What the Bleep Did I Just Let my (Black) Child Watch?

slave auctionI just accidentally showed my (black) child a cartoon about a slave auction and a master who whips runaway slaves. Yes, I did.

I could not believe my eyes. My four-year-old and I stumbled across the most racist cartoon ever made. This wasn’t some dark corner of the internet. This was a classic cartoon compilation DVD sold at Wal-Mart recently. Think Popeye and Steamboat Willy. Safe, right? Wrong.

This silent black and white (ha!) cartoon was made in the early 1930s. The characters are animals, but their races are apparent. I’m not going to name the cartoon or the DVD, because I don’t want to share it in any way. Let me just summarize some plot points for you:
• Lazy black (or blackface?) cartoon characters pick cotton
• A black girl dances happily
• The master whips the little girl when she tries to play with her white friend
• The white friend cries
• Chained-up black characters march in front of a sign that says “Slave Auction Today”
• The little girl happily dances on the auction block, even showing her bottom/underwear, while a crowd of men scream to buy her. (It says “auction block” right on the stage, so you can be sure.)
• A black mother washes her black baby in a washtub. She scrubs him so hard, he comes out white, and she screams. (I could be wrong about this one. This scene was actually the most confusing and disturbing part for me.)
• The blood hounds are released to chase the little girl, who now must somehow be a runaway slave. (It says “blood hounds” on their dog house, so you can be sure.)
• The slave master and the blood hounds join together to chase the runaway slave girl.
• The runaway slave girl runs to Uncle Tom’s cabin. (It says “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” right on his cabin, so you can be sure.)
• Uncle Tom is chained out front. The little girl says “Help”.

Happy but lazy slaves. Wow. Whipping. Chains. Auction block. Selling a little girl. Blood hounds.

I am a Southerner with roots in the Confederacy. How do I teach my white and black sons about that? I don’t know. But it sure as $%@!# isn’t going to be with this cartoon.

While I was sputtering and calling for my husband, my (black) son said, “I like this show.” To my son, I apologize. To the cartoon, may you burn in hell.