Childhood Ruined: 15 Classic Kids’ Shows You Didn’t Realize Were Racist

October 15, 2014  |  
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Getting ready to pop in one of your favorite children’s classics for a nostalgic re-watch? Before you push that VHS tape in, check out our list of beloved childhood shows you didn’t realize were racist because nothing ruins a childhood movie like realizing your favorite character was in Blackface all along.

Annie

Remember this guy from Annie? First of all, his name is “Punjab” which isn’t a name so much as the state in India he’s supposed to be from. It’s like having Daddy Warbucks call you “African” instead of using your real name.

Only, the character can’t be from Punjab at all, because he’s played by black actor and classically trained dancer Geoffrey Holder (RIP).

Dumbo

Dumbo features this obnoxiously racist group of black crows. Not only do they shuffle, jive talk and dress like the cast of Fat Albert, but one of them is even named Jim Crow.

And we won’t even talk about the other scene featuring nameless, faceless black railroad workers who spend about three minutes singing about how they can’t read or write…

The Jungle Book

Get ready to get real mad about just how many times you sang along with this monkey from The Jungle Book.

Why is he racist? Well for starters, everybody in The Jungle Book — even the little boy who was literally raised by animals — speaks in British English. That is, except for the monkeys. They talk like black people, sing in jazz scat and dance about how they want to be real people.

Oh, oobee doo. I wanna be like you…

Peter Pan

Remember these delightful savages from 1953’s Peter Pan? Not only were these Native Americans stereotypically whooping and dancing in front of a teepee, they have an entire song about “what makes the red man red.” Way to be racist, 1953.

Lady and the Tramp

Remember these shifty Asians Siamese Cats from Lady and the Tramp? They sing We Are Siamese in a Chinese accent, have slanty eyes and are sneaky and untrustworthy just like all Asians Siamese Cats are. But at least they don’t play the piano with chopsticks like the ones in The Aristocats.

Fantasia

They cut this pickaninny slave centaur out of Fantasia sometime after it’s original release in 1940, but we don’t know if that makes us feel any better. She’s half pickaninny and half donkey ya’ll…

The Littlest Rebel

In The Littlest Rebel, Shirley Temple and her favorite slave sang and tapdance throughout the confederate south. That is until the mean ‘ol confederate soldiers come and frighten the slaves who are terrified of being freed from their kind old massa.

And then Shirley Temple puts on black face…

Sigh.

King Kong

Kids love monster movies. Especially the one about the biggest, blackest monkey from Africa who is taken to America in chains, gets free and his insatiable lust for white women nearly destroys America. Sound familiar? This loose metaphor for the societal fears of certain sections of America is old, tired and still racist. Just don’t tell the people who made the remake in 2005. Or the people who approved this cover for Vogue magazine.

Breakfast At Tiffany’s

Millions of teenage girls dreamed of growing up to be as cool as Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly. Just maybe without her buck-toothed, slanty eyed Japanese neighbor played by Mickey Rooney.

The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers

The Black Ranger was a black guy, the Yellow Ranger an Asian woman, The Red Ranger was Native American, The Pink Ranger was a ditzy blonde and The White Ranger was the white guy who had the best skills. Some Saturday morning cartoon fans say that’s a lot of coincidences.

Did we mention that The Yellow Ranger is bad at driving? Or how The Black Ranger is the only one who dances to a funky beat before he fights?

Arthur

Are we crazy? Or was Arthur’s friend Francine definitely a monkey (with hair that puffs into an afro when it gets wet)? She was also Arthur’s poorest character who shared a room with her sister and was ashamed about her father being a garbage man. We’re not sure what to make of that…

Bugs Bunny

And then there was that time Bugs Bunny did black face… We’ll just leave this here and walk away.

The Little Mermaid

What would be the best way to draw the character who tries to convince Ariel to abandon her ambitions to laze around under the waves all day?

According to Disney it’s Sebastian the Jamaican crab who loves living underwater because it’s where you don’t have to get a job:

Up on the shore they work all day
Out in the sun they slave away


While we devotin’
Full time to floatin’
Under the sea!

And there’s also the big-lipped Duke Ellington fish and the black-face fish who hits the high notes. Coincidence or nah?

Tom and Jerry

Remember this character from Saturday morning cartoons? Her name is Mammy Two Shoes (voiced by Lillian Randolph) and Whoopi Goldberg has some interesting things to say about her role in one of America’s most iconic children’s cartoons.

“Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo

And just when you thought turning off the TV was safe, Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson reminded us all that even some of our favorite children’s rhymes have a racist past.

Did you know that it used to be “Eenie, meenie, miney, mo/catch a nigger by the toe?” Jeremy Clarkson did and he got in major trouble for mouthing those words on international TV.

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