Racism in “Song of the South”
I watched this live-action/animated musical film this Tuesday and I love this movie very much. Despite of its low image quality, I can hardly believe it is a 1946 movie because neither the scenario nor the music is out of date even from the current point of view. I like how the character Uncle Remus( presumably a former slave) tried to teach our little Johnny to deal with the troubles in his life with optimism, and how Be’er Rabbit struggled with his enemies Be’er Fox and Be’er Bear in his adventure. Just like what Uncle Remus emphasized, “Without much strength, we are supposed to use our heads instead of our foots”, it is a good opportunity for us to learn how to use wisdom to deal with the troubles in our lives and how to face difficulties or enemies with optimism and poise.
Although I’ve heard that this great artistic work has never been released on home video in the United States due to its “so-called” racism depiction, to be honest I think it’s just kind of overreaction. Many critics such as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. considered the feature depiction of the “master-slave” relationship an “insult to American minorities” while I just feel nothing but a pure friendship beyond races and ages. When Uncle Remus told Johnny he had returned the puppy Teenchy back and he won’t tell Johnny stories any more, little Johnny cried and said “But uncle remus,you’re…the best friend I have”. When little Johnny tried to catch Uncle Remus and got hurt by the bull, he laid in the bed, keeping shouting “Uncle Remus! Come back,Uncle Remus! Come back! ” unconsciously, I don’ think Johnny was just expressing his intense feelings toward a black servant rather than a true friend. Obviously, we cannot ignore facts that Uncle Remus just got his freedom in a very short time and he kept acting like a normal slave when facing Johnny’ family, but those are just the film backgrounds. So I think it’s not a proper way to understand how a child view the friendship between him and Uncle Remus, just from an adult like Adam Clayton Powell Jr’s perspective.
In the 50s of the 20th century, even though Abraham Lincoln signed “the Emancipation Proclamation” for nearly a hundred years and black people were no longer slaves any more, they still suffereddiscriminationin many aspects or areas. Especially in the Southern Regions, segregation was still quite common and it was almost impossible for black people to vote. Maybe those critics just misunderstood the pure world in a child’ eyes or maybe the influences of that specific period were just inevitable, it’s a pity that people (including some black people) could hardly believe the friendship between a child and a black old man. They paid too much attention to the backgrounds of the film and tried to find out any clue as evidence — to describe the film as racist, rather than enjoying the interesting folk tales about the adventure of cute Be’er Rabbit, the amazing music or the fantastic animation of this great movie.
Just like Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his famous speech “I Have A Dream”, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”, or just like one of the most famous educators, Brazilian author and scholar Paulo Freire states, “No one can be authentically human while he prevents others from being so.” equality means treating other people with respect and love, judging all the people with the same standard and believing all the human beings are the same. Of course, I don’t think the day has come, but for little Johnny, the time he ran to Uncle Remus’ house, shouting “Uncle Remus, I’ve found it! My laughing place! It’s right here…” he was definitely in his world without racism.
1. Youtube. “Song of the South 1946 Full Anime Movie Kids Movie Full”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLOqJBw62EM
2. Wikipedia. “Song of the South”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Song_of_the_South
3. Wikipedia. “I Have a Dream”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Have_a_Dream
4. NEW GEORGIA Encyclopedia. “Song of the South”, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/song-south
5. Clint Smith. “How to raise a black son in America”, http://www.ted.com/talks/clint_smith_how_to_raise_a_black_son_in_america