I caution readers of this page not to overreact to the imagery,
as I did, but to try to understand them in their cultural context.
Apparently, Darkie Toothpaste is
the product of Hawley and Hazel, Hong Kong. It was exported to Japan
as Mouth Jazz. (I believe it has
also been called Black Face Toothpaste, but I cannot confirm that.)
American company, Colgate, acquired a partnership in Hawley and
Hazel in 1985. Hawley and Hazel are not the only companies to use
such images. And again, many of these images originate in the United
States, including the now banned story of Little Black Sambo.
Black face, pickaniny, and Little Black Sambo
imagery have historical and ideological roots in the USA to which
me must attend. But, the histories of these images go beyond the
USA. We must be sensitive to regional histories and meanings, and
not impose our interpretations on others. That does not mean we
do not try to teach or persuade one another, but we must not begin
by pointing fingers at others for using an image we created but
now find offensive.
|My efforts to raise consciousness,
appeared as: "A Letter from
Professor Shapiro: Concerning the Black Face Image in American
Culture" (translated into Japanese),
Raifu sute-ji, Kyoto University COOP (February 1992), Inside
Some of my colleagues responded with grace and humor, as they
tried to help me put my point across in a way that the university
community would understand. Others saw me merely as a troublemaker;
though, I must acknowledge, with some embarrassment, my tactics
were less than subtle.
Still others saw my response not as Japan Bashing, but as yet another
example of how the Japanese are misunderstood (ironic considering
Mouth Jazz is not a Japanese product).
A few, fortunately, appreciated my efforts for what I hoped they
were: first, an opportunity to understand the origin of an image
that they took for granted; and, more importantly, a genuine response
to my environment that would promote more discussion and mutual
understanding of different cultures and points of view.
For more information about
Darkie Toothpaste, see
Distasteful Toothpaste *
* You will need Adobe
Acobat Reader to view this PDF file (438 Kb)
Alisa L. Mosely, University of Nebraska,
The source of the article is not given, however, after searching
the website for this course at the University of Buffalo, I believe
it is The Cultural Dimension of International
Business, ed., G. P. Ferraro (Prentice-Hall, 1998). Also
internationalist issue 188 - October 1988.
are several websites with articles about the
Fat Man and Little Boy earrings, including this August
8, 1999 article from The Detroit News.