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  #1  
Old 03-09-2012, 08:22 AM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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Surprise examples of racism in books (open spoilers)

I mean examples that took you by surprise. Maybe the characters, too, if you feel like it.

I noticed that "The Marching Morons" by Cyril Kornbluth was being given away by Amazon to Prime Members, so I started reading it. It's kind of a Rip Van Winkle story.

Anyway after our Rip wakes up and starts doing some things with the government, he meets a fellow with an African last name. (He's half). Immediately he asks if he can be assigned to someone else. I mean, he's got nothing against "Negroes", and some of his best friends are black! But you know, if it would be OK...

Not only do they allow this but the half-black guy takes with with aplomb and equinamity. Well, this is a book in which race hasn't even been a remote issue up until now. In a complicated way, it's sort of a book about haves and have-nots, and I was kind of taken aback by this incident - it seemed kind of forced to say the least. Like "Oh, we'd better give our Rip some characterization, let's make him racist."

Other examples of where racism seems to be unneccesarily inserted into books? Spoiler tags are not necessary (unless the book has been released in the last year, please).
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  #2  
Old 03-09-2012, 09:32 AM
Stauderhorse Stauderhorse is offline
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"The Call of Cthulhu" by HP Lovecraft. The way he refers to the men that worship Cthulhu as "degenerate" and "mentally aberrant...negroes and mulattoes" was completely unnecessary and jarring. I couldn't even finish the story after reading that part.

Then there was the story where he had a cat named "Nigger Man''.
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Old 03-09-2012, 10:41 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Originally Posted by Anaamika View Post
I mean examples that took you by surprise. Maybe the characters, too, if you feel like it.

I noticed that "The Marching Morons" by Cyril Kornbluth was being given away by Amazon to Prime Members, so I started reading it. It's kind of a Rip Van Winkle story.

Anyway after our Rip wakes up and starts doing some things with the government, he meets a fellow with an African last name. (He's half). Immediately he asks if he can be assigned to someone else. I mean, he's got nothing against "Negroes", and some of his best friends are black! But you know, if it would be OK...

Not only do they allow this but the half-black guy takes with with aplomb and equinamity. Well, this is a book in which race hasn't even been a remote issue up until now. In a complicated way, it's sort of a book about haves and have-nots, and I was kind of taken aback by this incident - it seemed kind of forced to say the least. Like "Oh, we'd better give our Rip some characterization, let's make him racist."
In this case, it was justified. It's an important window into how Barlow thinks -- he is, after all, a sociopath. The racism was a hint of things to come and I'm sure that Kornbluth had the parallel between Barlow's solution and Hitler's one very strongly in mind. Barlow is not a figure to be admired.

You can find this sort of things in plenty of books written prior to the 1950s, especially genre fiction.
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Old 03-09-2012, 10:42 AM
zoid zoid is offline
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Three Men in a Boat is actually a very funny book but the racist passages took me out of it. I understand it was written in 1889 and for it's day it was nothing exceptional but it detracted from the experience for me and really added nothing to the book.
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Old 03-09-2012, 10:50 AM
Unauthorized Cinnamon Unauthorized Cinnamon is offline
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Originally Posted by Stauderhorse View Post
"The Call of Cthulhu" by HP Lovecraft. The way he refers to the men that worship Cthulhu as "degenerate" and "mentally aberrant...negroes and mulattoes" was completely unnecessary and jarring. I couldn't even finish the story after reading that part.

Then there was the story where he had a cat named "Nigger Man''.
I came in here to mention Niggerman in "The Rats in the Walls," which is otherwise a supremely awesome story. Lovecraft was pretty damn racist in his early days of writing. Check out "The Horror at Red Hook" for even more racism woven into the story, and if you really want to see the nadir of both writing talent and racial enlightenment, check out "The Street." I do hear that he somewhat reformed his views later on at least.
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Old 03-09-2012, 11:07 AM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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In this case, it was justified. It's an important window into how Barlow thinks -- he is, after all, a sociopath. The racism was a hint of things to come and I'm sure that Kornbluth had the parallel between Barlow's solution and Hitler's one very strongly in mind. Barlow is not a figure to be admired.

You can find this sort of things in plenty of books written prior to the 1950s, especially genre fiction.
I already started getting that idea, actually, without the added racism. It was like the author was subtly telling you how Barlow was; and then WHAM! Anvil on the head! It lost all the smoothness.

BTW, I don't know what the "solution" was. I asked for no spoiler tags, and I'll have finished the story by tonight, so if we could just refrain from posting the solution until later tonight I'd appreciate it.
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Old 03-09-2012, 11:16 AM
charmstr charmstr is offline
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No one should be surprised by racism in any book written prior to World War II and only mildly surprised by any written between then and the 1960s. You can assume that every fictional character from the period is a racist, even if he does or says nothing to show it. All it means is that there didn't happen to be any blacks or asians around to be racist at.

I had an old Hardy Boys book when I was a kid where the main plot was about the "yellow menace." The Bobbsey Twins made raucous fun of their black mammy's hair on the train ride to New York City. Dashiell Hammet's Continental Op faced off against inscrutable chinamen and Chandler's Phillip Marlowe had little nice to say about either the black or latino population of Los Angeles. Tintin in the Congo? Hell, Agatha Christie wrote a book called Ten Little Niggers.

No surprises, and this rarely takes me out of the story because I'm aware of when the story is set. I do often find myself bemused at the 21st century sensibilities and political correctness applied to characters in historical fiction however.
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Old 03-09-2012, 11:19 AM
Skammer Skammer is offline
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When I was a kid in the 70's I used to read Bobbsey Twins books. I had the purple-spine editions which were mostly published in the 60s and they had a very stereotypical "Mammy"-type housekeeper, and a black hired hand (her husband). They seemed inappropriate enough at the time, but when I got older and found some original editions from the teens and twenties I was shocked - they had really modernized those characters even for the 60s editions.
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Old 03-09-2012, 11:40 AM
Don Draper Don Draper is offline
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Ok, I'm not going to say that I was surprised to read racist passages in a William Faulkner story, but I thought I'd mention it because it was so over the top shocking.
I don't remember the name of the story, I read it in an omnibus of Yoknapatawpha shorts many years ago.

The story begins as two "Red men" (Native Americans, natch) are discussing the recently arriving "White Men" and the curious practice of bringing "Black Men" with them. The N.A.'s talk about how sad it is to see how poorly the White Men treat the Black Men who work for them. They agree that the conditions that Black Men are forced to endure are inhumane. So, you think the Red Men are exhibiting some sympathy for the Blacks, but then the conversation takes a bizarre left turn. (Paraphrasing here):

Native American #1: And those Black Men...they don't taste very good either.

N.A. #2: Oh yeah, their flesh is so tough and stringy. Horrible.

N.A. #1: Would you believe that the White Men will trade a whole horse for just ONE Black Man??

N.A. #2: Silly White Men...how stupid.




I had to re-read that exchange like five times in a row to get over the surprise of reading this. And I do believe that Faulkner meant it humorously.
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Old 03-09-2012, 11:48 AM
Unauthorized Cinnamon Unauthorized Cinnamon is offline
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Oh, I know some mothers who are ripshit over the depiction of Native Americans in the Little House books, not to mention the fact that Pa took part in a blackface show or something. Honestly, I have trouble getting worked up about that stuff. The books are from the point of view of the white settlers of the time, period. They may have been socio-politically wrong to settle on Natives' land, but the point of the story is whatever the background, Ma and the girls were scared out of their minds when a couple Indian men showed up at their door and demanded food. That was their subjective experience, and that's what the book tries to convey.

This might be a good time to mention also that racist depictions in children's entertainment probably doesn't influence children towards racism. I look at things I used to watch sometimes and I'm duly horrified as an adult with a full appreciation of history and race relations, but as a kid I had no context for any of that, and tended to just accept the individual characters as silly, not as meant to represent their whole race.
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Old 03-09-2012, 12:04 PM
DrFidelius DrFidelius is offline
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I had read a very interesting book of stories about sport fishing. One from the 1930s covered marlin fishing off the Florida Keys.
It threw me for a moment when a character quite matter-of-factly referred to coral outcroppings as "niggerheads."

