Letters to the Editor

Smashing Sambo

In response to "Saving stereotypes" (Metro Times, May 16), I would like you to notice how you will never find institutions, educational or otherwise, attempting to preserve relics that glorify the genocide of the Native Americans, the Jewish holocaust or any other blatant violation of human rights. Yet, many Americans feel that African-Americans should be disrespected and humiliated and scream reverse racism whenever we stand up to bigotry.

The bottom line is that artwork needs to be destroyed along with the 'N' word and any other Neanderthal thinking. Racism, Jim Crow laws, slavery, etc., are all crimes against humanity. In many ways they are worse than the terrorism today's patriots scream so much about.

People like Tom Wurdock wouldn't dare try to glamorize the brutality aimed against gay people. So why would he simplemindedly want to preserve such ugliness as it is aimed at blacks? The answer is simple; small-minded people in this country are still going to take every opportunity to hurt others. Racial prejudice is a crime and should be treated as such.

If such caricatures are placed on display publicly there will be protests as well as boycotts.

Racism like this must be stamped out at all costs. This is a new day, Jim Crow is dead and the institution of American slavery is deceased also. It must be stomped out at all cost, each and every time racism raises its ugly head. If we as Americans say and do nothing about such displays, we are supporting the problem.

I would like to thank the Metro Times for printing the informative article. —Terrance Hinton, Detroit


The tale of the tiles

I first saw the Sambo tiles when my kids were students at Longfellow. I couldn't decipher what they meant. Having been read Little Black Sambo as a child, I never thought of him as American. After all, we don't have tigers here. Bannerman's text gives few clues to the setting of the story or ethnicity of its characters — other than the tigers who turn into ghee, which suggests India, where Bannerman and her children lived.

Sandra Svoboda's article clears up the mystery. I can now see the blue trousers and green umbrella that connect the scene on the tiles with Sambo. This goes beyond Edward Said's sense of "orientalism." It's a generalized exoticism of "the other." In America, Sambo is recast as a Southern pickaninny, he and his family stereotypes adapted from blackface minstrelsy for the entertainment of white children for whom they are more familiar exotic types than were the South Asians Bannerman imagined for her daughters. While the extent of the story's inherent racism has been debated, these tiles make clear how and by whom the terms of early 20th-century discourse on race were set.

I find it ironic that Sambo-in-blackface will be preserved but the beautiful school building which housed the tiles will be razed. It's important that we not forget the invidious stereotypes which still haunt us and to understand why they do; but it also makes me physically ill to see Longfellow go while my children now attend school in ticky-tacky pole-barns. —Jonathan Gillham, Ferndale


Keeping their piece

Steve Sutton of Farmington Hills repeats the bromide about individual gun ownership (Letters to the Editor, Metro Times, May 2), which I have heard for decades. Amazingly, I believe the right wing is ... right: The Second Amendment would at least imply an individual right of possession, which certainly does not abrogate regulation — but don't tell the NRA. Yes, professor Lessenberry enjoys a right to free speech, which he exercises regularly and occasionally to excess. He is able to opine because Sutton and I own firearms — a Brobdingagian howl! Perhaps also this is a society of law, not because every lout in a bill cap yearns for a Glock.

Until stolen, the dreadnaught of my arsenal was a model 1890s Chilean army bolt-action Mauser. Nowadays it is my mother's 16-gauge side-by-side. Next down is the 1851 Colt "Navy." Forget the rest. If Sutton owned a goddamn .50 caliber anti-aircraft battery, the right of speech and press would come to nothing without a sworn police force and a court system, but even then the Bush flacks would create "First Amendment zones," an institution unheard of before January 20, 2001. —G. M. Ross, Lowell


Off the mark

I would be curious to read the "facts" that Bruce A. Hoepner (Letters to the Editor, Metro Times, May 9) is referring to regarding gun control. How many people were "protected" by guns last year versus the tens of thousands who were killed by them? How many people stepped in to stop the Virginia Tech shooting with a gun? None. How many people could have been killed in the crossfire that would have ensued, given this scenario? Plenty. —Chris Hiene, Detroit


Impeaching W

Thanks to Jack Lessenberry for describing how he came around to the impeachment idea ("So maybe I was wrong," Metro Times, May 9). Naturally, I agree. At the rate this administration is squandering the national treasury and alienating our allies abroad while apparently gearing up for a third war on Iran, I don't think we can afford to wait until January 2009 for new leadership.

I hope you'll continue to explore this line of thinking in future columns, even though you'll probably get significant flak from the right-wing echo chamber.

Also, we don't deserve this administration because we did not, contrary to the fraudulent official accounts, elect this president ever. In 2000, had all the Florida ballots been counted, news agencies found that Gore would actually have won the presidency hands-down. In 2004, the level of disenfranchisement and fraud in Ohio and other swing states was huge (Read Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s Rolling Stone articles, Steven Freeman, Fitrakis and Wasserman, and Mark Crispin Miller if you have any doubts this is true. It may restore your faith in the average American voter even if it does explode your faith in the U.S. elections systems). —Marc Baber, Eugene, Ore., truthinvoting.org

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Metro Times Staff

Since 1980, Metro Times has been Detroit’s premier alternative source for news, arts, culture, music, film, food, fashion and more from a liberal point of view.
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