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One Hiroshima anti-nuclear group, allied with the Communist Party, successfully petitioned The National Atomic Museum, in Albuquerque, to stop selling Fat Man and Little Boy earrings.
 
But, my own attempt at raising consciousness, about the sale of Mouth Jazz Toothpaste in the student store at Kyoto University, has left me in doubt about the efficacy of censoring other cultures' bad taste and enforcing cross-cultural political correctness.
 
 
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"Mouth Jazz" Toothpaste,

aka "Darkie" Toothpaste and "Black Face" Toothpaste

Contemporary
 

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.)

 
 ZOOM The 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  ZOOM 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.

An apologia.

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 front cover-1.
 
 
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

Colgate's 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 see, new internationalist issue 188 - October 1988.
 
 
 Fat Man and Little Boy Earrings There are several websites with articles about the Fat Man and Little Boy earrings, including this August 8, 1999 article from The Detroit News.

 

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