The unquestioned casual racism of the past should not be ignored.
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Old 03-09-2012, 12:08 PM
Mr. Excellent Mr. Excellent is offline
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Originally Posted by Unauthorized Cinnamon View Post
I came in here to mention Niggerman in "The Rats in the Walls," which is otherwise a supremely awesome story. Lovecraft was pretty damn racist in his early days of writing. Check out "The Horror at Red Hook" for even more racism woven into the story, and if you really want to see the nadir of both writing talent and racial enlightenment, check out "The Street." I do hear that he somewhat reformed his views later on at least.
QUOTE=Stauderhorse;14851360]"The Call of Cthulhu" by HP Lovecraft. The way he refers to the men that worship Cthulhu as "degenerate" and "mentally aberrant...negroes and mulattoes" was completely unnecessary and jarring. I couldn't even finish the story after reading that part.

Then there was the story where he had a cat named "Nigger Man''.[/QUOTE]

Oh, Lovecraft was very well-known for that - even by the standards of the day, he was something of an ass. Oddly, he was also a virulent anti-semite - and his wife was Jewish. One imagines that he slept on the couch a lot.
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Old 03-09-2012, 12:19 PM
grude grude is offline
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I remember some Conan stories shocking me, I don't know honestly but it seemed out of place somehow.

One odd place you can find some is the rather inoffensive Donald and Scrooge McDuck comics, for the reprints it makes sense as a lot of the Carl Barks stories were written in a different time, Don Rosa attempted to address some of this in his tribute series but his depictions are looking iffy even ten years later(and so in a universe of ducks and other anthropomorphized animals Africans look human?!?) but a lot comes off as not politically correct rather than hateful.
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Old 03-09-2012, 12:21 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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There's the well-publicized issue with the dog named "Nigger" in The Dam Busters. It's complicated by the fact that the movie is based on a true story, and that was the name of the dog.

Last edited by RealityChuck; 03-09-2012 at 12:21 PM..
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Old 03-09-2012, 01:05 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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A past thread I started was about the surprising racism in The Bobsey Twins. Times have definitely changed.


Just today I listened to Arthur Conan Doyle's The Statement of J. Habakuk Jephson on audio -- and was blown away. I knew that this was a fictionalized answer to the disappearance of the passenger on the Mary Celeste (he called it the Marie Celeste, probably to emphasize its fictional nature), but I didn't realize that the explanation he gave was a race war -- the blacks on board, under the leadership of a mulatto, take over the ship and sail it to Africa. Doyle comes off as pretty even-handed in his other stories, so I wasn't expecting a story with vengeful savage superstitious blacks.


the same mantle of race war showed up in writers like Robert E,. Howard later on. In the form of "yellow peril" it had a lot of practitioners.
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Old 03-09-2012, 01:13 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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No one should be surprised by racism in any book written prior to World War II and only mildly surprised by any written between then and the 1960s. You can assume that every fictional character from the period is a racist, even if he does or says nothing to show it. All it means is that there didn't happen to be any blacks or asians around to be racist at.
I'm not merely surprised by there being racism in the book. I specifically mean examples where the mention of it itself is surprising; where there hasn't been any addressing it and no need to address it and suddenly its dropped in.

Like The Marching Morons (which I just finished over my lunch break, btw). I got the idea he was a sociopath already all by my wee self. The moment of him being racist was jarring and isn't really ever mentioned again.
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Old 03-09-2012, 01:18 PM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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OH! I finally found out where "I'd buy that for a dollar!" came from!
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Old 03-09-2012, 01:22 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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OH! I finally found out where "I'd buy that for a dollar!" came from!
Yeah, only it's only a quarter in Kornbluth's story. Ed Neumeier allowed for inflation in Robocop
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Old 03-09-2012, 02:40 PM
cher3 cher3 is offline
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I found an old copy of Betty MacDonald's Onions in the Stew at a book exchange party and thought I might enjoy it, since I remembered reading my grandmothers' copy of The Egg and I as a kid and thinking it was pretty funny.

