Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Kid and the Tigers

Once upon a time there was a little boy whose parents bought him a new coat, new pants, new shoes and an umbrella. He goes off into the woods. Unfortunately for the kid, his neck of the woods is a really bad neighborhood. There is a gang of tigers and one of the tigers stops the kid and shakes him down for his coat.

Moments later, a second tiger shakes the kid down for his pants. A third tiger shakes him down for his shoes and a fourth tiger makes off with his umbrella. The kid sits down and is crying about his loss when he overhears a fearsome roar. The four tigers are fighting over which of them the best-looking tiger in the jungle.

This is where the story gets really, really strange. The four tigers gather around a big tree, grab each others’ tails in their mouths and run around the tree until they all melt into a big pile of butter. The little kid’s father comes along, gathers up all the butter and takes it home. The kid’s mom uses it to cook up an enormous batch of pancakes. The kid gets to eat 369 pancakes.

Some of you may recognize this as the story of Little Black Sambo. Everybody knows that Sambo is on a list of words regarded as extremely derogatory terms toward people of African ancestry. However, while this story considers tigers and the only tigers in Africa are in zoos, the story is not even set in Africa; it must be in India, southeast Asia, Indonesia or Siberia, some of the places tigers do inhabit.

Taking a look at that story, I see that Little Black Sambo has a mother and a father who make sure he is well-clothed and well-fed. So why on Earth is that term considered derogatory toward blacks? I have no idea.


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