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The Indian-Oz Connection

Another response to The Indian-Oz Connection. The correspondent begins by citing my quotation from Baum's American Fairy Tales:

>> The site's quotation from AMERICAN FAIRY TALES is also a stretch since the point of Baum's joke is that the robbers don't know anything about America but stereotypes. <<

Yes. And Mark Twain, Baum's contemporary, used racist stereotypes in Huck Finn while attacking slavery. That's because people weren't quite clear on the racial messages they were sending then. Many hadn't sorted out the morality of the issue. They were fairly sure slavery and genocide were wrong, but not that blacks and Indians were literally equal to whites.

FYI, the way to contradict racist stereotypes isn't to repeat them. To have characters laugh over such stereotypes without an authorial correction. Where in American Fairy Tales does Baum tell the reader that the stereotypes are false? Because the readers wouldn't have believed they were false without an editorial comment (and probably not even then).

To the extent we can understand Baum's point, I think I understand it. I commented on the uncertainty of his intent myself. I've commented on that since my first posting, when I questioned whether Baum was "beloved or bigoted." On my site I quoted Robert W. Venables of Cornell University's American Indian Program, who wrote that Baum's editorials "at points are curiously ambivalent."

So yes...pretty much everyone gets that Baum wasn't a sheet-wearing, cross-burning racist. The question is whether everyone gets that he wasn't a flawless defender of multiracial harmony. Venables and I get it. Do you?

>> But the best response might be to set up a friendly dialogue with the site's creator and share some of those other texts. <<

When I have a moment, I'll be glad to look at the texts that contradict the texts I've cited. I hope they're more persuasive than "The Enchanted Buffalo" was. Because that wasn't persuasive at all.

Rob Schmidt

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