Livestock R Us | Bleader

Friday, June 4, 2010

Livestock R Us

Posted By on 06.04.10 at 09:30 AM

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The Daily Inter Ocean, January 18, 1878. "Never follow animals or children" was an old adage among wised-up vaudevillians. (They meant "follow" in the sense of "go onstage directly after"). But does the same principle apply to children in relation to animals? And how might race affect the equation?

But perhaps these theoretical fine points of showbiz protocol are less interesting to you than the very phenomenon of "colored baby exhibits." Well, these were just Jim Crow variations on your regular baby exhibits, where Caucasian parents submitted their infant children to be probed, poked, measured, weighed and put on display like 4-H projects in the hope of winning a cash prize. Often the black and white events took place simultaneously and in adjacent venues. Need I specify that white folks could attend the black baby exhibit, but black folks enjoyed no reciprocal privileges?

"We wish we had the power of poetry to describe the 'smell of childhood' which one enjoys when passing through these curious exhibitions," declared those elitist baby-haters at New York Times in September 13, 1855.
"It is proper to state that the persons who have degraded themselves by suffering their children to be displayed in this way—the colored as well as the white ladies and gentleman—are a pretty ignorant set, fond of fame, a little vain, and fond of money. . . .There are those who insist that inhuman exhibitions of this kind are interesting; but that, we think, after the style of the woman who kissed the cow, depends on taste, altogether. The utility of the affair is certainly beyond our comprehension."

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