Author Topic: Roal Dahl was Racist?  (Read 4043 times)

APowers

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Roal Dahl was Racist?
« on: December 27, 2017, 09:22:49 AM »
Man, it's really a shame how racist Roald Dahl was. I still love his books and have been reading them to my kids but there's always a nagging feeling that I shouldn't be enjoying the Oompa Loompas and stuff.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I've never seen his (children's) books to be racist. I've read that the original illustrations depicted the Oompa Loompas as black people, but these are the illustrations that I grew up with:



And, frankly, I don't see it. And even if they do depict black people, I'm not sure I see anything racist* about the story plotline.

Thoughts?







*Unless you're operating under the presumption that all white people are racist, in which case, of course Roald Dahl is racist, Willy Wonka is racist, Charlie Bucket is racist, and I'm racist, and you're probably racist, and the concept of "racism" loses any real meaning.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2017, 09:58:07 AM »
I've never gotten that impression, either.

In my opinion, not only does calling everything racist make it harder to fight *actual* racism, it also perpetuates racial stereotypes.  For example, a few years ago I heard about some  school somewhere in the South that served watermelon and fried chicken one day, and people were up in arms because that was somehow racially stereotyping.  I was completely confused!  Watermelon: yummy, healthy.  Fried chicken: yummy, unhealthy.  Zero racial connotations whatsoever.

Fireball

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2017, 10:02:23 AM »
For example, a few years ago I heard about some  school somewhere in the South that served watermelon and fried chicken one day, and people were up in arms because that was somehow racially stereotyping.  I was completely confused!  Watermelon: yummy, healthy.  Fried chicken: yummy, unhealthy.  Zero racial connotations whatsoever.

It was in celebration of Black History month IIRC. I don't know if that makes it racist, but that's going to be a little too on the nose for some people.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2017, 10:10:32 AM by Fireball »

caffeine

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2017, 12:22:28 PM »
The only instance (that I could find) of perceived racism in regards to his original description of Oompa-Lumpas:

Quote
The most well-known example is the original depiction of the Oompa-Loompas in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." The first edition of the book described them as dark-skinned pygmies from Africa who let out warlike chants. This brought about accusations of racism from the NAACP and other groups. Mel Stuart, director of the 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," knew Dahl's description was offensive and depicted the Oompa-Loompas as the orange and green elf-like creatures we are familiar with.

Shortly after that, Dahl apologized publicly for the misunderstanding, saying he never meant to appear racist, and changed the description of the characters in the book to "rosy-white dwarves."

http://www.beliefnet.com/entertainment/movies/2005/07/the-dark-side-of-roald-dahl.aspx#lAbb7f181aD3Wyie.99

Further, art should be detached from the individual. Appreciating the art isn't condoning every attribute to the person. Judging someone based on today's and tomorrow's morals is exhausting. There are great people and great art that are a product of their time and deserve to be appreciated.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2017, 12:24:25 PM by caffeine »

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2017, 03:19:33 PM »
Hmmm, have you re-read the TinTin comics lately?


GilbertB

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2017, 05:31:14 PM »
I remember the Roal Dahl autobiography, War, where he writes that the Askari Rifles rank and file are far better than him at being soldiers and he finds it strange that he should be considered as qualified to lead them just because he is a Englishman (ie white).

Not exactly the thaught process of a racist

Plus, he suffered being a “forin” in Wales as a Nordic child, and seems not to be intent on furthering that upon others.

APowers

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2017, 09:05:02 PM »
Hmmm, have you re-read the TinTin comics lately?

I haven't lately. I have within the last couple of years. Yes, Herge presents some clear examples of racist colonialist attitudes. I don't know that that has any relevance to a discussion of Roald Dahl or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Imma

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2017, 02:08:26 AM »
If you're reading older books, you're always going to find descriptions / attitudes that are not acceptable today. Even in books from people who were progressive in their own time (Uncle Tom's Cabin is probably the most famous example). I was raised on books like Little House on the Prairie and Little Women and while I enjoyed those books immensely as a child, I'm not sure I'd want my very young girls to read those books because I don't think they set the right example for women (especially Little Women).

If you're reading such books to children, you need to explain those books were written in another age when society was different. As an adult I believe we should all be able to read books in the context of the time they were written in. I think it's wrong to ban certain books from school libraries because the content is considered racist today. I think it's much more useful to have students reflect critically on the content of the books. I don't believe 'protecting' older teens and young adults from the real world is a good thing.

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2017, 10:12:08 AM »
Maybe we should gather all the books up and burn them since they don't fit within the current social justice climate. We can't have these ideas being passed down to the children.

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2017, 10:34:59 AM »
Maybe we should gather all the books up and burn them since they don't fit within the current social justice climate. We can't have these ideas being passed down to the children.
Only if I get to wear my new black leather boots and Hugo Boss costume while we do it. And shout in German!! I find shouting in German really helps with the ambiance when you are burning books. I do not know what it is but a nice big bonfire and loud german shouting, it just feels right, you know?

Proud Foot

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2017, 10:41:38 AM »
Maybe we should gather all the books up and burn them since they don't fit within the current social justice climate. We can't have these ideas being passed down to the children.

Similar to how there was a push a few years ago to change Jim's name in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? I do not believe we should be changing the words an author has written because the current social justice climate is different than when it was originally written. Or banning books for the same reason.

financialfreedomsloth

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2017, 10:42:42 AM »
Quote
Further, art should be detached from the individual. Appreciating the art isn't condoning every attribute to the person. Judging someone based on today's and tomorrow's morals is exhausting. There are great people and great art that are a product of their time and deserve to be appreciated.
Agree completely! I do not care how the person thinks or hell, even acts in his personal life. If he/she writes a great book, sings a great song or acts really good I am going to enjoy that book/song/movie ... If that person turns out to be a racist, pedofilie, nazi, ... don't care one iota...

scottish

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2017, 05:05:58 PM »
Hmmm, have you re-read the TinTin comics lately?

I haven't lately. I have within the last couple of years. Yes, Herge presents some clear examples of racist colonialist attitudes. I don't know that that has any relevance to a discussion of Roald Dahl or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Almost all of the books I read as a kid seem racist (and sexist, some bordering on misogynist) by today's standards.    Leslie Charteris and his Saint series.   The Doc Savage books.     The Hardy boys.    Why would we expect Roald Dahl to be any different?

Different times, different literature.

Poundwise

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2017, 05:54:51 PM »
I usually go by how racist/sexist people were for their group/time in history.  I appreciate those who were kinder and more inclusive than they had to be.

shuffler

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2017, 07:11:19 PM »
Man, it's really a shame how racist Roald Dahl was. I still love his books and have been reading them to my kids but there's always a nagging feeling that I shouldn't be enjoying the Oompa Loompas and stuff.
Maybe I'm missing something, but I've never seen his (children's) books to be racist.
It's him as a person, not his books.
I surely don't have any first-hand knowledge, but a quick google'ing brings up a reputable (BBC) hit with an on-topic quote:

Quote from: BBC
And he made no attempt to hide his anti-Semitism. In 1983, he announced in the New Statesman that Hitler had his reasons for exterminating six million men, women and children. “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity”, he said. “I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

Personally, I agree with caffeine (and it seems also the author of that BBC article) that "art should be detached from the individual" .... usually.  I'm willing to do it in this case, and will continue to have fond memories of the books.

GuitarStv

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #15 on: December 29, 2017, 05:54:10 AM »
Hmmm, have you re-read the TinTin comics lately?

I haven't lately. I have within the last couple of years. Yes, Herge presents some clear examples of racist colonialist attitudes. I don't know that that has any relevance to a discussion of Roald Dahl or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

To be fair to Herge, he did use racial stereotypes in some of the earliest stuff he wrote/illustrated, but he later repented for doing so and kept his stories free of objectionable material.

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #16 on: December 29, 2017, 06:23:36 AM »
I grew up in East Africa, went to an Irish Catholic school (very diverse students) where I was introduced to both Roald Dahl and TinTin, and more.

I never felt Dahl as racist. Looking back, still don't.

TinTin depicted situations and stereotypes of a colonial era. In a country that had gained independence in 1963 and still had a fuckton of colonialist attitudes (and still does), we saw ourselves as characters in the series.

How come no one says Tolkien was racist as there ain't no Asian or African or Aboriginal or Native North/South American characters? He did fight in WW I in France, but his world was primarily Caucasian, and that influenced his writing.

Herge was Belgian, the Belgians owned Congo and were known for horrific exploitation of the people and the land. Which colonialists didn't exploit their colonies? Herge started the series in 1929, so you see pre-, WW2, and post-war references. This influenced his work.

