Cell phone cameras are handy for capturing images as memos. I was snapping a lot of shots as fuel for future blog posts; recently I have been uploading them and writing them up. This post shows some shocking images. I went to the sink in the office at one of my schools and was struck as I saw this cup adorned with black face image. The text reads:
We love music. We love Rythm & Blues.
Presented by Mister Donut
She’s a Cheerful Mom
Normally Mister Donut puts their name on the bottom of their promotional dishes. Having their name prominently displayed in the middle would seem to mark some pride in this piece.
The following weekend I was shopping in Suzuka and stumbled upon a fashion shop with two black face mannequins out front. This mall is a prominent destination for foreigners in the prefecture. Also, the nearby Formula 1 circuit makes it an international attraction. One would think this location would not be a place to display these images if they were embarrassed by them.
First, you might theorize that Japan, being an island nation, is largely unaware of the impact that these images have. I discard this theory by pointing to the uproars caused in 2001 and 2005 and 2007 by Sambo dolls, re-release of the Little Black Sambo book, and sales of cups, keychains, and miscellaneous accessories. Although all of these events spurred international response, these images continue to be presented in many forms.
It could be theorized that Japan just doesn’t care; however, I think that it is a bit simpler. Many people loved Gone with the Wind and Little Black Sambo when they came out. Popularity came from people thinking this image was cute. Once something is decided in Japan, rarely will external pressures cause a change in mindset. I doubt that international pressure will stop the spread of these images.
Of course it could be even more simple. All of the decisions to present these images were made by businesses. Perhaps it can be chalked up to individuals – knowing there was no legal recourse – making brazen decisions. I imagine we’ve seen a bit of that in the US as well.