Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Confederate Handbag

I'm sorry that the picture is blurry. It was quite dark in
the store, and I did the best I could with my cell
phone camera
I wanted to buy a little handbag for my niece who is almost 14 months old. So I saw what looked like a cute toddler handbag in a store and grabbed it. I almost bought it when I realized that its bow was in the colors of the Confederate flag. There was also a little appliqued picture saying "The South Will Rise Again." I'm glad I caught it in time, and didn't bestow such a weird gift on my little niece.

It's unbelievable to me how much Missouri's past of slavery is still present everywhere around here. I'm still kind of new to these cultural realities, but the Confederate handbag for toddlers seems quite disturbing. But if I'm overreacting, and it's a completely normal practice, feel free to tell me.


Rimi said...

I'm waiting for the commentary of your American readers on this (and perhaps of Canukastani, who always has such interesting things to add). As a foreigner, I must admit the simmering mutual dislike and distrust between the north and the south fascinates me.

What I find most interesting is that it is in the south that chest-thumping patriotism has its most radical/extremist support, but then surely a message like "The South Will Rise Again" would be considered seditious? Then again, none of the talk of secession comes from the "liberal" and "unAmerican" north-east, either...

Like I said, fascinating.

Clarissa said...

I know. I got my first knowledge of the North-South relations in the US from Uncle Tom's Cabin and Gone With the Wind. So you can imagine.

Many countries all over the world have this tension (often, based on a lot of mythology) between a technologically advanced, economically productive North, and a poor, backwards, retrograde South.

Is there something like this in India?

Rimi said...

There is certainly a north-south dichotomy, but not based on those lines exactly. Both the north-west and the south are, in fact, prosperous. Comparatively. The difference is that the north is what we call the cowbelt -- much profitable dairy and farming. They benefitted a great deal from the first green revolution -- using genetically modified crops to increased yield per sq. area of arable land. The south also has farming, coffee especially, but the south also boasts much better education, better public health, and in general a more 'civilised' and 'modern' way of life, despite being quite socially conservative.

The real crux, many posit, is the the north is populated by Aryans and their descendents -- much mixing of races with India's successive waves of conquerors, of course -- as a consequence of which Caucasian features seem to pop up every now and then. Blue eyes, auburn hair, like that. The Aryans are supposed to have pushed the original inhabitants, the Dravidians -- who are darker, stockier, and have thick, curly tropical hair -- deeper and deeper south, till a border of some sort was reached along the Vindhya mountains.

These days, in fact, one frequently says "north/south of the Vindhyas", as one would say "north/south of the Mason-Dixon line". In fact, our school history books had separate sections for north Indian kingdoms/ages (the Guptas, the Mauryas, Turks, the Persians, the Mughals, the Mongols...) and south Indian ones (the Cholas, Chalukyas, the Vijaynagaram empire, the Deccan Sultanates, and so on).

Of course, this leaves out the east and the north-east, which are a different matter altogether :-)

Rimi said...

You know, one would expect that in a country with hundreds of ethnicities and above a thousand official languages (not counting dialects of the same language which are so different neighbouring villages cannot communicate), the lightness or darkness of one's skin wouldn't matter. And it doesn't, as much as it does in the US or parts of colonised Africa. But it still does in India, and it's a little depressing.

Which is why it used to amuse me to see glowing adverts for tanning parlours in the US. Pale people pay to look toastier, whereas in India, people all shades of brown spend fortunes of "whitening" lotions and creams. Sigh.

Clarissa said...

In my school in Ukraine there was one black boy. He was probably the only black boy for hundreds of miles around. Girls almost strangled each other for that boy's attentions because he was seen as so exotic.

People always want what they don't have.

Pagan Topologist said...

Rimi: I just posted a comment to your review of Avatar which I found via compulsive websurfing from here on Clarissa's blog.

Clarissa: I grew up in a segregated place in the south (sort of; Northeast Tennessee is its own culture that is different from anywhere else.) I never met a black person until I was a teenager and never got to know any black people well until I was in my twenties. I was always puzzled by the strictly enforced separation of blacks and whites. It never made sense to me at all. I am now married to a black woman. I suppose my relationship could be described as 'wanting what I was not,' but I think I just finally, after decades, found an emotionally healthy woman whom I love and who loves me. Maybe in a sense our contrasting races add some wonderful texture to our relationship, but it is hardly the point of it. I admit that When I see us together in a mirror or in a photo, our contrasting skin colors gives me a feeling of pleasure, but so does seeing any interracial couple anywhere.

Clarissa said...

It's great how we are all finding each other. :-) Intelligent people need to stick together. :-)

PT: yours is a beautiful story.

How do you feel about the Confederate handbag, though?

Pagan Topologist said...

I am offended by the Confederate handbag. I suppose, however, that I would refrain from stealing it from the store and burning it, which would be moral but not legal.

Clarissa said...

I thought the bag was problematic but the store assistant who sold them was black. So that confused me completely. And I didn't want to ask and look like a tourist.

The weirdest thing is that the handbag is definitely aimed at a small child. Does a child really care if "the South will rise again"?

Pagan Topologist said...

Clarissa, one of the things that I like about Pagan gatherings and Science Fiction conventions is that they seem to attract large numbers of highly intelligent people.

Pagan Topologist said...

No, but the parents or other adults willing to spend money might care, I suppose.

Clarissa said...

I wouldn't put political messages on my niece. Strange that anybody would want to decorate a child with political statements.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the deep South. This sort of thing was common in my childhood.

One of my childhood friends (at about the period we were growing apart, and this was very contributory to that) informed me when I was 10 about black people that, "We put 'em in slavery once, and we can put 'em right back in!"

My response was, "Well, I'll let you get to work on that. I don't think it's going to be quite as easy as you make it out to be."

In some way, this racism, this "south will rise again" folderol is relatively-poor whites trying to foster and to perpetuate a group identity the way that many humans do: by identifying a perceived lesser group that they can pick on, and foisting off all their problems onto this group. The racism is typically covert these days, but no less present for all that. It's latent in all of these sorts of expression. All of them.

This, of course, is heartily encouraged by the plutocrats who are exploiting both groups, because it diverts scrutiny from their great larcenies.


Anonymous said...

It's more like dressing them in the colors of your team. Here in Tiger Country you can buy LSU rah rah outfits for babies. I've even seen rattles. GEAUX TIGERS.

The bag would be an exaggerated, redneck kind of item. Not something a cultured person would have, even if they secretly agreed with the politics. You do see the Stars and Bars on trucks and things, and it's a racist symbol.

KT said...

On our way to Kansas City in the fall, we stopped by at a gas station somewhere in Missouri and in the store were different sizes of the confederate flag. It was sold like any other accessory. I was not afraid to look like a tourist, so I asked why in the world anyone would buy a confederate flag. The kind blonde attendant just gently told me that it is a "normal" store item and many people have bought it. That was before she asked me where I was from.

One sees new interesting/disturbing things everyday.

Pagan Topologist said...

I certainly see a Confederate flag as a racist symbol. However, I know a black man married to a white woman. He likes his in-laws very much, and does not seem at all disturbed that they have a large Confederate flag on display in their home.

Rimi said...

Pagan Topologist -- thank you. I quite agree with what you said :-)

Mike, thanks for the confirmation. I did fear something like this was at work. It's the same everybloodywhere. Pass the buck, with active encouragement.