EBay Controversy

Listening to The Tavis Smiley Show on NPR, I became aware that the National Alliance for Positive Action is upset that Ebay continues to allow its members to sell “racially offensive” black Americana items. They also don’t like the fact that many of these items are being listed with the “N” word in title or description. I would agree they sellers could avoid using that word to describe this form of memorabilia, but don’t agree that Ebay should band the use of the word completely. More importantly, I don’t agree that Ebay should ban the sale of these items. I myself have collected black Americana items. Many of these museum quality items represent a part of America’s ugly history with black people. They are reminders of where we’ve been. So as painful as they may be to look at, Ebay sellers should be allowed to list them. They need to be preserved.

4 Comments
  1. On a trip to Mardi Gras several years back, I saw more than a few gift shops selling currently produced figurine cariacatures of antebellum blacks. I guess you could make a case for this being Americana. However, any sensitive person would consider some of the other trinkets sold alongside to be in extremely poor taste. In one shop, I was especially shocked — and believe me, it takes a lot to shock me — to see a ballpoint pen shaped like a black man’s body that you stored by sticking it head-first into the mouth of an alligator. I can understand the market for old-timey stuff, but who is buying his new, offensive material? I presume somebody is, since the stuff wouldn’t otherwise occupy prime shelf space.
    I don’t think eBay should be prohibited from selling such trinkets, any more than Amazon should be prohibited from selling “The Turner Diaries.” But that doesn’t mean any of the stuff is suddenly in good taste.
    One thought always strikes me when discussions of this type come up. Am I the only one who thinks that the free and easy use of the phrase “the N-word” is pretty much the same as using the word itself? I mean, everybody knows what it means. If you wouldn’t say or write the real word, why would you write the phrase? It’s about as subtle as writing “G-d” instead of “God.” Do media discussions of anti-Semitism routinely make reference to “the K-word”? By making it acceptable to bandy about “the N-word,” do we risk becoming apologists for racial epithets?

  2. No question about it, the reproductions are junk. Prior to the rise of services like Ebay, I use to go to antique shops, estate sales, flea markets, looking for black Americana items. Then I stopped. I simply couldn’t afford the true antiques anymore. So while I wouldn’t buy the reproductions, I understand why people by them. They want to collect something from this historical period, but they can’t really afford the real stuff. Still no excuse for companies who are making the reproductions, but it’s an explanation.

  3. Oh and you’re probably right about saying/writing “the N word” — but I can’t bring myself to spell it out.

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