Possums Get Hurt
The Virginia Opossum is not a much loved creature by many. Tell a friend you enjoy visiting the 'Possum Network and they might relate to you a story about that Possum that didn't make it across the road. And then tell you that none of them ever do.
There are, of course, many serious examples of people and life being hurt and harmed in the United States. Sometimes physically, but often in more subtle ways.
And, sometimes it is downright difficult to see the harm being done. Here is an example involving African-Americans.
Look closely at the following picture.
On first look, the picture seems innocent and harmless enough. A strong, young, Black man is holding a possum in his lap. A Fellow and His Dog sort of picture, don't you think?
The card was produced in 1909. And you can understand what the card means a little bit better by seeing other cards produced at that time, other cards featuring opossums and Blacks.
Now, this card might also seem innocent and obvious enough. An old African-American man, a bit worn, but then again he's old. He's been hunting, a popular pastime, and he's got himself eight opossums.
If you look at the caption however - and it's a bit hard to read - it says Nine Coons, Count 'Em.
Now, Coons was back then a derogatory way to refer to African-Americans. Unfortunately, it still is used today.
So, the card doesn't look quite as innocent as it did before.
How does the first picture look now, after you've looked at the second? Returning to that first picture of the fellow and his opossum, you can see the caption at the bottom left of the picture: Two of a Kind.
Which perhaps back in 1909 was meant to be read as Two Coons, Count 'Em.
And now, suddenly, that strong and quite young African-American is meant to look degraded and humiliated. Someone to make fun of.
And of course we may be wrong in how we are looking at these pictures. But it does seem that you can't just stare at something and know what it means.