Banned racist Merrie Melodies cartoon: 1943’s ‘Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs

by guest contributor Yolanda M. Carrington, originally published at The Primary Contradiction

As you probably guessed from watching the clip, the Merrie Melodies cartoon Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (1943) is a supposed hot jazz retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, animated and produced by Warner Brothers animator Robert Clampett. (The character is named “So White”—the short is titled “Coal Black” because producer Leon Schlesinger wanted to avoid confusion with the Disney film.)

This short is one of the infamous “Censored Eleven,” eleven Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts that were yanked from rebroadcast syndication in 1968 to accommodate that era’s swiftly-changing racial climate. Many of these banned cartoons (the Censored Eleven represents a mere fraction of the racist animation produced before World War II) are widely available over the Internet, since most of these works have long entered the public domain.

According to Wikipedia, Clampett was said to have been heavily influenced by jazz performers and hipsters from the 1940s Black jazz scene in New York, as well as the jazz-themed all-Black movie musicals that were wildly popular with audiences during that period. He and his animation team actually visited a Black jazz club in Los Angeles (ahhh….studying the Negroes!) to get a feel for the interaction and lingo. Today, despite having been banned for four decades, Coal Black is rated by animation experts as Clampett’s masterpiece, as well as one of the greatest animated cartoons ever made.

In 2006, we Americans find ourselves in a political situation nearly identical to the one faced by Coal Black’s audience in 1943. I know that for many of you, watching Coal Black was extremely offensive, even sickening. But I really wanted folks to see this short, and I was really hoping that others would recognize what I saw when I watched the clip, which was such a heavy experience for me that I had to watch it over and over again.

Honestly, I have never seen anything like it, a piece of media that is so offensive yet so crystal-clear in its political message. I wanted everyone to recognize the eons and eons of memes in the narrative and to make the connections between those memes to grasp the overall message.

For me, Coal Black stands as one of the clearest expressions of the relationship between white supremacy, patriarchy, and militarism. Needless to say, the short is rife with almost every racist meme ever projected onto African Americans.

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Whiteness in a bottle: Alabaster perfume from Banana Republic

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

There are certain fashion brands that I associate with whiteness. Some, like Abercrombie & Fitch, have aggressively aligned themselves with whiteness. (Their catalogs are basically white supremacist porn.) Others not so much, but because preppy=white in most people’s minds, the association is there. I’m talking about brands like L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and J. Crew.

After seeing the ad below, I think I’m gonna have to add Banana Republic to that list. Alabaster is just one of three new fragrances they’re offering this season, but is it a coincidence that it’s the only one that gets the full-page treatment? Hmmm…

I looked up “alabaster” on and here are the definitions:

1. a finely granular variety of gypsum, often white and translucent, used for ornamental objects or work, such as lamp bases, figurines, etc.
2. Also called Oriental alabaster. a variety of calcite, often banded, used or sold as alabaster.
3. made of alabaster: an alabaster column.
4. resembling alabaster; smooth and white: her alabaster throat.

I think the message is clear: This fragrance would be HUGE in Asia. 😉

alabaster fragrance banana republic perfume

links for 2006-12-01

Gwen Stefani: everyone else is racist, not me!

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

some random harajuku girl on a stock photography siteNice find from Angry Asian Man. In this interview with Entertainment Weekly, Gwen Stefani attempts to defend her use of the Harajuku Girls. I love Margaret Cho’s sarcastic response 😉 :

But not everyone warmed to Stefani’s ”whole fashion thing” — in particular, the showcasing of her admiration for Tokyo trendsetters via an entourage of four Japanese women that she called the Harajuku Girls. The Girls silently accompanied her on photo shoots and to public appearances, and subsequently appeared on her tour. Stefani regarded the Girls, all of whom looked as if they had come straight off the streets of the capital city’s hip Harajuku district, as a figment of her imagination brought to life in a culturally positive manner. But last year, Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho publicly decried them as ”a minstrel show.”

