LETTER- Blacks aren't Sambos

Rose Hill [February 2 cover story: "Saving Sambo"] has a right to express her opinions, no matter what they may be.

But I'm very curious about what Hill is trying to say about herself, her racial identity, and Black Americans as a whole.

We in America all know that the "Sambo" caricature came out of the twisted imagination of white racists in the days of Jim Crow. It was simply a way for white supremacists to bolster the ideology that the alleged white race was superior to the black one.

Thus we also got "Uncle Remus" depictions of "Tarbaby," with a demeaning image of African-Americans– although the tale demonstrated a belief in blacks' astute intellectual superiority over the mundane obstacles life put in their way.

The cartoons drawn by white artists in the 19th and 20th centuries, allegedly of blacks, were gross exaggerations of how African-Americans actually looked. Blacks in America do not have and have never had any appearance bordering on or approximating the images produced and championed by Hill. She doesn't look like that, nor does anyone in the African-American group of whom I am a part.

I doubt seriously that any black adult or child in the African-American community would be proud to ascribe to the idea that we have big bulging eyes and large white lips on an inky-black complexion.

We are a proud people who come from a proud African heritage, and we do not see ourselves as little black "Sambos." Sambo has never been a universally accepted African-American "icon."

I sincerely hope that Rose Hill does not see herself in that negative imagery. I hope that image and what it stands for is not what she is really promoting.

Self-hatred can be depicted in a variety of ways in America. We must move away from the last vestiges of racism and self-hated, away from self-denigrating acts, and from racial in-group violence. That is the only way we will ever move in the direction of self-healing.

William A. James