as far as I'm concerned...just tip toeing again. If someone has no idea something is offensive...can it be called a racist act??? Not in my would have to be intentional ( something you failed to assertain...). As for you... I think things have come out of perspective somehow... and I agree with XIRUS. You're the one who feels the need to feel offended... as some form of you need to find a reason in why the lady had it... My's just an object!!! It doesn't define what she thinks, just because it's there at the door!Has it ever occured to you...she might've thought you were beeing racist with so many questions?? there are so many possible interpretations it's amazing you should realy, and honestly believe the one you want...I'm not criticizing you by the way....just your post! Sorry this is getting so big...and any mistakes, I got carried away, because I realy like discussing these subjects :)

  21. @Xirus: Paragraph 14, last sentence - the one that ends with "afford to".
    Sorry to burst your bubble.

  22. Eva G, I don't know if you read the comments above before making your comment? In case you didn't, this paragraph of from one by me addresses much of what you're asking:

    As for tiptoeing around racism, yeah, white people do that a lot in the U.S. Most whites here have somehow gotten very sensitive to the possibility that they themselves are being labeled a "racist" whenever someone points out anything related to race in something they've said or done. Given that, and the situation we were in, I thought that getting Jenny to rethink her display of that item would work better if I found some more subtle way of calling attention to the weight of its racist historical significance. As I wrote at the end of the post, I hope my effort worked. And if Jenny is like most white Americans I know, I doubt that saying something more direct, like, "Hey, this thing is flatout racist, and here's why," would have worked as well. It probably would have made her defensive -- personally self-defensive.

    Also, you wrote,

    If someone has no idea something is offensive...can it be called a racist act??? Not in my would have to be intentional ( something you failed to assertain...).

    Yes it can, in my book, and in that of many others too. An Aunt Jemima figurine, or any other version of her, is loaded with a history of racist connotations. Displaying it in one's public b & b means that some who know and can pick up on those connotations could see it, and that could be a negative experience for some, and a positive experience for some racist others.

    As I said above, Jenny the b & b keeper may or may not be a "racist" herself -- since she wasn't overtly one, that doesn't really concern me. Nevertheless, in a society so strongly infused with, and informed by, racism, all white people are prone to unconscious racist actions. If, for instance, Jenny remembered warm, cozy associations with Aunt Jemima-like representations from her past, she may have thought it a good thing to warm up her own kitchen with that figurine. If so, that's not an intentionally racist act; it's an unconsciously racist act.

    So is complimenting a black person for speaking well (instead of listening to what he or she has to say). So is asking a fifth-generation Asian American where he or she is REALLY from. So is assuming a person with a Mexican accent is an illegal immigrant. So is telling a Native American person that you love Indians because they're so spiritual. So is asking if you can touch a black person's hair (usually while your hand is already IN her hair). So is quaking in your boots just because you're sitting on a plane next to a man who seems somehow Arabic to you. And on and on. Rarely are these intentionally racist thoughts and actions, but they're still racist.

  23. Interestingly enough, here in Florida those things still exist in abundance int he more... real American areas of the city. Namely the areas that haven't been assimilated into the modern era yet. I know this firsthand having seen them several times along with "lawn jockeys" and the like. I would never turn it into a teachable moment unless I knew the person and was curious as to why they owned it (non of my friends or their parents own or display these things in their home). If I enter the home of someone I know who has racist tendecies (due to experience with them not assumptions) and I see this stuff, it was pretty much expected so seeing it confirmed my belief. If you do invite a new black person into your home and you own said collections, more than likely you will be written off as a racist idiot without any discussion or inclination that they saw your pepper shakers. Those caricatures are just not looked upon as a universal thing to embrace.

    To add to the "blacks collecting them" sentiment, my mom has a million of them in a room in her house. She has no lawn jockeys though.

  24. Um, sounded to me like she was perfectly content with the statue right where it was.
    In fact, she seemed well versed in all of your theories about what it meant, and the current practices regarding the statues.

    So, I don't Auntie J will be going anywhere.

  25. Eva I think you might benefit from this video

  26. "Bruno said...

    @Xirus: Paragraph 14, last sentence - the one that ends with "afford to".
    Sorry to burst your bubble."

    @Bruno: you are trying to take jenny's words out of context. jenny could have been referring to having conversations with black people in the past who would like to own such collectibles but stated they could not afford them. (believe it or not, black people cannot afford everything they see, which is just like the other races.) there are collectible items that i like myself but i cannot afford them all. that does not make it racist. that is just repeating facts stated to her. she was in the midst of a conversation with the blog author asking her opinion on other blacks and their potential reactions to the figurine.

    anyway, this is all conjecture on your and my part. so sorry, there will be no bubble bursting here today. LOL

  27. A piece of racist memorabilia was actually the last straw in my relationship with some acquaintances.

    I was getting a little frustrated with the homophobia of the parents of one of my friends... and various beliefs like they should NEVER BE TAXED EVER... but there should still mysteriously be schools and hospitals and things... the usual white Middle England bollocks. But I was giving them the benefit of the doubt, and figured I'd just hang around being my gay self till they figured out how awful it wasn't.

    Yeah... they have a gollywog doll on their bookshelf. The fact that they don't think "My son's black girlfriend will see this, better remove it, because she has feelings" made me reckon that they're probably never going to change! I don't know what to do for the best, because the aforementioned girlfriend doesn't have the luxury of giving up on them.

    White people often try "But it reminds me of childhood/it's just harmless nostalgia" to which the answer is "Black people start off as children too, and deserve nostalgia of their own that isn't tainted by racism..."

  28. I remember an episode of A Different World where the story line was about these Mammy pot-things, and how Whitley wanted them to be included in the dedication of the dormitory Much to the objection of Kim.

    There are four parts of this episode on YouTube. Here is the first one.

  29. Roxie,
    I watched the video...and that's precisely what I mean.... pure hipocrisy... it sugests what you do best in america...tip toe around it. I insist I never meant to confront the lady, but genuinly ask if it had never occured to her. What's the problem with that? It would just be pointing out how her behaviuor might be perceived by others in a way she might not have thought before... I still don't get what's wrong with that! The fact that americans are so race oriented(every race) makes me sick... realy does...and very very sad... Race just is not an issue at all in my country. Maybe that's why I do not understand certain things, like this obsession with using the right words... it's realy sad when you think about it. There is some racism here like I said, but residual. But it's manifested in subtil ways. I think america, as all europeans know, is the most racist country in the world...and you do nothing to stop it, on the just focus more and more on race issues instead of making it a none issue. An example:In our personal identification, race doesn't even exist, it does not define or describe the individual.It is never asked, refered to or described in absolutely any event. is not important to identify a America, it is just the opposite. It is the first thing you say to describe someone. Getting a bit side-tracked... I think there is a misconception about what is racist behaviour and what is (or has become)"unacceptable" in american society...and the list gets larger and larger....(and people might not actualy know it's getting larger...) so much so, you are affraid to say or do the wrong thing...'cause whatever way you look at it, it could always be taken the wrong way...I mean, you just have to read these comments to see people do not all think alike! I still think, unintentionaly, it's not a racist act, but a pour judgement due to possibly many factors as you pointed out. Somehow i can almost picture her saying she'd never thought of it like that, if pointed out, and then....if she decided to do nothing, then it might be considered a racist based decision...and there is where I see a difference. But hey, it's just my opinion. I mean...she could've been a racist, who knows?
    I think this blog has some interesting stuff ...but it disturbs me that posts like this one, encourage prejudice thoughts against unintentional perhaps thoughtless or naive behaviour defining it so readily as racism...just a thought...

  30. Just stumbled upon your blog, Macon D. Do you ever interact with people like me who are liberals, and formerly liberal on racial issues, but who for variety of reasons find themselves ATTRACTED to white supremacist ideologies as a result of having bad experiences living and interacting with blacks?

    I hope you do. ANd I hope you check out Pastor Manning on YouTube. Looking forward to reading and learning more.

    Time for me to go now, make myself some pancakes, to be topped with some nice Aunt Jemima syrup.

  31. 10-12 years ago I had a very racist co-worker who "collected" this stuff. I mistook it--allowed myself to mistake it--for an interest in kitsch for an embarrassingly long time. But it was just him having fun surrounding himself with reflections of his crap opinions about African Americans...and enjoying squirmy liberal reactions to it.