Dahl, being in the British Army, and then RAF, commanded Africans, then flew missions in East Africa. This may have influenced his works. I don't remember BFG, or The Witches, or James and the Giant Peach, or the Charlie books, or any others as racist.

I'm racist in some ways. As a person of Indian (dot, not feather) descent, I hate many of the stupid ass-backward attitudes of people from that subcontinent. There were days, as a kid, I remember, that I wish I wasn't of Indian descent, even thought I speak pretty good Swahili and love Kenyan foods. Growing up in E.Africa I was forced to accept white person=good, black person=bad. I realized Indian person=untrustworthy. It's only in America that I was shackled from this attitude and started to respect everyone, trust no one.

Psychstache

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #17 on: December 29, 2017, 07:30:14 AM »
Man, it's really a shame how racist Roald Dahl was. I still love his books and have been reading them to my kids but there's always a nagging feeling that I shouldn't be enjoying the Oompa Loompas and stuff.
Maybe I'm missing something, but I've never seen his (children's) books to be racist.
It's him as a person, not his books.
I surely don't have any first-hand knowledge, but a quick google'ing brings up a reputable (BBC) hit with an on-topic quote:

Quote from: BBC
And he made no attempt to hide his anti-Semitism. In 1983, he announced in the New Statesman that Hitler had his reasons for exterminating six million men, women and children. “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity”, he said. “I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

Personally, I agree with caffeine (and it seems also the author of that BBC article) that "art should be detached from the individual" .... usually.  I'm willing to do it in this case, and will continue to have fond memories of the books.
+1

He was an outspoken Anti-Semite, which I think goes beyond the 'attitudes and opinions of his time'.

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Imma

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #18 on: December 29, 2017, 12:59:34 PM »
Man, it's really a shame how racist Roald Dahl was. I still love his books and have been reading them to my kids but there's always a nagging feeling that I shouldn't be enjoying the Oompa Loompas and stuff.
Maybe I'm missing something, but I've never seen his (children's) books to be racist.
It's him as a person, not his books.
I surely don't have any first-hand knowledge, but a quick google'ing brings up a reputable (BBC) hit with an on-topic quote:

Quote from: BBC
And he made no attempt to hide his anti-Semitism. In 1983, he announced in the New Statesman that Hitler had his reasons for exterminating six million men, women and children. “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity”, he said. “I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

Personally, I agree with caffeine (and it seems also the author of that BBC article) that "art should be detached from the individual" .... usually.  I'm willing to do it in this case, and will continue to have fond memories of the books.
+1

He was an outspoken Anti-Semite, which I think goes beyond the 'attitudes and opinions of his time'.

Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

His wikipedia says this: "In 1983 Dahl reviewed Tony Clifton's God Cried, a picture book about the siege of West Beirut by the Israeli army during the 1982 Lebanon War.[74] He wrote that the book would make readers "violently anti-Israeli", saying, "I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-Israel."[75] Dahl told a reporter in 1983, "There's a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity ... I mean there is always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn't just pick on them for no reason."[75] Dahl had Jewish friends, including philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, who said, "I thought he might say anything. Could have been pro-Arab or pro-Jew. There was no consistent line. He was a man who followed whims, which meant he would blow up in one direction, so to speak."[75] Amelia Foster, director of the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, says, "This is again an example of how Dahl refused to take anything seriously, even himself. He was very angry at the Israelis. He had a childish reaction to what was going on in Israel. Dahl wanted to provoke, as he always provoked at dinner. His publisher was a Jew, his agent was a Jew... and he thought nothing but good things of them. He asked me to be his managing director, and I'm Jewish."[76] "

Apparantly he was an idiot rather than a virulent anti-semite. This of course doesn't make it in any way acceptable what he said. I haven't read his work for a long time, but I don't remember racism or anti-semitism in his books, but it seems he was flawed as a person.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2017, 03:28:02 PM »
As a person of Indian (dot, not feather) descent, ...
LOL that one took me a moment to grok...

Sibley

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #20 on: December 31, 2017, 08:20:25 AM »
If you're going to have issues with books because of the author, then you've got a huge problem with Ender's Game. Orson Scott Card is pretty darn awful and weird from what I can tell.

