在不久的过去，白人狂欢节的观众在一场普遍被称为 “打 N-宝贝” 的游戏中向非裔美国人扔蛋或球。
Editor’s note: This article covers historical material involving the use of offensive racial epithets.
The history of the United States is both scarred and partly defined by racial subjugation and violence, a legacy with an almost endless litany of horrific incidents and phenomena. In February 2018, many thousands of Americans were confronted — some for the first time — with images of a once-popular fairground game with the extremely offensive name shown below:
We asked Franklin Hughes, a digital media specialist who works with the Jim Crow Museum, about whether toddlers were subjected to being human targets, and he told us that “In many cases, the ‘dodger’ would holler things out to the carnival attendees trying to bait them into playing; I can’t really see how a toddler could do this on the same level … However, I would not put it out of the question.”
While we did find some references to “boys” playing the role of “African dodger,” Hughes pointed out that “In Jim Crow times, many black men were called ‘boys,’ so it would be hard to determine the age of most of the ‘dodgers.'”
Similarly, not every game billed as such involved real human beings. At times, wooden “heads” or effigies stood in for real African-Americans. It’s unclear whether the Camp Minikani version of the game shown in the viral Facebook post above used inanimate objects or people as targets.
Hughes told us that choosing an artificial target over a human one was not necessarily a sign that a particular carnival operator was especially progressive-minded. “Sometimes it was easier just to have a wooden target,” he said.
And as Hughes documented in his 2012 article, some carnival owners came up with a less physically dangerous (but no less racist and demeaning) alternative to the African Dodger: the “African Dip,” which appears to have made its debut during the summer of 1910 and involved black men being dunked in water every time a target was hit.
The New Jersey paper Trenton True American described this form of carnival attraction in 1911 as follows:
It used to be just five cents a throw at the colored gentleman’s head, and every time you hit it a cigar was your reward. But it is changed now, along with the progressive era. Here’s the way it’s played, according to the printed rules:
“The lip” is so arranged that every time a baseball hits the target a colored man, seated upon a bar, is thrown into a large pool of water.
It’s said to be lots of fun for the man who pays the nickel but it didn’t prove enjoyable for the fellow who fell into the pool. Yesterday he was put out of commission. According to the management of the carnival [in Flemington, New Jersey], the cool weather and repeated baths gave him the swimmer’s cramps.
The popularity of the game meant that it had significant cultural impact, appearing in movies, newspaper “funny pages,” and in cartoons, including Popeye. At times in the early 20th Century, the idiom “playing African Dodger” was used as shorthand for “avoiding uncomfortable questions,” especially in the context of political debate and journalism.
This video collage, produced by Hughes for the Jim Crow Museum, provides good insight into the disturbing popularity and prevalence of this terrible tradition: