Friday, December 02, 2005

Little Black Sambo In Japan

Japan gained notorious notoriety earlier this year by re-releasing Little Black Sambo (a story deemed too racist to publish in the US), but one researcher, Kazuo Mori, stopped to look at the reason Japan loves the little racist caricature so much.

Turns out his discoveries show that, when replaced with a non-negro protagonist (such as a black dog), Japanese children loved the story just as much. I suppose, when looking at the bizarre nature of Japanese lore (from American points of view), it should be an easy allowance to make: in a country where raccoon-dogs have magical testicles, a story about an aboriginal child being mugged by tigers for his clothes, and tigers turning into butter because of running so fast, should be accepted so readily by readers without the racial overtones that the US sees in Sambo. However, publishers showed that making money was their motive for re-releasing, despite having once pulled the Sambo story under pressure from America. This puts Americans in a dilemma: we hate PC refixturing of treasured stories, but we also hate Little Black Sambo. It's no wonder Japan is ignoring us on this point: it's a no-win for them.

Mori's full findings are available online, including pictures of the alternate Sambos.


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