Revered Canuck nobel laureate PM a racist?

I was reading this weeks issue of Maclean’s magazine, Canada’s Time magazine equivalent. I read a column reminiscing our revered Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson who was awarded the Nobel prize for peace with his brilliant proposal to the UN averting a war over the Suez canal. It is rather ironic that in this case France pushed for war while America was opposed. As I read, my pride as a Canadian and respect for the PM was stroked. But at the very end of the column I read;

I was floored with this remark. This statement was made openly before the world. I recollected that it was about 50 years earlier that a pygmy was exhibited at the Bronx zoo sharing a cage with an ape.

Am I over reacting here? Or do I assume that Pearson was an honourable man for his time? After all, we’ve never heard one peep of disaproval for his metaphor. Of course that doesn’t say much for my father’s generation. Colour me bewildered.

In other news, Lincoln supported shipping slaves to Africa. Film at 11.

Um, I think he means pygmies not so much in the sense of “any of a small people of equatorial Africa ranging under five feet (1.5 meters) in height”, but more in the nature of a generic short person (since it is contrasted with “giant”).

(Typically, “Pygmy” in the sense of referring to a person from those tribes - which have their own names, incidentally, which are probably preferable to use - is capitalized.)

I wouldn’t leap to a conclusion of racism–particularly not of the specific “those people are obviously inferior” variety. The comment is certainly not an exemplar of heightened consciousness, but in context, he is contrasting giants against pygmies, not whites against blacks or even civilized people against people presumed to be not civilized. The context is the use of size, not ethnicity, as metaphor.

I suspect that in 1957 there was not even a consideration of the ethnic issues. If racism was behind his remarks (and I will not argue that it could not have been), it would have been more the underlying institutional racism that pervaded society to the point that he would probably have been surprised if anyone had called attention to the metaphor as inappropriate.

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Is this for real? I’m not trying to play naïve, but I’m just shocked I haven’t ever heard of this.

Well, it was a lot closer to 100 years and it did not last long, but the Bronx Zoo did exhibitOta Benga for a period of time after the 1906 St. Louis Exhibition.

He’s setting up a contrast here…precocious (smart) v retarded (dumb), giant (tall) v pygmy (short) I don’t think any racism is there.

From Webster’s:

I hate to nitpick the OP, but Pearson’s Nobel prize was awarded not just for the Suez crisis, but for his entire body of achievement in post-war diplomacy.

Secondly, the use of the word “pygmy” in this context obviously isn’t a shot against a particular African tribe; it’s used as the opposite of “giant.” There’s NO evidence of racism here.

What Matt, the Captain, and Danblather said.

Not the african race of Pygmys (which isn’t their real name you know. We just call them that due to Greek Mythology)- but simply “short people”. <cue in the song…> :smiley: