Are Accusations of Historic Racism Ever Justified?

We’ve all seen them, articles from the Corporate Media, or rags such as The Huffington Post, or Slate, condemning the actors and actresses of yore for being insensitive to non-whites. We’ve seen how they hold historic figures to today’s politically correct standards, and rush to cancel some of the greatest luminaries in Western theater. Time after time, we read these reports – and dismiss them as unreasonable, as they usually are. Black face is not necessarily a symptom of hate or oppression.

But is it possible that sometimes those old-time movies really did go too far? Is there any point where readers of this blog would admit that the actors in question should have shown more respect for non-whites?

I submit to you one case that would be a good candidate for this: The Episode of The Spider Woman (1943). Here we see Sherlock Holmes describing an African Pygmy as:

Poison-immune, little, dog-like, faithful to their master, able to creep through the smallest openings, the perfect instrument for the spider-murders… Pygmy!

And then:

… and that creature in the suitcase

Probably not the best choice of words to describe somebody who is, after all, a fellow human being. If I were a Pygmy, I’d probably laugh at this. I certainly wouldn’t be outraged, or call for the cancellation of Sherlock Holmes, but it wouldn’t shock me if somebody was offended by it.

What do you think?

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