I don't remember much of Dahl's books. Given when he lived, of course he was prejudiced/racist/whatever, that was the norm of his era. Doesn't mean you can't enjoy his books.

I prefer to disregard the artist/author and go with the art/book. Just because a book has some negative quality in full view doesn't mean it isn't valuable. I love Little Women, and many of the other books Alcott wrote. I was frustrated and constantly rolled my eyes as a child because of the strict gender based roles, etc. It is possible to read a book that has the oppression of women as an assumed part of how the world works and come away with a feeling that the world shouldn't work that way, and still love the story.

kenner

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #21 on: December 31, 2017, 09:17:45 AM »
Orson Scott Card is openly homophobic to the Nth degree, and he made more than a few nutcase statements regarding the Obama administration as well (the one that springs to mind is the dead serious Hitler comparison).  Even in his fiction he's gotten into WTF territory a few times.  I actually liked the Ender's Game and then Shadow series, but he's on the list of 'author's whose books I will only get from the library/buy used'...it's not much, but it's a few pennies that don't go to support that kind of thing.



GuitarStv

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #22 on: January 01, 2018, 08:30:17 AM »
Orson Scott Card is openly homophobic to the Nth degree, and he made more than a few nutcase statements regarding the Obama administration as well (the one that springs to mind is the dead serious Hitler comparison).  Even in his fiction he's gotten into WTF territory a few times.  I actually liked the Ender's Game and then Shadow series, but he's on the list of 'author's whose books I will only get from the library/buy used'...it's not much, but it's a few pennies that don't go to support that kind of thing.

I really liked Ender's Game.  The first time that I heard OSC go on a rant about gay people I kept expecting that his cartoonish stance would come to an end and we would all get a chuckle out of the caricature that he was portraying.  But that punchline never came.   :S

Imma

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #23 on: January 01, 2018, 09:15:33 AM »
I read an interesting article in a (non-English language) magazine about how countries in Eastern Europe deal with their communist heritage. In countries like Poland and Ukraine, the destruction of anything that remembers them of the communist period is a big political issue. The article tries to explore the theme of identity politics vs. protecting cultural heritage. This is a loosely translated quote from the article:

"If you want to protect your children from all art that contains 'wrong' points of view, they will miss out on a lot. You wouldn't even be able to take them to church. And of all the historical figures that we honour to this day, if you judge their opinions by today's standards, none of them will be left. Find me a 17th century person who objected to slavery and colonialism, who was opposed to burning coal, who never used the n-word and called obese people 'horizontally challenged'. Maybe that kind of person did exist. He was the village idiot. We don't remember him."

The author does continue by saying that doesn't mean we should honour war criminals, that we shouldn't reflect critically on our own past or that no monument should ever be taken down. He's just saying that a radical destruction of everything that doesn't agree with our current level of civilisation is not what we should be doing.

The authoer also quotes from Pippi Longstocking, which was one of my favourite books as a kid, and much more inspiring for me as a girl than Little Women and Little House on the Prairie (which I both loved, too). While Pippi is a very good role model for kids, on the very first page her father is described as a 'negro king' on an island full of 'grateful negroes'. I think Astrid Lindgren later in her life said she regretted writing that, but at the time of writing this was absolutely normal. As far as I know, Astrid Lindgren was actually progessive for her time. She travelled to the US as a journalist in the 1940s and was shocked by segregation. She still wrote Pippi around the same time. I don't think that makes her a bad person or the book a bad book, but we should understand it in the age it was written in.

EricL

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #24 on: January 05, 2018, 02:46:44 PM »
I think a lot of handwringing can be avoided by making a certain distinction between prejudiced vs. racist. 

"Racism" and "racist" are based on thoroughly thought out science proving that the white race is superior.  That is if you define "science" by very precise and well documented, highly selective, empirical observation conforming to subjective white race expectations. (Please re-read that if you think that's positive - it's not)  By that meter it was quite good "science."  If you read books from the Civil War to the Nazi era - racism is very well thought out.  Which is why so many otherwise good and rational people bought into it.  Yes, when combined with fascism its vanguard is a collection of misfits and criminals.  But pseudo-intellectuals, technocrats, bureaucrats, and more sophisticated demagogues who ultimately replace them provide the motivation.  "Racism" is a favorable term to use by a lot of civil rights groups.  It brings up visions of jackbooted Nazis, the Holocaust, and sheet wearing hicks lynching black people.  The word's negative connotations are justified - but also useful in certain PR realms.