”She didn’t do her research!” spits Stefani, who says she’s been a fan of Japan and its mix-and-match fashion sense since first visiting the country with No Doubt in the mid-’90s. ”The truth is that I basically was saying how great that culture is. It pisses me off that [Cho] would not do the research and then talk out like that. It’s just so embarrassing for her. The Harajuku Girls is an art project. It’s fun!” (Cho told EW via e-mail, ”I absolutely agree! I didn’t do any research! I realize the Harajuku Girls rule!!! How embarrassing for me!!! I was just jealous that I didn’t get to be one… I dance really good!!!”)

Stefani continues: ”I was surprised how racist everybody was about them. Especially when I came over here and they’d make all these jokes, like Jonathan Ross.” Ross, a British TV host, asked Stefani whether an ”imaginary hand job” from one of her ”imaginary” dancers would count as cheating on his wife. Stefani responds, ”Everybody’s making jokes about Japanese girls and the stereotypes. I had no idea [I’d be] walking into that.”

Yeah, gee I wonder why people would view Japanese women as submissive, pliable creatures when Gwen Stefani is parading these four women around as dancing, giggling human props who are contractually obligated to only speak Japanese even though they’re all American.

Michael Richards: the graphic novel

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

LOL! ebogjohnson is at it again. The man who brought us the brilliant Should I use blackface on my blog? flowchart is back with a vengeance.

Click over to see all 9 storyboards of his interpretation of the Michael Richards incident. As you can see, he was inspired partly by Jenn’s racist fairy. :)


kramer michael richards racist fairy

Paul Mooney vows to stop using the n-word

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

As we reported yesterday, comedian Paul Mooney has vowed to stop using the n-word as a result of the Michael Richards incident. He joked about Richards, “He’s my Dr. Phil. He’s cured me.”

The question is, would abolishing the word really do any good? Here’s what a few other bloggers had to say about it.

Rachel Sullivan over at Rachel’s Tavern:

Maybe something good may come out of Michael Richards racist behavior. When people hear this word used in its historical context, and it is connected to lynching. Its power is apparent, and the idea of reclaiming it starts to look futile. Mooney has frequently defended the use of the n-word… Mooney noted that he was trying to take the power out of the n-word by using in his act (and in his comic writing for Richard Pryor), but something snapped in him when he saw Richards. He realized that the word still had power.

Jay Smooth at writes:

I don’t use the word, and can’t say I’d particularly miss it, but I’m not sure what we accomplish by crusading against it. Does making a word taboo ever do anything but increase its power? If we did succeed in eradicating it, would it do anything to change the sentiments or thought process of those who use it? Or does it bring merely a cosmetic change in the vocabulary we use to reveal those thoughts, and make us less likely to put our cards on the table?

Nova at writes:

What some of you uppity, self-righteous negroes fail to acknowledge is that “nigga” was being used for decades by blacks, long before hip-hop came into the picture. (Hip-hop in it’s early days never invoked the word.) Think about Lawanda Page or Richard Pryor. Think about your daddy and and your grand-daddy. Although Pryor said he’d never use the word again after visiting Africa, the ball was already rolling. By then it was viral, as slang tends to be. Please stop beating the same drum. Hip-hop and black youth can only shoulder the blame for so many things…

Let’s say Jay-Z stopped using it as well. Have we ended racism? How would you feel if you looked up one day, after spending all of your time and resources killing one word, to find that another word has been created to debase black people?

What do you think? Would abolishing the n-word actually make a difference in race and racism?

One Tree Hill gets biracial

by guest contributor Karen Gilmore

one tree hill biracial derekOne Tree Hill pulled out a refreshing plot twist: Peyton’s real half-brother Derek is biracial (black and white). And the really surprising part was that it didn’t take them five episodes to explain “how” that could happen. The writers deserve big kudos for that alone.

Ernest Waddell’s (Derek) portrayal of the tough as nails Marine with a big heart is the best addition to the series. On the good side, this shows that the American television audience is ready to embrace the fact that multi-ethnic families do exist and that they are growing in numbers. This new turn gracefully counters the “you can only pick one” line of thinking.

On the bad side, what took Hollywood so long to do an episode like this? And better yet, why aren’t there more shows with this kind of content? One Tree Hill may have an abundance of teen angst melodrama but this storyline is a true diamond in the rough.

links for 2006-11-30

Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World