'Spook soap'?

Dateline: Mon 29 Nov 2010

Freelane writer Kelly Jones Sharp recently published the following entry on her blog,  http://sharpwordworks.com/blog/

"While Christmas shopping in Noblesville with my sister-in-law, Karen, I happened upon something shocking and sad. A vendor in Logan Village Mall, a location of about 40 shops on the town square, is selling racist soap.

“Kolored Kids Soap,” “Spook Soap,” “Coon Chicken Soap” -- you get the idea. When I brought this issue to the attention of the women at the counter, I was told they “sell a lot of it,” and that the vendor is aware that “some people” find the soap offensive. (But they were glad I nevertheless purchased items from other vendors.)

"That such products exist and ostensibly are popular in our so-called “post-racial” racist society is beyond me. If I were black, the message I would take away from a visit to the mall and to Noblesville is: “We serve whites only.”

"Under the pretext of “Black Americana,” this stuff is being sold with all the same nostalgia and disregard for humanity as memorabilia about Japanese concentration camps. Unbelievably, you can find a lot of it online. By allowing these products into their midst, the mall owners are culpable, and so is the community of Noblesville, for providing legitimacy for racist behavior."

Some commentary: I've never been to Logan Village Mall in Noblesville, but Kelly says vendors rent spaces and sell their wares. Kelly says she spoke with the woman staffing the checkout counter, and Kelly got the impression that no one person supervises what is sold -- each vendor sells what he/she chooses. Let the marketplace beware.

As for Black Americana, many of us argue it has its place -- in antiquity. Even then, collecting and selling it is dicey. I know; I'm an antique dealer with a booth at Midland Arts and Antiques Mall. One of my favorite stories was during the days we still lived in Putnam County. Good ol' boy Jeff Rich -- really a prince of a guy -- was an auctioneer who once advertised a huge black memorabilia collection. The auction went on over several weekends, that's how extensive the collection was.

I'm talking KKK artifacts and photos advertising, dolls, books, every Aunt Jemima salt and pepper shaker in the Midwest, or so it seemed -- extensive. But none of that Coon Soap.

The couple who owned the collection was white. "Why are they selling it off?" I asked Rich. "They want to put vinyl siding on the house," he explained.

Oh, rural Indiana....

Anyhow, I've sold probably under half-a-dozen black memorabilia pieces at Midland -- all good stuff, in the sense it was authentic (dolls, advertising, photos).

It takes forever to sell. So I am hard-pressed as to how there could be any market for Spook Soap, which of course, is not an artifact or anything old, but a brand-spanking-new replica.

I agree with Kelly. The only answer is racism.

Out with the soap....




Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Ah, Ruthie, we have something else in common. Midland is one of my favorite places to waste an hour or two. Or four. My dining room table is from Midland.

When I went to purchase it, the clerk came back upstairs to put a "sold" tag on it. A shopper asked me if I paid the list price. I said "no." He laughed and said, you guessed it:

"Oh, so you Jewed 'em down, huh?"

The clerk, God Bless him, said:

"Sir, that kind of phrase is not welcome here."

The shopper left in a huff.

Subtle racism and bigotry exist so casually here, that it creeps into our lexicon, and becomes a careless verb.

Memorabilia, if truly antique and not reproduced, might have a place, if properly displayed. Maybe with a disclaimer posted.

I have a feeling the coon soap is fresh, marketed with the "antique" label to attact a certain shopper.

It's not funny.

And many (belated) thanks to the otherwise-genteel Midland clerk, who took a huge chance to politely stake a claim on civility.

May he prosper.

2010-11-29 10:31:14

ruthholl [Member] said:

I love your Midland story.
Thank you!

2010-11-29 20:34:57

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

I am dismayed that human insensitivity continues apace. It takes a special sort of mouth breather to use that old insult, "Jewed 'em down."

And "Coon Soap?!" Jeesuswept. Long past time for people to get past that kind of crap.

Maybe equal insult time should be devoted to Irish, Germans, Italians, Catholics, Poles, Mexicans, Scots, Hillbillies, Rednecks, Liberals, Tea Baggers, and every other group. Spread the poison for "Not Like Me" around equally.

(And on this note: Dick Lugar apparently doesn't represent intractable, hardline, far right conservative ideology so he will be contested in the next primary? Zealots on the right and left are what's wrong with this country. Aparatchiks of conservative "values" and liberal dreams are leaving no room for rationality.)

2010-11-30 06:52:01

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Lugar may be past his prime for some, but he's toiled steadfastly, on the entire nuclear weapons issue, for 20 years or more. It's often solitary work. Little-respected, except when you consider the alternatives. Ka-boom. He's rarely partisan. But:

I called his office last week to urge him to support the Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal. He belongs to my church, I know his family well, and I would've thought he'd keep an open mind.

Four days later, I get a snappy letter from Lugar. In the first sentence, it harshly blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the failure of DADT legislation earlier in the session. He did not answer my direct question about DADT. He went squarely for the political jugular, while the Reid carcass is still awash in election blood.


Leader Putin laughs up his sleeve. Even the erstwhile Sen. Lugar piles-on.

Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy...

In short, I think he's playing to that hard-right portion of his party, for maybe 16 months, to ward-off a serious conservative challenge.

2010-11-30 08:59:56

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

Yet Lugar voted YES on S510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Bill. See nytimes.com homepage for the story and the vote. 25 Republicans voted against.

b/t/w, thread hijack. Does someone want to talk about the RACIST SOAP being sold in Noblesville? Anyone?

2010-11-30 10:33:26

hendy [Member] said:

My late grandfather was from Boone County, and developed a large CPA firm in Indy, where Barnes and Thornburg live now. He was a member of the KKK. He would've chuckled at 'spook soap'. My late father broke the chain of prejudice for my siblings and I and calmly but firmly resisted the fear and hatred in his father's presence. There were eye-rolling ceremonies.

I believe that the items are of historical value at best. To be sold as anything else feeds the old rubriks. Does the NAACP need to be up there? Sure. And lots of pressure ought to be put on the rednecks selling them. It proves once again that Indiana is the northern most southern city. Sometimes I see more stars and bars than the US flag in Monroe County where I live. You can't fix stupid except through education.

And tilt the thread back, Dick Lugar was a bad president of the IPS, a bad mayor, and an ineffective senator who's in the midst of a calculated PR campaign to keep his seat, which IMHO, he doesn't deserve--- another elitist with just one good standard to bear in nuclear weapons reduction.

2010-11-30 10:55:36

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Wow, Hendy. I had no idea anyone else felt the same about Lugar's past "accomplishments."

To reel the thread back in--his IPS performance, led in large part to white flight. Which his performance handily endorsed.

To put it into perspective, his IPS board service was only a few years removed from segregated IPS athletic teams.

White men can't jump.

2010-11-30 11:34:34

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"You can't fix stupid except through education."

You can fix ignorant through education. You can't fix stupid except by discouraging stupid people from breeding more than they should.

And I still prefer Lugar to a holier-than-thou mouthpiece for "Hoosier Values," which is what I fear we may get.

2010-11-30 11:56:25

hendy [Member] said:

I'll admit that there are no clear candidates that I'd cast a vote for... today. And I agree that stupid is tough to fix, but we *can* improve IQs. It takes time, patience.

Should we fix the breeding problem? That's a whole other bag of worms.

My aunt followed Lugar as the IPS board president, and finally desegregated the schools in league with Judge Dillon. Unigov shattered the city, broke it into pieces and we're picking up the pieces 40yrs later.

2010-11-30 14:07:03

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

Speaking of coon soap, I have two packages of "Wash-Away Your Sins Cleansing Bar" sitting on a bookshelf in my office.

Who could resist something pegged as "easy to use" that "reduces guilt by 98.9% or more" and is "tested & approved for all 7 deadly sins". Besides, it has a "tempting 'do-it-again' scent".

Lighten up, folks. Sometimes satire is just...satire.

2010-11-30 14:42:14

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

And sometimes racism is just... racism. Look at the picture on sharpwordworks.com. This is not satire. It is truly very offensive.

2010-11-30 15:26:24

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I looked. I can't tell if it's a reproduction label on new soap, or just an old bar of soap. It makes little difference. It's racist.

But the lemon bar recipe is the bomb. Gonna try it soon.

Damn Ruthie this blog just gets better all the time.

2010-11-30 16:54:34

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

It's a NEW bar of soap. It's in a drawer, chock full of other new bars of soap, with racist lables that say "Kolored Kids" and "Spook" etc. In the other drawer are floral scented and other soaps that are identical with different lables.

2010-11-30 17:04:30

hendy [Member] said:

A good friend of mine, long now in the grave, once remarked to me that "there ain't nothing funnier than a bunch of white folk arguin' what's racist and what idn't..."

2010-11-30 18:58:48

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

Hendy, it's so true. We don't know what it's like to be in others' skin. For instance, I very much liked the film, "For Colored Girls," but I heard some black women on NPR saying they hated it.

I will sometimes call something out as sexist when my husband, a self-described feminist just doesn't see it. We filter everything through who we are.

2010-12-01 05:47:18

hendy [Member] said:

kj, I understand your point.

I have a philosophical problem with abortion. But I also don't have the required anatomy. I must therefore defer to the sensibilities of the woman making the decision.

In other respects, I'm an equalist, largely. This implies inclusion as well. Getting out my own psychological 'skin' to see the views of others, is a daily exercise. Doesn't mean that I change my instinctual response, but I learn more. The more I learn, the less I realize I know. So it goes. Humility is the end game. The longer I live, the more I realize this is true.

2010-12-01 10:54:03

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Hendy gives me a humility lesson. So well put, Hendy. Bravo.

And, from my departed great-grandfather, the master of the quip, who frankly put Abe Martin to shame:

"Life is a daily exercise deciding what degree of mediocrity to accept, and moving on."

He was a farmer who lived he was 95 without a sick day in his life. He worshiped the land. He made grain alcohol for as occasional drink (I think he may have used it to run his tractor sometimes, too) He had a sixth grade education and a doctorate in common sense. He was a die-hard Republican who had an FDR shrine in his home, because FDR brought electricity to the countryside.

He befriended the county's only black farmer in the 20s/30s, when the Klan ruled the countryside, at his own risk. Without fear.

I suppose he was a walking contradiction. I thought otherwise, and still do. But he was rare. Sadly.

2010-12-02 04:50:08

krista [unverified] said:

so if they had a confederate flag in there would you be yipping at that. I find it offensive that you would try to hurt the sales of a hard working business man. I really hope they dont quit selling and displaying vintage items (reproduction items) just because its offensive. This is America what may be offensive to you, might be history to someone else….by the way are you black, gay or any of the things the soap implied, if not..how does this offend you. You would have no clue what it would be like to be offended by that unless you could relate. I think if you want to get serious, you might want to ban history books, certain syrups, and saltines (im white, and cracker offends me) please if you are going to blog..dont be negative, do your research…that is a vintage shop, you have gone too far!!

2010-12-11 10:24:47

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