Glaring racism, then and now.

Did you know that people used to name their pets after ethnic groups?

Chalk Talk for Sunday Schools, by Harlan Tarbell

I just picked up an old book (1924) about drawings for Sunday School, and there it is right on page 30: a lovely story about two kittens, Snowball and N—-r. You see, one of them has white fur, and the other, black. I leave it to you to figure out which is which. Then I recalled that large, black dog in Jack London’s Call of the Wild whose name was ‘Nig.’

So people used to name their pets N—-r. Wow! And that was once considered to be completely normal, even as today most people would regard it as blatantly wrong. By our liberated, contemporary standards, this crazy racism seems otherworldly, a totally alien thing that we clearly would never do now, right?

…And then I remembered all the mascots that are named after native folk, today, for the entertainment of the masses: the Cleveland Indians, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Washington Redskins, the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs, and many, many more.

So on the one hand, naming personal pets after ethnic groups is totally wrong.

Yet, naming public pets (mascots) after ethnic groups is totally fine.

WTF?  No, it isn’t.

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2 Responses to “Glaring racism, then and now.”

  1. donniedarko Says:

    The “N” word is pervasive in American Literature like it or not. Who can forget “N Word” Jim in the work of atheist Mark Twain? Who’s read Faulkner? To leave out that despicable age in our history might be intellectually dishonest. If we aren’t constantly reminded of history then we are doomed to repeat it.

    With the election of the first black president, we may be beginning an age of “post-racism” in America; an age where people are more concerned about giving minorities equal rights and opportunities in education rather than whining about the names of professional football teams. Spending money and effort to change the washington “redskins” into the Washington “native-americans” won’t somehow magically improve society.

    Lastly, an in depth study of linguistics reveals that language is malleable and changes over time. The “N” word wasn’t always a pejorative term. One hundred or two hundred years from now the “N word” might be synonymous with “icecream” and no one will think twice about it.

    I made an error in my previous post. The website is named “Catholic Answers” but the address is actually “www.catholic.com”

  2. Tom Ryberg Says:

    donniedarko, I am not here nor anywhere arguing that we should “leave out” the despicable racism of our history. To the contrary, I agree that we should learn from it — that is precisely why I turned to the shocking language of yesterday to make a comparison about our language today.

    You write:

    …we may be beginning an age of “post-racism” in America; an age where people are more concerned about giving minorities equal rights and opportunities in education rather than whining about the names of professional football teams…


    As one of your “whiners,” let me tell you that I don’t view this as a matter of opportunity cost — that is, a choice between two mutually exclusive issues, as if I couldn’t call out racist mascots and racism in economics or education. Actually, I can (and do) call out both as I see them, rather than give certain types of racism a pass simply because they are more popular than others, or because other forms are “worse.”


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