Sunday, May 20, 2012

Politically incorrect tea towels

Occasionally it is brought home to me how much of a Yankee I am, transplanted down here in the deep south.  I got all the way from the Monday to the Sunday tea towel without realizing what I was looking at.  There were many fine needle workers in my husband's family, and these were made by his Great Aunt Lorene, probably in the 1950's.  We have found many treasures in clearing out my father-in-law's house but this collection is my favorite.
They tell the story of a little black girl and her kitten; her underpants are just darling!
She's very sad on Tuesday, and the cat doesn't look too happy either.
Aunt Lorene's workmanship is exquisite; I love her little pigtails.
The pleated skirt is my favorite; the cat always has a matching bow, did you notice?
You just know she's proud of her lace panties!
I would never have thought to render a newspaper like this, and it works so well!
Grandma Vivian was concerned about the fate of very few things in the house.  She kept asking, "Did you find the tea towels?  Don't sell the tea towels!"  She did NOT want to see these get sold.  Nor she did not refer to them as "the politically incorrect, inappropriate, or (dare I say it?) racist, tea towels"; so when I first saw them, my mind didn't go there right away.  I had to get slapped in the face by "Mammy on a Sunday," then I was like, "Holy S**t!"

I am a mass of conflicting impulses.  What can I say?  Fine workmanship and beauty were used to denigrate an entire class of people as the object of humor in the name of cuteness, which is so not cool.  They are definitely a sign of their times; historical artifacts that probably belong in a museum of African Americana.  And I would love to display them because they are SO CUTE!!!  See? Conflicted.  Grandma never had these problems.  Sigh.

7 comments:

Footpather said...

Oh they are gorgeous. I don't see them as un PC. It's just a cute little black girl who is relating her week. Would it matter if she was a cute little white girl? The 'accent' just adds to the fun surely.

Shirley said...

Treasure them for what they are Susan - needlework heirlooms and interesting.

Mary said...

I think these are wonderful. You are right the workmanship is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Get over it. What do you think was on your Aunt's heart when she was making them? How do you want to remember her? How do they make you feel? I imagine "racist" is not in any of your answers.

Susan In Texas said...

Well, anonymous, that's not the point. My husband's great aunt was a woman of her times as am I. Times have changed. What was considered perfectly appropriate in the 50's is now considered very insensitive. I have friends of all hues and I would not want to offend any of them by not recognizing that these tea towels, however well made, are not all that different than pickaninny lawn jockeys and blackface minstrals, now fortunately fading into obscurity.

I think the towels should be appreciated for the historical artifacts that they are, and displaying them prominently in my home is not the message I want to project.

Dorthy said...

I have a black cloth Mammy Doll that I need to finish. It is cut from a panel. I have had it for quite some time and wouldn't finish it because it is PC uncorrect. but she is SO cute. I think I'll finish her and display her.

jnbjourney said...

I love the towels! And if people can't see the "history" of these towels and look past the non PC aspect, they are missing out. These are amazing heirlooms that need to be passed down for sure!!