    Actually, white cornerback has just given me some insight into this guy. He lived in a majority black area, and he had a gun and all this horrible crap in his place to keep him feeling safe and superior. Like wc, he knew that the bad things white people do are merely evidence that some people are bad, whereas the bad things black people do are evidence that all black people are bad and you have a right to hate them.

  32. @Oliver FP - I could have used that same perspective a few years ago when a former dear friend was having her 4yo read the Sambo book. She didn't see any harm in it because it was supposedly a cute story she remembered from childhood. The reality and history of it did not matter to her.

  33. Eva, isn't it ironic that you are being xenophobic with your constant generalizations of Americans as you suggest that Europe doesn't concern itself with race (which, by the way, is far from true)?

    If I had never traveled outside of the U.S., I might have believed you. But, of course, I know better.

  34. My parents had a plastic Aunt Jemima syrup holder. From all the objects being sold on ebay, it looks like Aunt Jemima was a popular figure for the kitchen. Racial prejudice was evident in all sorts of items in American culture, especially before the 70's.
    My parents also had many 78 RPM records from the 40's. One was entitled (if I remember correctly) "Three Hungry Crocodiles" and was about three little black boys being eaten by a croc. The singer refered to the children as "colored boys" or "pickaninnies". Their collection also included a record set with songs from Disney's "Song of the South", and two records containing the story "Little Black Sambo" in three parts. The flip side of part three was the beginning of another story which sounds even worse: "Little Black Sambo and the Monkey People".
    What does one do if they inherit items like this? Donate them to the Jim Crow Museum?

  35. Sorry, macon, but it doesn't sound to me like this was a "teachable moment" for Jenny. From your account, it sounds like she knew exactly what the thing symbolized and why you kept talking about it. It sounds like she just didn't want to talk about it, probably because she sensed your disapproval from the beginning and didn't care.

    And, if she's only had one black customer in however long she's been in business and doesn't think black people have enough money to collect such things, she's hardly likely to change her lifestyle to do right by them, or by you.

    It would be nice to think we can change people's habits just by pointing out that some people may be offended by them, but sadly a lot of people just don't care if other people get offended.

  36. So are you saying, dejamorgana, that I should've just kept quiet about it?

  37. Joy, donating them to the Jim Crow Museum sounds like an excellent idea to me, if they'd take them. Or, sell them on ebay, and donate the money to an anti-racist organization?

  38. Not at all, macon. Nothing ever changes if you "just keep quiet about it." And it's perfectly okay to voice your displeasure even if it's not going to change a person's mind.

  39. I never said there was no racism in Europe. Of course there is. A lot! Unfortunately, in some countries, it is even growing… What I meant, was that America as a country, not Americans in general, but the way society is organized… it is a racist country, and I stick by that, because race is considered relevant. I do not understand the way you think, truly I do not, and that is why I find this blog benefits from different cultural points of view. But Europe is vast, and countries vary a lot in the way they see and handle these issues. When I said race was not an issue in my own country (Portugal), I meant in the way of my example. And in that aspect, I say, that since a child is born to its death, never will he/she have to fill out any form or answer that question in my country ( I don’t know about the rest of Europe). Because it is irrelevant. For instance, I find the question as to what race “I belong”, extremely offensive, as I would, my religion, or sexual orientation. But in America, it seams to be an acceptable question. I really think you should do something about it, to have someone described as being caucasian or african-american or whatever…is insulting to me!! And people seam to be proud of saying it! Proud of what?? One should, in my opinion, be proud of one’s cultural heritage( or the heritage you identify with, wish might not be all of it), but not of “being black” or “being Asian “whatever that means…(as opposed to others…) Furthermore, there is no such thing as race. Only racism!! The only race I belong to is the human race, the only one I acknowledge!

  40. @Eva... were you even paying any kind of attention to the last european elections at all?! the BNP in UK gained two seats in the european parliment, the anti islamic league in austria enjoyed a surge of support and a few others i cant remember, but if you do a little research, europe does see race unfortunatley in a negative light.