I couldn't get past the casual bigotry about dirty, drunken Indians in the first few chapters. If it had only been one passing comment, I might have overlooked it, but they just kept coming.
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Old 03-09-2012, 03:33 PM
Simplicio Simplicio is offline
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Just today I listened to Arthur Conan Doyle's The Statement of J. Habakuk Jephson on audio -- and was blown away. I knew that this was a fictionalized answer to the disappearance of the passenger on the Mary Celeste (he called it the Marie Celeste, probably to emphasize its fictional nature), but I didn't realize that the explanation he gave was a race war -- the blacks on board, under the leadership of a mulatto, take over the ship and sail it to Africa. Doyle comes off as pretty even-handed in his other stories, so I wasn't expecting a story with vengeful savage superstitious blacks.
I was actually surprised how anti-racist some of the Holmes stories were, given the time. Apparently Doyle's racial views evolved a lot over his life time. He was ships doctor on a voyage with Henry Garnet who apparently went some way towards changing his previous prejudices. By the end of his life he was advocating against colonial abuses in the Congo.
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Old 03-09-2012, 07:03 PM
Push You Down Push You Down is offline
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Ok, I'm not going to say that I was surprised to read racist passages in a William Faulkner story, but I thought I'd mention it because it was so over the top shocking.
I don't remember the name of the story, I read it in an omnibus of Yoknapatawpha shorts many years ago.

The story begins as two "Red men" (Native Americans, natch) are discussing the recently arriving "White Men" and the curious practice of bringing "Black Men" with them. The N.A.'s talk about how sad it is to see how poorly the White Men treat the Black Men who work for them. They agree that the conditions that Black Men are forced to endure are inhumane. So, you think the Red Men are exhibiting some sympathy for the Blacks, but then the conversation takes a bizarre left turn. (Paraphrasing here):

Native American #1: And those Black Men...they don't taste very good either.

N.A. #2: Oh yeah, their flesh is so tough and stringy. Horrible.

N.A. #1: Would you believe that the White Men will trade a whole horse for just ONE Black Man??

N.A. #2: Silly White Men...how stupid.




I had to re-read that exchange like five times in a row to get over the surprise of reading this. And I do believe that Faulkner meant it humorously.

Is it racist because blacks are not as good to eat as whites or because the reds eat them both?
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Old 03-09-2012, 07:16 PM
Ranchoth Ranchoth is offline
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Like The Marching Morons (which I just finished over my lunch break, btw). I got the idea he was a sociopath already all by my wee self. The moment of him being racist was jarring and isn't really ever mentioned again.
I got the impression, reading it, that his being a racist wasn't really to show him as being viciously baby-eating evil (well, he kinda was, but still...), but just as kind of an ass, ridiculously old-fashioned. Like if Wells' Time Traveler had shown up to help them, but he insisted on taking a gentlemanly afternoon tea in the middle of a crisis, and expressed reservations about working with a scientist who was part *gasp!* Welsh.
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Old 03-09-2012, 07:36 PM
WordMan WordMan is offline
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Hemingway from A Farewell to Arms - Henry is coming to see Cat, who is dying in the hospital.

She sees him and, in her bed, says "Here comes Othello from the wars"

"Othello was a n****r"" is the reply.

Okay then.
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Old 03-09-2012, 09:48 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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I already started getting that idea, actually, without the added racism. It was like the author was subtly telling you how Barlow was; and then WHAM! Anvil on the head! It lost all the smoothness.
Keep in mind the story was published in 1951. What would be considered unthinkable today would have just been considered low class back then.

I re-watched The Professionals a couple of weeks ago. There's a scene at the beginning where Grant is introducing Fardan to the team he's assembled. After he introduces Sharp, he casually asks Fardan, "You have any problems working with a negro?" Fardan says no and that's the end of it.

Once again, 1966. It was a different time.

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Old 03-09-2012, 10:26 PM
grude grude is offline
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Keep in mind the story was published in 1951. What would be considered unthinkable today would have just been considered low class back then.

I re-watched The Professionals a couple of weeks ago. There's a scene at the beginning where Grant is introducing Fardan to the team he's assembled. After he introduces Sharp, he casually asks Fardan, "You have any problems working with a negro?" Fardan says no and that's the end of it.

Once again, 1966. It was a different time.
What is the racism there? The film is set during the Mexican revolution, I don't see how the question or word is out of place in that setting.