"Prejudice" and "prejudiced" are words that've fallen by the wayside as people over use "racism" and "racist."  Prejudice is just a supposition, a feeling, that another group is somehow inherently different in some way that circumvents their humanity.  It's insidious in that even positive feelings can be prejudicial - such as celebrating black athletic skills or fortitude enduring societal rejection.  Prejudice is definitely non-scientific by any standard.  Also, it's inescapable.  Everyone, including me and you, are prejudiced in some way.  So were all the people of the past.  Including Roal Dahl.

This distinction - or lack thereof - has interesting effects.  First of which if a person has, say, a racial prejudice, and shows it, a certain type of person will accuse them of being a racist - a Nazi or Klansman.  This has the same effect as asking someone when they stopped molesting their children.  It may make the accuser feel better but it results in the accused often doubling down on their prejudice.  If you were to ask a prejudiced person gently where they came up with that attitude they'll cite something like their parents, TV, or a single run in with a racial group.  Continued inquiry and some cited facts might remedy the prejudice.  (A real racist will cite, if not some discredited 1930's eugenics book, at least some crazy website.) 

The second is the real danger of prejudice.  Don't think because it has a milder feel than "racism" that it's good.  Prejudice can be the gateway drug to racism.  Wearing the mask of instinct or intuition, people don't always give it serious credence.  But introduce a prejudiced person to a well spoken racist with all their perfectly lined up "scientific" arguments and a convert can be made.  Even this isn't the worst.  Well spoken evangelical racists are rare - though the internet helps.  The real danger is when government or corporate policies negatively effect minorities.  Or racists form powerful groups.  Prejudiced people have the attitude "I don't have a dog in that fight."  That is to say they ignore them.  This allows and preserves policies - many actually racist - that do more damage in aggregate than costumed thugs dare dream of.  In the end the racists commit the crimes; the prejudiced look the other way. 

letired

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #25 on: January 05, 2018, 10:08:52 PM »
I didn't grok it until much much later, but in The Witches, a book I loved as a kiddo, the witches are not-so-thinly-veiled anti-Semitic caricatures . Adult me is pretty appalled. I don't think that means I can't still love the story, but it does mean that if I introduce to book to my honorary niece, I would want to do my homework first on how to have a conversation with her about it.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #26 on: January 05, 2018, 11:33:43 PM »
I didn't grok it until much much later, but in The Witches, a book I loved as a kiddo, the witches are not-so-thinly-veiled anti-Semitic caricatures . Adult me is pretty appalled. I don't think that means I can't still love the story, but it does mean that if I introduce to book to my honorary niece, I would want to do my homework first on how to have a conversation with her about it.
I must be simply blind to/ignorant of this kind of thing--we recently read this book with our kids, and I never noticed anything that I would interpret as anti-any-sort-of-group (well, except for witches).  And in fact, I don't *want* to know what about that book comes across as anti-semitic, because that would only serve to spread the stereotypes that perpetuate bias.

letired

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #27 on: January 06, 2018, 11:13:55 AM »
I didn't grok it until much much later, but in The Witches, a book I loved as a kiddo, the witches are not-so-thinly-veiled anti-Semitic caricatures . Adult me is pretty appalled. I don't think that means I can't still love the story, but it does mean that if I introduce to book to my honorary niece, I would want to do my homework first on how to have a conversation with her about it.
I must be simply blind to/ignorant of this kind of thing--we recently read this book with our kids, and I never noticed anything that I would interpret as anti-any-sort-of-group (well, except for witches).  And in fact, I don't *want* to know what about that book comes across as anti-semitic, because that would only serve to spread the stereotypes that perpetuate bias.

I don't agree with your reasoning. The stereotypes exist, and in my experience, it's difficult to a) recognize when others are using them and b) avoid perpetuating them unless you know what they are. But that's neither here nor there. Details re: the witches for those who are interested, spoiler tagged for those who aren't:

Spoiler: show
I don't remember the exact details, but their physical descriptions (demons in human disguise, claws, etc) are some common (very old) stereotypes about Jewish people and their practice of (effectively) killing children comes perilously close to blood libel, imo.

