Who's responsible for vintage racism?

Sammee Tong
I also watched an episode of Bachelor Father, which was vaguely familiar. It starred John Forsythe and aired from 1957 to 1962, so that means I was six and a half when it ended. I suppose I may have seen re-runs. The patrician Forsythe plays the patrician Beverly Hills lawyer Bentley Gregg, who has taken in his teen-aged orphaned niece Kelly. This week I saw the 1961 show entitled "Bentley and the Time Clock," though it's really more about the "houseboy" Peter Tong, played by Sammee Tong, and unionization efforts. Anyway, in the Time Clock episode, Peter's conniving cousin starts a union,The Benevolent Society of Chinese Houseboys, which is so amusing to uncle and Kelly that they can't help smiling indulgently when Peter tells them about it, then giggling, and in uncle's case, lecturing. One night Bentley has a woman over for dinner and dancing and keeps getting distracted by a small, aged "houseboy" in a tuxedo observing from the next room and taking notes. Peter explains: He's monitoring working conditions. A frustrated and resolute Bentley picks up the small, stiff man as if he's a mannikin and deposits him outside the front door. The next day Bentley brings in a time clock to teach Peter a lesson. (You want to set up antagonism between Management and Labor? Then let's be strict about everything.) The white master never loses his superior status, of course. The servant in this case is especially lower caste because he's an immigrant and an imperfect speaker of the language. He's naive and must be saved by the master from con man Cousin Charlie. (In the antebellum South, benevolent masters knew they had to protect their slaves from themselves and the world outside the plantation, because their slaves were inferior, like children. They were incapable of taking care of themselves. The white man was doing them a favor--after other white men had done the first favor of kidnapping them and bringing them in chains and squalor to the New World, as well as introducing them to Christ, whom they resembled in tortures received.)

Peter learns that his employer has his best interests at heart. (Under the new system, Peter grosses more in a week, but has $19 less in take-home pay because of deductions for the union Christmas dance party, its widows and orphans guild, and--get the laff track ready--the salary of the national official, who is Cousin Charlie.) Order is restored: Peter goes back to being the happy servant; Bentley, the appreciative master--and Cousin Charlie, instigator, self-interested catalyst of a power shift--he ends up washing dishes at the master's dinner party.
 ****
 On watching the p*rn film B*hind the Gr*en Do*r:
Beauty and intelligence was there with the whites, sexuality and the body is what characterized blacks. And I as a Japanese American? I was the one who watched, who did not participate, who was outside of that history. I was the neutered Hop Sing [ the Cartwrights' Chinese cook in Bonanza] or the houseboy of Bachelor Father.
--David Mura, "No-No Boys: Re-X-Amining Japanese Americans," New England Review, 1993
*****
So this is the question in the title of the post: If this TV show was racist, if the use of the word "houseboy" is objectionable, if the patronizing (at best) attitude of the the main white characters is offensive, why is this series being shown on a major TV station? Shouldn't the station refuse? Why is this acceptable and Amos 'n' Andy not?

You will say: Because we had Civil Rights.  Because blacks are vocal. Because Asians are the model minority (quiet, satisfied to be accepted as white and admired for their inherent abilities in math, science and laundry). They don't cause trouble. Because this isn't so bad.

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