(Side note in Trinidad I hear negro used every single day by people in the same sense black or African American is used in the US, it used to throw my brain for a loop and negress still does.)
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Old 03-10-2012, 12:05 AM
Renifer Renifer is offline
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The Love Talker by Elizabeth Peters. A mystery/romance that has the heroine investigating a photo of fairies. At one point someone she's talking to brings up that "fairies" is a slang term for homosexuals and she goes off on a rant about how appalling it is that the beautiful mythological concept is ruined by those disgusting people. (Can't recall the exact words but it was clear she thought homosexual people were criminal abominations.)
And this is the heroine, someone that is supposed to be liked.
The book was written in the 1970s, and Elizabeth Peters is an author I really like. I've read other books by her and none of the others have vitriolic statements like this.

/The statement pertained to sexuality, not racism, but it did slap me in the face when I came to that part.
/ Also Mary Balogh's Irresisitible had the heroine suffering from a loss of self worth because her first husband turned out to be a homosexual. Horrors :0

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Old 03-10-2012, 01:49 AM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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I was in a play many years ago called The Male Animal by James Thurber and Elliott Nugent. It was lightly comic and generally high-minded, punctuated by idiot blathering by the "colored" maid. It was from 1940, so one must make allowances for cultural context, but because of the writing team involved, we all had a natural inclination to credit the great James Thurber with the good parts and the relatively unknown Elliott Nugent with the weak stuff. On further investigation, it is my considered opinion that Nugent wrote the bulk of it and that Thurber's contribution was mainly Cleota (the maid)'s malapropisms.
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Old 03-10-2012, 10:03 AM
RomeoAndRosaline RomeoAndRosaline is offline
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I had to read Hell in a Very Small Place, a nonfiction account of the siege of Dien Bien Phu, during high school and the author consistently referred to the "little Korean General" Vo Nguyen Giap and used other weirdly condescending terms. It must have been written in the 60's or later, these days it sounds pretty jarring, at least to me.
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Old 03-10-2012, 10:25 AM
Captain Amazing Captain Amazing is offline
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I had to read Hell in a Very Small Place, a nonfiction account of the siege of Dien Bien Phu, during high school and the author consistently referred to the "little Korean General" Vo Nguyen Giap and used other weirdly condescending terms. It must have been written in the 60's or later, these days it sounds pretty jarring, at least to me.
Especially given that Giap was Vietnamese. The book was written in 1967. I just did a quick look, and can't find any description of Giap as either little or Korean. He does describe the Vietnamese soldiers as little a few times.
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Old 03-11-2012, 08:15 AM
BigT BigT is offline
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Is it racist because blacks are not as good to eat as whites or because the reds eat them both?
Surely the latter. The former is just based on the idea that black people do all the work and thus are both skinny and gamey, while the white folk get all fatted up.
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Old 03-11-2012, 12:09 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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If anti-Semitism counts as racism, there are some pretty jarring examples in early 20th-c. mystery writers such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, although there are also some sympathetically depicted Jewish characters in them too.

Social attitudes in that era seem to have involved not just a lot of casual bigotry but also a weird sort of suspension of bigotry in the case of known and respected individuals. It doesn't seem to be considered incongruous for a protagonist to encounter, say, a group of men speaking Yiddish in a railway station and think "I can't stand these tiresome gabbling yids, and if they don't stop blocking the doorway I'll be late for my lunch with that nice Dr. Cohen."

This sort of thing makes me go all but apparently back in the day few people batted an eyelash at it.

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Old 03-11-2012, 01:02 PM
SpoilerVirgin SpoilerVirgin is offline
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If anti-Semitism counts as racism, there are some pretty jarring examples in early 20th-c. mystery writers such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, although there are also some sympathetically depicted Jewish characters in them too.
Christie was pretty much of her time and place, and doesn't go out of her way to be anti-Semitic.

Sayers, on the other hand, was a vicious anti-Semite and Nazi-sympathizer who had very strong views that she expressed in her works on Christian theology. It is a great paradox that my favorite book, Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon, contains some of the worst examples of anti-Semitism that I have read. Although I love the book, I struggle with recommending it, or even putting it on lists of my favorites, because of the anti-Semitic parts. I always recommend it with the caveat that it has some extremely bigoted passages that can't be excused by the era in which it was written.