WhiteTrashCash

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #28 on: January 06, 2018, 11:27:04 AM »
It's important to remember that literature is a product of its time period and recognize that people used to hold different views. Rather than just condemn people for thoughts and ideas they had long ago, we might be able to learn something from the literature and the way it was received and then we can discuss and evaluate it.

For example, the 1852 novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe is horribly racist, but it also played a major role in advancing the abolition of slavery in the United States, because it was one of the first novels that humanized African Americans to white American readers. The stereotypes in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" are terrible by today's standards, yet historically it helped liberate millions of people.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #29 on: January 06, 2018, 11:57:02 AM »
Most of the criticism of Hergé's Tintin is really about the first two books. It's the depiction of Congolese blacks, and American red skins that pisses people off. The other books are devoid of racial stereotype, except maybe here and there when Tintin is in the Middle East. They're great stories, and I hope my kids read them.

One of Hergé's successful Belgian contemporaries famously wrote three books in which England is the last rampart against, I kid you not, the evil Yellow Empire.

Yeah, none of this would fly if it were published today.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #30 on: January 06, 2018, 12:02:52 PM »
I didn't grok it until much much later, but in The Witches, a book I loved as a kiddo, the witches are not-so-thinly-veiled anti-Semitic caricatures . Adult me is pretty appalled. I don't think that means I can't still love the story, but it does mean that if I introduce to book to my honorary niece, I would want to do my homework first on how to have a conversation with her about it.
I must be simply blind to/ignorant of this kind of thing--we recently read this book with our kids, and I never noticed anything that I would interpret as anti-any-sort-of-group (well, except for witches).  And in fact, I don't *want* to know what about that book comes across as anti-semitic, because that would only serve to spread the stereotypes that perpetuate bias.

I don't agree with your reasoning. The stereotypes exist, and in my experience, it's difficult to a) recognize when others are using them and b) avoid perpetuating them unless you know what they are. But that's neither here nor there.
I guess what I'm envisioning is this:  I grew up without being inculcated in all the stereotypes (watermelon and fried chicken during black history month?  something something witches anti-semitism?) or hearing that various words or phrases are tied to slavery or racism (e.g. the phrase "cotton-picking" as in "wait one cotton-picking minute!", or the various "sch-" words that originated as anti-Jewish).  I grew up only knowing them as good food or colorful phrases with no sinister meaning.
 Likewise, our kids will grow up (hopefully) without having that negative mental association between a phrase and a specific group.  In other words, my argument is that by not calling out the racist/bigoted origins of certain things, those phrases and stereotypes eventually lose their bigoted power.

I'm reminded of the story of Stetson Kennedy, who infiltrated the KKK, then leaked all their innermost secrets to the writers of Superman, thus trivializing the very things that Klansmen considered so potent.

accolay

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #31 on: January 07, 2018, 02:18:40 AM »
He is one of my favorite authors. If you haven't read his short stories, I think you're missing out.

Otherwise, I didn't know the man so I can't say. There is a line though, but one must reconcile between our time and theirs according to the extent of the awfulness of a person. Some things are fairly clear, others not so much.

I can't wait until someone brings up the nature of history judging and confederate statues in this thread. Oh shit.

soccerluvof4

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #32 on: January 07, 2018, 06:37:22 AM »
This reminds me of all the stories of Walt Disney and how all his early cartoon works was violent because of expression of dealing with abuse. But yet the man loved kids and was misunderstood by many. I swear some people sit around looking to just stir shit up and thats why we dont move forward on so many issues.

jinga nation

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #33 on: January 07, 2018, 11:05:31 AM »
Most of the criticism of Hergé's Tintin is really about the first two books. It's the depiction of Congolese blacks, and American red skins that pisses people off. The other books are devoid of racial stereotype, except maybe here and there when Tintin is in the Middle East. They're great stories, and I hope my kids read them.
I grew up watching videos in primary/elementary school in the late 80s/early 90s about pygmies in the Congo. And we saw a lot of villagers on school trips to rural areas that were like the NatGeo covers of naked tribes.
The Congolese blacks depiction, to 10 year me, was what I saw in documentaries. And textbook descriptions. So Herge wasn't the only one. The Kenyan school book publishers were doing the same. Or were they plagiarising from Monsieur Herge?
And the stuff about Middle Eastern countries? That shit is still the same in those places. Some people haven't changed their ways.

letired

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #34 on: January 07, 2018, 11:13:30 AM »
I didn't grok it until much much later, but in The Witches, a book I loved as a kiddo, the witches are not-so-thinly-veiled anti-Semitic caricatures . Adult me is pretty appalled. I don't think that means I can't still love the story, but it does mean that if I introduce to book to my honorary niece, I would want to do my homework first on how to have a conversation with her about it.
I must be simply blind to/ignorant of this kind of thing--we recently read this book with our kids, and I never noticed anything that I would interpret as anti-any-sort-of-group (well, except for witches).  And in fact, I don't *want* to know what about that book comes across as anti-semitic, because that would only serve to spread the stereotypes that perpetuate bias.

