Saturday, August 15, 2015

Snow White and the importance of ebony

Conversation in TV series Falco between the two leading inspectors:

Falco quotes from Little Red Riding Hood: “ ...did your mother never read those fairy tales to you?”
Chevalier shakes his head: “No, too violent...with the wolf and all.”
- “What about Snow White?”
- “Oh no, too much discrimination.”
*Falco frowns, looks at him questioningly.*
- “Yeah, what with all the little people?”
- “Gee, I don’t know what to say....”

As a child, I did get to hear those stories and I vaguely remember looking over at that big story book and finding it a little creepy to have all those mean witches on my bookshelf.  The words fascinated me though. One day I was given a black doll and my parents asked me what her name would be. My response was immediate: “Snow White.”

For some time the grown-ups in the house looked at each other puzzled, as I continued to play house with this new family member. Finally, someone dared to ask for the logic that was going on inside my little head. To me (the kid) it seemed self-explanatory, but of course I would oblige to clarify: “Her hair is black as ebony.”

Generations of childhood nostalgia from my family

Intermezzo for the rare few who have forgotten the classic Grimm tale of Snow White:

A young woman wished for a child with “lips red as the rose, hair black as ebony, skin white as snow”.  She was granted her wish. Her perfectly beautiful baby was born the next year, but of course life isn’t always perfect and after the sun comes the rain (and sometimes a tornado-storm). The good and happy mother tragically died after naming her. To make their misery complete, Snow White’s dad decided to remarry, but this time he married a wicked woman.

So the girl had to run away to the seven dwarfs in the forest, where she had the time of her life before her step-mother tried to kill her with an apple. Luckily a prince came along and he was so smitten with her that he carried her off while she was in a coma. On that journey he tripped, miraculously dislodging the piece of apple stuck in Snow White’s throat. This woke her up and she lived happily ever after her first kiss with the prince. 

Being the girl I was (am) with a strong liking of new words that nobody uses, the important detail I got out of this entire story was “black as ebony”. Obviously, with my doll having lots of black hair on her head I didn’t have to think twice to name her!

Skin color doesn’t matter to a small child. No one is born a racist. Nelson Mandela said it well:
No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

The skin color that does perhaps matter, is that of the dolls you let your kids play with. I found out that several generations in my family have played with black dolls during their formative years. There seems to be a “black is beautiful” attitude amongst us to this very day. Might there be a connection?

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