“Being Politically Correct means always having to say you’re sorry.”
“Well, the man who first translated the Bible into English was burned at the stake, and they’ve been at it ever since. Must be all that adultery, murder, and incest. But not to worry. It’s back on the shelves.”
–Phyliss Reynolds Naylor
In today’s Politically Correct US of A, we Americans must tread carefully on eggshells. We must be ever vigilant of what we say, what we write, and even of what we think, lest we offend the sensitivities of the many “holier than thou” factions inhabiting today’s society. God forbid we utter a wrong word, a word that has been deemed by our Big Brother government or our institutions of higher learning (I use the term very, very loosely!) as offensive, or insensitive, or racist, or sexist, or homophobic. We must exercise extreme caution not to step on anyone’s toes or offend them in any way, shape, or form. Should we slip up and cross the line drawn in the sand by the PC Police, there might well be hell to pay.
Back in the long ago days of yesteryear and my misspent youth, one of my favorite children’s books was The Story of Little Black Sambo. Written and illustrated in 1899 by Scottish author Helen Bannerman for her own young tykes, LBS was a favorite among children everywhere until the 1970s when Political Correctness reared its ugly head and the book largely vanished from library and bookstore shelves. Yes, Political Correctness has existed long before the rather benevolent name came into everyday use and household popularity (or repugnance, choose your poison). A much more defining term for Political Correctness would be Cultural Marxism. Think about it. Research it if need be.
When the racist uproar over LBS reached the ears of the all-knowing censors, they zeroed their focus and targeted the name “Sambo” as a shameful put down for the young black protagonist of the story. Uh . . . okey-dokey. I fail to see the damaging implication, but if the know-it-alls say it’s so, it must be so. However, they somehow failed to mention the real relevancy of Mrs. Bannerman’s tale. Or realize the morals the story teaches, and the positive attributes the story showers generously upon our young (and yes, black) hero. For those not familiar with Bannerman’s gem, I offer a brief synopsis of The Story of Little Black Sambo.
Sambo’s mother sews him a new red coat and bright blue trousers. At the local bazaar, his father buys Sambo a pair of purple shoes and a beautiful green umbrella. All decked out in his dandy new outfit, Little Black Sambo decides to take a stroll through the jungle. Along the way, he encounters four hungry tigers, one at a time. Each tiger threatens to make a meal of poor Sambo, but he persuades them to accept an article of his new ensemble in exchange for not eating him. The tigers agree, and each strolls away thinking that they are the “grandest tiger in all the Jungle!” Bereft of his dandy new outfit, a dejected Sambo begins his journey home. But then he hears a terrific commotion and sees the four tigers arguing over just who is the grandest tiger of them all. The argument heats up, and the tigers remove their prized items (to avoid damage—this is a winner take all battle to the death) and begin fighting. They are soon running in circles around a big palm tree, ripping at one another’s backside, none willing to concede the title of dandiest tiger to the others. They are soon zipping around the tree in a blur, and before long they’ve become so heated they begin to melt. As Little Black Sambo approaches the tree, he finds the tigers have turned into a great ring of delicious melted butter. His father appears on his return from work carrying a big brass pot. They fill the pot with the tiger butter and take it home. That night the family enjoys a meal of delicious pancakes fried in, and flavored with, the tiger butter, all thanks to Sambo and his ingenuity of outwitting the four powerful tigers of the Jungle.
So, what lessons does our little tale have to teach us? Bullying is an ongoing problem in the schools and playgrounds of today. The hungry tigers are prime examples of the typical bully—big, mean, threatening, and boastful. Always preying on the small and weak. However, Sambo, faced with being eaten by each of the four bullies, used his wits to outsmart them. Instead of allowing them to make a meal of him, Sambo kept his cool, devising a plan with his quick thinking, knowing the boastful tigers would try to outdo one other to win the title of the “grandest tiger of all the Jungle.”
Sambo displayed calmness in the face of danger, the ability to process a threatening situation (times four!), and the smarts to devise a plan on the spot. I ask you, are these attributes in any way demeaning to Sambo, despite the color of his skin? No, just the opposite. His calm, cool, and collected demeanor shows exactly the opposite—Little Black Sambo displayed intuition, intelligence, and bravery in the face of a very precarious situation.
However, instead of concentrating on these overwhelmingly positive and admirable attributes of character that our young hero obviously possesses, the offended, chip-on-the-shoulder-carrying politically correct faction cries “foul,” all the while pointing accusing fingers at Sambo’s name and how he appeared in the author’s original illustration (created, I remind you, in 1899).
The Story of Little Black Sambo has, in recent years, made a comeback of sorts. There are now several revised versions of Helen Bannerman’s classic tale available on the market. However, most have been revised with deviations of the narrative, location, and especially the illustrations accentuating our young brave hero’s exploits. Even, in some cases, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. (God forbid they should hear such a racist name as Little Black Sambo, never mind Sambo’s heroic reasoning and exploits). All the revisers, in my honest opinion, have missed the point. (See my arguments/defense above.)
I had intended to list numerous works of literature, their authors, and the reasons they had been banned, but alas, time and space restraints beckon me to refrain. Most of you can name your own favorite works that have endured the dull culling of the Politically Correct and ignorant censors. First Amendment be damned! I believe choosing an innocent children’s book written in the 19th Century will suffice getting my point across.
We writers—and readers, are faced with an ever-intensifying attempt to sweep our Constitutional rights under the rug to please and placate the whining of those who care not a damn for the principles upon which this nation was founded. It has become, “That offends me, and I’m not going to put up with it! Big Brother, make them cease and desist!”
Our nation is facing a precarious turning point. Do we succumb to the Politically Correct and their continual push for more censorship, or do we throw off those shackles and recapture the rights once held so precious and dear to the heart of every American patriot? The choice is yours, dear reader.
Michael Helms enjoys hearing from fans and critics alike. Never fear, he can listen to and entertain opinions that deviate from his own viewpoint (no matter how misguided they might be). Contact him through this blog, or firstname.lastname@example.org.