Two other works that contain really troubling anti-Semtism are Oliver Twist and The Scarlet Pimpernel.
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Old 03-11-2012, 01:54 PM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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I was actually surprised how anti-racist some of the Holmes stories were, given the time. Apparently Doyle's racial views evolved a lot over his life time. He was ships doctor on a voyage with Henry Garnet who apparently went some way towards changing his previous prejudices. By the end of his life he was advocating against colonial abuses in the Congo.
At least one of the Holmes stories surprised me with its lack of racism. I'll spoiler the title for those who haven't read it, since this is the "twist" in the story. In
SPOILER:
The Adventure of the Yellow Face
a man hires Holmes to check up on the suspicious behavior of his wife. It turns out she has a young half-black daughter from a previous marriage when she lived in America, and did not want her second husband to find out. When the truth is revealed the husband says something like "I cannot claim to be a very good man, but I am not as bad as that", picks up the little girl and kisses her, and takes his wife and her daughter home. Watson describes this scene as being a touching one that he likes to think back on.

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If anti-Semitism counts as racism, there are some pretty jarring examples in early 20th-c. mystery writers such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, although there are also some sympathetically depicted Jewish characters in them too.
Christie's novels often included some pretty broad ethnic stereotypes. These were sometimes presented as just stereotypes -- in one novel someone speculates inaccurately that the murderer must have been an Italian, because an Englishman wouldn't have been hot-blooded enough to stab his victim -- but other times they're apparently meant to be taken seriously, or at least as harmless cliches (e.g. a greedy Jewish jeweler).

I don't think she's described as being Jewish, but I was rather disturbed by the depiction of a "Mitteleuropean" housekeeper in A Murder is Announced (1950), who keeps mentioning that the Nazis killed her family...and this is apparently supposed to be funny. Everyone just sort of rolls their eyes and says "Oh, there goes Mitzi with that Nazi stuff again!"
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Old 03-11-2012, 03:45 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Sayers, on the other hand, was a vicious anti-Semite and Nazi-sympathizer who had very strong views that she expressed in her works on Christian theology. It is a great paradox that my favorite book, Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon, contains some of the worst examples of anti-Semitism that I have read. Although I love the book, I struggle with recommending it, or even putting it on lists of my favorites, because of the anti-Semitic parts. I always recommend it with the caveat that it has some extremely bigoted passages that can't be excused by the era in which it was written.
It's been a long time since I read the book, but I can't even remember any Jewish characters in Busman's Honeymoon. Where does the anti-Semitism come in? (Spoiler it if you like.)
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  #35  
Old 03-11-2012, 04:11 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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It really is absurd to stigmatize someone calling their dog or cat "nigger", or, indeed, using that word in other contexts that are not actually about demeaning black people, as racism. Such usage says absolutely nothing about the user's actual racial attitudes. Even the taboo on the word that we live under now has much more to do with hypersensitivity about being mistaken for a racist than with actual racism.

On a quite different note, however, some of T.S. Eliot's poems - Gerontion, Sweeney among the Nightingales, and Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar spring to mind - are horribly antisemitic. This is not casual or incidental antisemitism, it is integral the poems.

Not for nothing was his name an anagram of "toilets".
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  #36  
Old 03-11-2012, 04:27 PM
MarcusF MarcusF is offline
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Originally Posted by SpoilerVirgin View Post
Sayers, on the other hand, was a vicious anti-Semite and Nazi-sympathizer who had very strong views that she expressed in her works on Christian theology. It is a great paradox that my favorite book, Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon, contains some of the worst examples of anti-Semitism that I have read. Although I love the book, I struggle with recommending it, or even putting it on lists of my favorites, because of the anti-Semitic parts. I always recommend it with the caveat that it has some extremely bigoted passages that can't be excused by the era in which it was written.
Cite? Where does the idea that DLS was a Nazi-sympathizer come from? I've never seen this. I seen the suggestion that she was anti-semitic based on the language in one or two of the books but I've never seen this. She was of her time and her characters are of their time. People were casually racist and it would be absurd if 1930s characters had attitutes from the 90s and later. And always remember Nivens law "There is a technical, literary term for those who mistake the opinions and beliefs of characters in a novel for those of the author. The term is 'idiot."

