Thursday, June 16, 2005

Japan resurrects `Little Black Sambo'

from The Guardian:

Seventeen years after it was removed from bookshops for its racist content, the children's story Little Black Sambo has made a comeback in Japan.

"Times have changed since the book was removed," Zuiunsha's president, Tomio Inoue, said.

"Black people are more prominent in politics and entertainment, so I don't think this book can be blamed for supporting racial stereotypes. We certainly had no intention of insulting black people," Inoue said.

and from the Los Angeles Times:

Mori [an educational psychologist at Shinshu University in Nagano]said most Japanese were surprised to learn that “Little Black Sambo” had racist overtones. “It never occurred to us,” he said. “It was just a story.”

Intrigued by the controversy, Mori conducted academic experiments involving readers that he said showed the Japanese take nothing racist away from reading “Little Black Sambo.”

He offered a group of kindergarteners and another of senior citizens a look at two versions of the story: one with the Dobias’ drawings, another with the central character drawn as a black Labrador puppy. The test groups found both illustrated versions equally amusing.

Ergo, no racism, Mori concluded.

“The Japanese people can be racist when it comes to Koreans living here — it’s well known,” said psychologist Mori. “But racist against blacks?

“We have no experience in dealing with black people,” he continued. “Where would we get it from?”

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