Sacha's Little Black Sambo:
Hollywood Still Pickin' on Picaninnies
Back in the late 1800's a Scottish woman wrote the controversial book "Little Black Sambo." Although, the story was about a dark skinned Indian child with exaggerated Negroid features who liked to rumble with tigers, Sambo gave birth to a long line of Sambo- like comedic characters for the next century .
Based on the reviews of Sacha Cohen's new movie, "Bruno" some people still find this type of racially, offensive humor hilarious.
According to the trailers for the upcoming movie, Cohen plays Bruno, an Austrian, homosexual fashion reporter.
However, the part that they are highlighting in the commercials deals with Bruno adopting a black baby to whom he ,lovingly, refers to as "Gayby."
When we first meet Gayby he is being lifted out of a box at an airport by Bruno who is decked out in traditional African ceremonial garb.
The reason for the black baby in the box:
"Angelina's got one. Madonna's got one. Now Bruno's got one."
Later there is a scene where the baby is covered with bees, which I suppose is a reference to those Sally Strothers "Feed the Children" info-mericials with Ethiopian children covered with bugs.
In the movie Bruno, also mentions that he swapped his Ipod for the baby.
Not very funny to a person whose ancestors were traded for cheap gin and rum.
Of course, the Hollywood honchos and their stable of PR apologists will swear that there is ,absolutely, nothing offensive about this movie, as it is a satirical film that pokes fun at many cultures. Anyone offended by the movie just can't take a joke.
We are not amused.
I have an embedded keen sense of when people have stopped laughing with me and have started laughing at me. So excuse me for being a little hypersensitive.
Also, I am aware of the mass media's historical use of "picanninies" to sell movie tickets and boost ratings.
From the Topsy character in Harriet Beacher Stowe's, well intended, Uncle Tom's Cabin novel to those old Shirley Temple movies and even to the 80's "Arnold" character on "Different Strokes," who would puff his cheeks out and go "What you talkin' 'bout Willis" in every episode to the absolute delight of his adopted white father and white housekeeper, the picaninny character has survived.
As Thomas Cripps wrote in the outstanding anthology "Split Image: African Americans in the Mass Media by Janette Dates and William Barlow:
"Hollywood movies have always exhibited a sort of cultural politics in their treatment of ethnicity but their usages of African Americans have always seemed resistant to change, even under the pressure of social crisis."
Even with two beautiful black girls living in the White House, Hollywood is still pickin' on picaninnies.
Now, I'm sure that some of my "post racial" black and liberal white friends will say that I need to calm down; perhaps get a cup of green tea and mellow out.
I do have a sense of humor, black folks have a long history of "playin' the dozens" and dissin' each other for fun. But there is always a point where a "yo mama is so black joke" goes too far and then...
Pow...In the face!
As the late comedian Richard Pryor said in his skit that was immortalized via Public Enemy's sample on "Prophets of Rage"
"I have a right to be hostile. My people are being persecuted!"
Sacha Cohen needs an old fashion back ally beat down for exploiting black babies like that.
(So, if I ever catch you in tha hood, homie be prepared for a behind whippin'.)
Why is it that black folks are the only ones who have to wait for an official national consensus before they express outrage. Or they must wait until some black leader gives them the green light to get angry and then the red light to tell them when to chill back out?
In 2009, I don't have to wait for Rev. Al or anybody else to give me permission to express my sense of moral outrage.
For too long African Americans have been at the bottom of the ladder of social advocacy.
When members of the Jewish community were upset over a verse in Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us," it did not take an act of Congress to have the song pulled from store shelves.
Even if someone abuses a squirrel while filming a nature flick, you can bet that a militant group of PETA activists will mobilize in a matter of hours in front of the director's house pelting it with pistachio nuts.
Black folks should demand the same respect instead of buying into the coming PR spin that Bruno is a humanitarian effort with the sole purpose of bringing about a new era of world peace and universal brotherhood.
I guess that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. One man's treasure is another man's piece of racist trash.
Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired.com He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 firstname.lastname@example.org