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Originally Posted by Kimstu View Post
It's been a long time since I read the book, but I can't even remember any Jewish characters in Busman's Honeymoon. Where does the anti-Semitism come in? (Spoiler it if you like.)
No need for spoilers: As far as I remember it it is just references to one minor character in a mildly derogatory way (he's a loan shark/debt collector) but it certainly doesn't contain"some of the worst examples of anti-Semitism that I have read".
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  #37  
Old 03-11-2012, 05:54 PM
Kimstu Kimstu is offline
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
It really is absurd to stigmatize someone calling their dog or cat "nigger", or, indeed, using that word in other contexts that are not actually about demeaning black people, as racism. Such usage says absolutely nothing about the user's actual racial attitudes.
That's certainly true for fictional characters or real people back in the day when "nigger" was so commonly used that many non-black people just didn't notice its offensiveness. Likewise, using colloquial terms that happened to be originally derived from "nigger", like "niggerhead" for a particular rock formation or "niggertoe" for a particular kind of nut, wouldn't necessarily imply racism on the part of somebody in those days.

Nowadays, though, anybody who called their dog or cat "Nigger" would have absolutely no excuse for not understanding how offensive it is, and it sure as hell would say something about the user's "actual racial attitudes".
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Originally Posted by njtt
Even the taboo on the word that we live under now has much more to do with hypersensitivity about being mistaken for a racist than with actual racism.
Nonsense. The use of "nigger" by a non-black person nowadays is pretty much universally regarded as highly offensive, and there is no reason except "actual racism" for anyone to use it.

Last edited by Kimstu; 03-11-2012 at 05:54 PM..
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  #38  
Old 03-11-2012, 06:12 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
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In the Little House on the Prairie book series, Ma Ingalls sure hated those indians.
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  #39  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:13 PM
njtt njtt is offline
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Originally Posted by Kimstu View Post
Nonsense. The use of "nigger" by a non-black person nowadays is pretty much universally regarded as highly offensive, and there is no reason except "actual racism" for anyone to use it.
Yes, but does any non-black person apart from an actual racist (or people mentioning rather than using the word, in discussions like this) ever actually use the word these days? Maybe if they are totally out of touch they might, but if senile old grandpa Bob, who you happen to know marched with Martin Luther King, gave it as a name to his dog, you wouldn't think he was trying to offend anyone, and, unless you were a fool, you wouldn't take offense, you would just think he was out of it.

It has become a bigger taboo than racism itself. I suspect that, these days, even amongst actual unashamed racists it only used by the very stupidest amongst them (unless they are deliberately trying to offend).
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  #40  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:23 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Originally Posted by Simplicio View Post
I was actually surprised how anti-racist some of the Holmes stories were, given the time. Apparently Doyle's racial views evolved a lot over his life time. He was ships doctor on a voyage with Henry Garnet who apparently went some way towards changing his previous prejudices. By the end of his life he was advocating against colonial abuses in the Congo.
Agreed. That's why I was so surprised by Habakuk Jephson's Statement, as I said.
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  #41  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:29 PM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
In the Little House on the Prairie book series, Ma Ingalls sure hated those indians.
She surely did. A lot of white people in her time and place did, as well. I think that Pa Ingalls was rather an odd duck because he liked Indians, and even admired them.

Of course, this didn't stop him from trying to establish a homestead in their territory before it was legal.
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  #42  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:52 PM
Princhester Princhester is offline
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Originally Posted by Captain Amazing View Post
Especially given that Giap was Vietnamese. The book was written in 1967. I just did a quick look, and can't find any description of Giap as either little or Korean. He does describe the Vietnamese soldiers as little a few times.
Which they would have been, compared to the French. And the general tone of the book, despite being written from the perspective of the French, is to my mind quite admiring of the cleverness, skill, tenacity and resourcefulness of the "little" Vietnamese soldiers.

