We had a Viewmaster when I was young, but thankfully I don't remember any of the regrettable stuff you mention.Who knows what atonement we make for our machines as we put them to good uses?
I grew up in the dead middle of the South during a time when my grandmother and great-grandmother said and did atrocious things casually. My parents were diligent about making sure I knew the habits stopped with the grandmothers.But there is the family china sparkling perfect in the cabinet. That's my viewmaster. I can't look at one teacup without knowing the hands that washed it, over and over and over, and the women who were never, never allowed to drink from it. I won't use that china. Ever. I take it all out once a year, though, and wash each piece by hand. Penance for the sins of the grandmothers.Oh my.
I contend (as I have on the tw lists regarding SS typers) that these objects are witnesses to history, not perpetrators of it. Perhaps one of our typewriters was used by hateful hands, or our china withheld from the hands of others, but the attitudes that surrounded them didn't belong to the typewriter or the china.As to Little Black Sambo... Is the disgrace in the story, or in the way in which it is told? Has the core story itself been overshadowed by the illustrations and dialog that were used to tell it? IMO, your View-Master reel is something not to separate and hide away from your kids, but something to use as a teaching tool. Yes, white attitudes towards other races and the way we depicted them in stories was atrocious. But in that era Little Black Sambo was seen as no more scandalous than Bugs Bunny or Betty Boop. The kids weren't distracted by the caricaturistic way Sambo talked or looked; kids were taken by the story. If anything, it might be the least traumatic way to introduce our nation's dark racist past to the young'uns.
The story itself isn't that bad, since the hero saves himself through quick thinking. The clay (?) figures photographed for the reel are solid 1940's African stereotypes. We've also got a battered copy of the Golden Book lying around that came from my father-in-law, and the kiddos don't get that one either right now.I agree that this is a "teaching opportunity" for the young'uns, like explaining the blackface routine in Holiday Inn when we pop in the DVD every year. Maybe come November we'll pull out the Viewmaster and be able to say "look how far we've come."
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