Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)

How come Mario, Bugs Bunny, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mickey Mouse all wear white gloves? You might not want to know.
Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)

Sometimes, useful things come out of bad situations. After all, what is a triple homicide if not a great opportunity to meet handsome policemen and tell them your riddles? Most people would generally consider "systemic racism" to be one of those "bad situations." And yet some wholly innocuous-seeming things we use every day are owed directly to man's inhumanity to man. For example ...

Mickey Mouse Is An Ode To Minstrel Shows

Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)
Walt Disney

What do Mario, Bugs Bunny, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mickey Mouse have in common, aside from wasting countless hours of our Saturday mornings? The answer: They all wear white gloves, as do most cartoon characters you can name. But ... why? It doesn't make sense for Italian plumbers and coked-up hedgehogs to share the same fashion sense. As it turns out, it's all a big shout-out to incredibly racist minstrel shows.


Minstrel shows were a once-popular form of American entertainment wherein white performers would black up their faces to do silly sketches and sing songs while wearing tuxedos, top hats, and yes, those white gloves. They're mostly remembered today as a tragic byproduct of more racist times -- the central conceit was "Those silly black people are all so happy and ignorant!" But back in the day, it was high comedy. So when early cartoonists like Disney were designing their characters, they paid a little homage ...

Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)

M-I-C K-E-Y, W-T-F?

Mickey Mouse is probably the worst offender. While Bugs and the gang kept their racist odes to unfortunate accessories, Mickey's whole look was modeled on blackface singers: The black body and head, large white eyeballs, white area around the mouth ...

That doesn't sound anything like a mouse, but it does sound a lot like one of the more embarrassing trends in American history.

The Dunk Tank Game Was Originally Called The "African Dip"

Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)
via Music For Deckchairs

In the late 1800s, the hot new fad sweeping the country was "target games." If only there were some way to combine this new craze with the old standard pastime of horrible racism ...

Hey, somebody did it!

Popular games included "Hit the Coon" and "African Dodger," where you literally just threw balls at black people, and then laughed because you weren't them.

Warner Bros.

Yeah, there are cartoons of that too.

Live targets were eventually replaced with fake heads, but 19th-century fairgoers still wanted to cause at least some discomfort for black people, so they came up with the African Dip.

Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)

Sandwiched between orange blossom candles and fruit, naturally.

In this progenitor of modern dunk tank games, the thrower would hit a target, triggering a release, which caused the dunkee (shockingly enough, always a black person) to fall in the filthy and freezing water. It was good, harmless fun for all! Except for anybody who wasn't white, of course.

Raggedy Ann Was Inspired By Racist Stereotypes

Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)
via Victoriana Magazine

Everybody loves Raggedy Ann, and her brother Raggedy Andy!

100 7 LOVE YOU

"My eyelashes are upside down!"

Especially racists. The main inspiration for Johnny Gruelle, the creator of Raggedy Ann, was blackface star Fred Stone playing the Scarecrow in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the 1902 version).

Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)
via The Wonderful Wiki of Oz

Uh, anyone need a horror franchise to reboot?

Okay, that's not too bad. He seems to only have inspired the dolls' dark triangle noses, and "All black people have triangle noses" is thankfully not a stereotype. But Gruelle's other inspirations were Golliwog Dolls. Let's see what those looked like:

Karen Arnold/Wiki Commons

It's what you'd come up with if asked to make and name a racist Pokemon.

Still don't see it? Well, remember that Raggedy dolls used to be black. Not only that, but their entire personality was centered around serving their "master" -- the human girl Marcella, who owned them. Who's down for starting a "toy lives matter" movement?

Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)

The "Paddy Wagon" Was A Low Blow Against The Irish


A paddy wagon is the slang term for that big truck the cops drive in to wrangle up all the drunken rioters after the whiskey rage dies down. We don't know why we're explaining it to you. Surely, your town has either protested police brutality or lost a hockey game. You've seen them. But the name doesn't refer to "padded walls" or any such thing; it's an ethnic slur against Irish people. "Patrick" is one of the most common Irish names, with "Paddy" being its short version. And, well, back when the term was coined, it was widely believed that Irish people tended to spend a lot of time in the backs of police cars. It was basically their Uber.

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Hugh McKenzie

As in, they mostly used it while drunk off their tits.

It gets worse. In the late 19th / early 20th century, not many people were keen to hire the Irish ... except the police. If you were willing to get shot in the noble pursuit of beating other poor folks about the head and shoulders with an old timey club, you too could join the force. Pretty soon, the "paddy wagons" weren't just transporting Paddies; they were also driven by them. It's amazing what systemic racism can do when it puts its mind to it!

Zombies Evolved From The Horrific Fates Of French Slaves

Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)
via The Daily Mail

If you want to blame anyone for the glut of zombies in modern fiction, you can blame George Romero and his 1968 indie hit Night Of The Living Dead. But if you want to get to the source of the problem, you might want to jump into your time machine and travel to 17th/18th-century Haiti. WARNING: This will not be an enjoyable trip for the melanin-privileged.

Seemingly Innocuous Things (That Are Racist)

Trust us on this ...

Back then, Haiti was known as Saint-Domingue, and was a French colony that took in all the slaves they could brutally work to death. That turned out to be a lot. African slaves worked on the sugar plantations in inhumane and brutal conditions. Half of the workers would die within their first few years of servitude. The other half tended to kill themselves. Which is actually worse than you think: See, the religion of the Haitian natives forbade suicide. The slaves believed that upon dying, your freed soul could spend the afterlife back in Africa, but that those who took their lives would be forced to roam the same place where they died for all eternity.

Eventually, the Haitian myth got mixed up with voodoo beliefs about powerful shamans being able to raise the dead. Over time, all of this came together to create a brand-new myth of corpses rising from the grave to roam the land while killing everything in their path. And then hundreds of years later, we made movies about how these monstrosities might be good boyfriend material.

For more ways you're being totally intolerant, check out 8 Racist Words You Use Every Day and 5 Things You Say Often With Horrible Historical Origins.

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