Club Soda and Salt

No more stains

I’ve heard of minstrel humour, but this is ridiculous

Posted by clubsodaandsalt on August 6, 2006

There’s a great article in the NYT today about a 1906 display at the Bronx Zoo — a Congolese pygmy named Ota Benga. Benga was exhibited in the same area as the orangutans. As you might imagine, this caused a great deal of upset, but the zoo’s administrator defended it, saying:

“When the history of the Zoological Park is written, this incident will form its most amusing passage.”

Charming. At any rate, Benga’s story combines the brutality of African colonialism with the intense racism in America at the turn of the century. It also puts my discomfort with the antics of people like Chris Tucker in perspective — I guess you could say that being portrayed as unintelligent, irrational and hot-tempered is one thing, but at least it’s significantly better than being displayed as an ape. Like they say, though, read the whole thing.


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