  41. Eva sounds like a troll to me, so I hesitate to write anything to her, but I have spent time in Western Europe as an exchange student and would like to ask if Europe is so nonracist why is it that people of color (I know you hate that phrase) lack any discernible representation in politics, film, etc.? Why do so few of them make it into the upper classes of society? You say that America is racist by keeping track of race, but we do so to see how much progress racial minorities are making in overcoming barriers. A country such as France does no tracking by race, but the high numbers of unemployment (said to be rooted in discrimination)among Arab and African youth have led to repeated riots. It is important for the nation to know how these groups are being disserviced. Moreover, the ban on religious symbols has only served to alienate the Muslim (and mostly Arab) community there. I bristle when ignorant Europeans who really don't understand American history go around complaining about "America," when they are far from being enlightened on matters of race. When I was there, I met people who didn't even know about the history of slavery in America! I believe that during the segregation era, blacks such as James Baldwin and Jospehine Baker could visit France and think it an enlightened country because racial apartheid didn't exist there. However, that time is long gone. How much measurable progress has Europe made in terms of race relations? Would any country there ever elect a non-white man president? Doubtful.

  42. First I want to say thank you Aina, for reminding me of The Different World episodes(Brought back memories)Debbie Allen is a genius.That was very well done.

    Eva is right too in many ways, I live out side the country and when you have a form to fill out you know instantly when it is of American orgin because there is a blank for race.

    All other forms may ask for Nationality but never race...
    The battles in Eroupe are mostly about religeon and not race,except the UK where it is and one must remember that all Muslims are not Arabs and vise versa.

    We all have internal color issues to deal with and the reason I like this blog is that we can deal with it here, name calling is never good under any circumstances but more so in a discussion on racism.

    I Like this blod because it is a discussion of views and in these type discussions everyone is not going to agree and that is acceptable..Discussion is growth.

    There are some exceptional minds in this room.Keep it up
    By the way I do like the memorabilia, least we forget.

  43. Just read gooblygob's "Jim Crow Museum of Racial Memorabils" Great Stuff! Thanks once more

  44. ::snicker:: Well, I can tell you what this black person thought of it. I and my writing group rented two houses at a farm in Pennsylvania for our annual writing retreat, and one of the houses had that exact mammy figure in it -- not at the back door, but on the windowsill above the kitchen sink, so you couldn't help but see it.*

    We (all of us, though our group included three blacks, an Arab, a Jew, an Asian, and a number of classic New York liberal white people) laughed at it. A little tiredly, and with jaded contempt for the house owners' backward passive-aggressiveness.

    Because, IMO, leaving stuff like that in a house that you're renting out to the public means that you're trying to assault them, if only on a psychological level. You either aren't considering the fact that not everyone coming through will have the same background or values as you -- which is benign neglect at best -- or you're aware that they might be different, and you're defiantly/angrily imposing your racist sensibilities on them anyway. But since I've dealt with far worse assaults than this penny-ante crap, I can't help but find it merely unprofessional and pathetic.

    *This probably wasn't the same house, but I am wondering. In the place where we stayed, there were other racially/ethnically offensive items throughout the place, like a lovely depiction of an F-16 shooting down someone that I think was supposed to be Bin Laden, but was really just a random turban-wearing "Arab" on a flying (Persian) carpet.

  45. Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. She didn't seem racist, and having such an item doesn't necessarily mean you are. You succeeded in cast racial aspersions about her character, based on something that while suspicious is hardly conclusive about anything, while being a guest in her house (while she was cooking you food).

  46. Jagrmeister,

    First of all, I wasn't a "guest," I was a customer (you do know what a bed & breakfast is?). Second, I never labeled her a racist, nor cast aspersions on her character -- what matters is that Aunt Jemima thing plunked at the base of her back door. Third, that Aunt Jemima thing is racist. For explanations of why, and for reactions to its racism, read the comments to this post.

  47. Jagrmeister, I disagree. She is racist. She knew the mammy figurine was offensive but didn't care as evident by her flippant comments and her changing the subject. Someone in the hospitality industry should know better. She put Mammy to use as a door stop in a B&B, then tried to justify it by saying black people buy it too but only if they can afford it. Had it been merely bought for historical value, it would have been showcased differently.


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