Last edited by Princhester; 03-11-2012 at 09:52 PM..
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  #43  
Old 03-11-2012, 09:53 PM
Zsofia Zsofia is offline
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Originally Posted by Renifer View Post
The Love Talker by Elizabeth Peters. A mystery/romance that has the heroine investigating a photo of fairies. At one point someone she's talking to brings up that "fairies" is a slang term for homosexuals and she goes off on a rant about how appalling it is that the beautiful mythological concept is ruined by those disgusting people. (Can't recall the exact words but it was clear she thought homosexual people were criminal abominations.)
And this is the heroine, someone that is supposed to be liked.
The book was written in the 1970s, and Elizabeth Peters is an author I really like. I've read other books by her and none of the others have vitriolic statements like this.

/The statement pertained to sexuality, not racism, but it did slap me in the face when I came to that part.
/ Also Mary Balogh's Irresisitible had the heroine suffering from a loss of self worth because her first husband turned out to be a homosexual. Horrors :0
I was, I guess not surprised, but... disappointed? by Robin Schone, whose smexcky romance novels I was quite enjoying, to realize they all had a homophobic bit in them. Like, all of them. Even when it wouldn't have had a reason to be involved in the plot except that that's the plot she came up with, like The Lady's Tutor. So, okay, one book... and then I read the rest of her stuff, which should have been hot as hell for this former yaoi/slash fan, only it was full of disgust. It was like taking a bath in a lake with an oil slick on top and when you came up you were covered in it.

I can, maybe every five years, forget it for The Lady's Tutor, because that shit is hot. But I don't respect myself for it.
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  #44  
Old 03-11-2012, 10:21 PM
Renifer Renifer is offline
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In one Sherlock Holmes story (forget which one), Arthur Conan Doyle uses the Ku Klux Klan as a plot element and explains what the Ku Klux Klan is for the benefit of his British readers. Sad that people today don't need that explanation; that that group had not been relegated to a 19th century anomaly but is still widely recognized today.
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  #45  
Old 03-12-2012, 02:35 AM
MarcusF MarcusF is offline
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Originally Posted by Renifer View Post
In one Sherlock Holmes story (forget which one), Arthur Conan Doyle uses the Ku Klux Klan as a plot element and explains what the Ku Klux Klan is for the benefit of his British readers. Sad that people today don't need that explanation; that that group had not been relegated to a 19th century anomaly but is still widely recognized today.
The Five Orange Pips
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  #46  
Old 03-12-2012, 04:51 AM
Mean Mr. Mustard Mean Mr. Mustard is online now
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Originally Posted by WordMan View Post
Hemingway from A Farewell to Arms - Henry is coming to see Cat, who is dying in the hospital.

She sees him and, in her bed, says "Here comes Othello from the wars"

"Othello was a n****r"" is the reply.

Okay then.
This surprised/offended you? You gotta be kidding me.

Here's an idea: let's edit everything written in the past that may potentially offend someone in today's world.

"Othello was a Person of Color".

Yeah, that's better.


mmm
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  #47  
Old 03-12-2012, 05:58 AM
madsircool madsircool is offline
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Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
In the Little House on the Prairie book series, Ma Ingalls sure hated those indians.
It couldnt possibly be because they had murdered some settlers. couldnt it?
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  #48  
Old 03-12-2012, 06:01 AM
madsircool madsircool is offline
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This thread is pretty racist because it solely focuses on whites being racist against nonwhites; where are any examples of nonwhites being racist?
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  #49  
Old 03-12-2012, 06:51 AM
Gyrate Gyrate is offline
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This is a very mild example and indicative of attitudes of the time, but I always found it a little jarring whenever one of John Buchan's characters bestowed the highest level of praise he could think of upon another: "You're a white man!"
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  #50  
Old 03-12-2012, 06:58 AM
DrFidelius DrFidelius is offline
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Originally Posted by madsircool View Post
This thread is pretty racist because it solely focuses on whites being racist against nonwhites; where are any examples of nonwhites being racist?
Off-hand, I believe a number of Joseph Conrad's characters were pretty darn dismissive of the stupid white men stuck on their islands. But that seemed to be more of an individual thing, and they showed nothign but respect to large groups of armed Europeans.

But that is just a general impression I have retained many years after reading the books.

(Edited to add: I am profoundly ignorant of Asian literature and cultures, and so would not recognize a slur against the big-noses or blue-eyed devils even if it were highlighted in the text.)

Last edited by DrFidelius; 03-12-2012 at 07:00 AM..
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