bumGenius Chico – Formerly Known as Rudyard Kipling

I never thought that I would talk about race relations on Cloth Diaper Addicts.  It’s a website devoted to cloth diapering, not social justice.  Today, though, those two worlds collided.  All because bumGenius gave us a new diaper.

At 12:45 Pacific time, Cotton Babies released this diaper:

bg-ft-kipling-300It’s pretty, isn’t it?  And the print is so very clearly inspired by Disney’s The Jungle Book.  It’s what the masses have wanted: a Disney inspired diaper.  However, before The Jungle Book was a novel written by Rudyard Kipling.  Rudyard Kipling was a brilliant writer.  He was a literary genius.

In the Cotton Babies bio that they’d had on Kipling, they’d mentioned his support of British Imperialism.  I, initially, thought that it was the white paternalism and desire for power and riches that was British Imperialism.  I didn’t realize that British Imperialism went far beyond love of British culture and wanting to spread it everywhere through the growth of the Empire.  It wasn’t until today that I learned that there was a much, much less wholesome side to British Imperialism.  Kipling embodied that side.

He was a racist.  Not just a little racist who casually didn’t like people of another colour but kept his mouth shut.  No, he actually wrote a poem called White Man’s Burden.  I was personally horrified when I discovered the depth of his bigotry.  So, apparently, was Jennifer Labit.  Cotton Babies made the decision to rename the diaper Chico after a Latin American activist.

I will not vilify them for this decision.  Or for naming the diaper after Kipling in the first place.  Some very, very good things happened today because of this.  Some amazing conversations on race were had in a group that typically deletes them very quickly.  Some of the women of the Black Women Do Cloth Diaper group discovered some allies that they did not know that they had.  Cotton Babies made it clear what they want their brand to stand for… and it’s not racism.

There have been times in the past when I’ve been less than thrilled with Cotton Babies’ decisions.  (Hey, I’m human.)  But today?  Definitely not one of them.  Race is a conversation that we need to have.  We need to discuss the institutionalized racism that leads to black children being kicked out of a pool, or to black children being disciplined more harshly than their white peers for the same infractions in schools.  We need to discuss the actualities of the Spanish speaking population and their families, rather than let The Donald make his case.  We need to discuss the fact that Canada is far from perfect in terms of racial biases, and that First Nations families are still being destroyed through government interference today.

Cotton Babies opened a door for conversation that has needed to happen for quite some time.  I, for one, hope that eyes were opened and that the conversation continues.

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.

Comments

  1. As a First Nations Woman, mom and wife I thank you for this post, these realizations you’ve had, it means a lot to us when this is recognized. On that note, First Nations children are also more harshly punished, as are FN’s adults. It goes on and on, but I think you realize this. Disney has its issues too (Pocahontas, Esmeralda). However when people say “we feel your representation of us is racist”, we are often told how we feel is incorrect.
    Anyway, trying to stay off a diap box here cuz I was happy yo read this post

  2. I am very surprised at how little research CB did on Kipling before naming the diaper. How did no one know anything about the influence of British imperialism on him? And ‘The Jungle Book’? Even the Disney version is pretty racist. A quick Google search would have revealed some pretty obvious “negatives” about him.
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  3. Anne Sweden says:

    I applauded their recent decision about cloth diaper detergents….but not this one at all. Kipling’s entire body of work (and it’s quite large) should be considered as a whole and by qualified scholars before judgment is passed. Reading a couple of Google search results is not enough. And even then, much is open to interpretation, which is part of the enjoyment of literature, right?? I’m disappointed that Cotton Babies caved because some people got offended. Don’t buy the diaper if you don’t agree with their choice of “genius.” Simple.

    Seems like every time I turn around someone is getting offended by something and using that to bully others with fear and intimidation tactics. Perhaps the next diaper Cotton Babies designs should be a plain white background with these words in black “If something about this diaper offends you, then we give up.” (wink)

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