I don't agree with your reasoning. The stereotypes exist, and in my experience, it's difficult to a) recognize when others are using them and b) avoid perpetuating them unless you know what they are. But that's neither here nor there.
I guess what I'm envisioning is this:  I grew up without being inculcated in all the stereotypes (watermelon and fried chicken during black history month?  something something witches anti-semitism?) or hearing that various words or phrases are tied to slavery or racism (e.g. the phrase "cotton-picking" as in "wait one cotton-picking minute!", or the various "sch-" words that originated as anti-Jewish).  I grew up only knowing them as good food or colorful phrases with no sinister meaning.
 Likewise, our kids will grow up (hopefully) without having that negative mental association between a phrase and a specific group.  In other words, my argument is that by not calling out the racist/bigoted origins of certain things, those phrases and stereotypes eventually lose their bigoted power.

I'm reminded of the story of Stetson Kennedy, who infiltrated the KKK, then leaked all their innermost secrets to the writers of Superman, thus trivializing the very things that Klansmen considered so potent.

Whereas I'm friends with people who are Black and people who are Jewish, and I prefer not being an asshole in their presence, which I can't do unless I know which things are asshole things to say.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Gin1984

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #35 on: January 07, 2018, 11:16:36 AM »
If you're going to have issues with books because of the author, then you've got a huge problem with Ender's Game. Orson Scott Card is pretty darn awful and weird from what I can tell.

I don't remember much of Dahl's books. Given when he lived, of course he was prejudiced/racist/whatever, that was the norm of his era. Doesn't mean you can't enjoy his books.

I prefer to disregard the artist/author and go with the art/book. Just because a book has some negative quality in full view doesn't mean it isn't valuable. I love Little Women, and many of the other books Alcott wrote. I was frustrated and constantly rolled my eyes as a child because of the strict gender based roles, etc. It is possible to read a book that has the oppression of women as an assumed part of how the world works and come away with a feeling that the world shouldn't work that way, and still love the story.
I could not.  It was required for school and it remains the ONLY book I have not finished.  I hated that book with a passion and still do.

Poundwise

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #36 on: January 11, 2018, 09:10:10 AM »
Most of the criticism of Hergé's Tintin is really about the first two books. It's the depiction of Congolese blacks, and American red skins that pisses people off. The other books are devoid of racial stereotype, except maybe here and there when Tintin is in the Middle East. They're great stories, and I hope my kids read them.
I grew up watching videos in primary/elementary school in the late 80s/early 90s about pygmies in the Congo. And we saw a lot of villagers on school trips to rural areas that were like the NatGeo covers of naked tribes.
The Congolese blacks depiction, to 10 year me, was what I saw in documentaries. And textbook descriptions. So Herge wasn't the only one. The Kenyan school book publishers were doing the same. Or were they plagiarising from Monsieur Herge?
And the stuff about Middle Eastern countries? That shit is still the same in those places. Some people haven't changed their ways.

One thing that I noticed about Tintin in the Congo book is that almost every single black African was drawn with the same stereotypical face.  Whereas in his later travels, Tintin encounters peoples who have a variety of faces and behaviors.

Michael in ABQ

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Re: Roal Dahl was Racist?
« Reply #37 on: January 16, 2018, 07:19:58 AM »
I read all the Tintin books as kid and my oldest kids are reading them now, including a few of my copies. They all enjoy the cartoons from the 90s as well which we recently discovered on Amazon Prime (though now you have to pay for them). We got the box set of Roald Dahl books and have read most of them as well.

As with book, movie, TV show, etc. you can always explain to your kids the differences between when it was made and now. Sometimes it's explaining language that's no longer in use (the word cross for being angry) or has changed meaning (i.e. gay meaning happy to gay meaning homosexual) or just different attitudes and ideas.