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Oompa Loompas are Racist?

Hello my name is Heather and my mind has been blown.

A bit of background:  Nestle has been wooing mom bloggers.  It makes sense ~ Nestle makes formula which they would like to sell to moms.  There are many moms who love the Nestle brand and many who don’t.  There is a point being made that Nestle goes against the WHO guidelines for promoting formula in geographical areas where formula might be an unsafe choice (IE areas where water is in limited supply or is contaminated.)  I’ll admit to not really knowing that much about the issue, but there are some who are passionately boycotting the brand.

What does this have to do with Oompa loompas?  Well, the discussion about Nestle has gotten so out of control on twitter that at some point it became a race issue and a post flew past me that said “Oompa Loompahs were a racist caricature based on African slavery.

Um, WHAT?  Did I just fall off the turnip truck yesterday?  Maybe I have my head in the sand because it seems this has been a point of discussion for some time.  In fact you can read a whole essay on the topic here.

What can we learn from this?  That while your ideas and words may be entirely your own, you are never the sole writer on anything.  Your audience is going to manipulate your words by bringing their own experience into the mix.  And the kicker is you have no way to predict what your readers experiences might be.  Just because you write something one way does not mean it will be read and accepted in that way.  Your reader will interpret words and ideas by placing them within a context that is familiar and proven to them.  It is a very rare thing for someone to approach any situation with a completely open mind.  Hell, I could write something hysterical about lollypops and it could be found to be offensive to a bald man.

Do I believe Roald Dahl intentionally meant to mock slavery?  No.  Do I see the parallels and  possibility for someone to come to that conclusion?  Yes.

I guess what I’m getting at is that when you are writing, you can’t be completely swept up in how others will perceive your words or your original message can be lost.  But at the same time, you must keep in mind how someone else could manipulate your message by placing it in a different context. Don’t let it dictate what you say, but do think about additional themes that you could be putting out there with your name on them.

image credit to

Steve.r’s photostream


  1. Well seeing as how I am one of the two that tweeted about the oompa loompas, I am waiting for mine to bite me. I am as un-racist as you get…Hispanic Husband, black adopted brother and BFF (also my daughter’s Godmother). I will not defend myself. I did nothing wrong.

    I will say all this politically correct shit has gone WAY too far in this world when Willie Wonka is depicted as a slave owner!

    Those people need to get a damn life!

  2. It doesn’t matter what you say. You’ll always offend someone.

  3. Lots of people in this world have it so wrong. They are so busy worrying about ways in which they have been offended by twisting things to make it seemed like they are wronged. No one just wants to be responsible, and live their lives. Think about all the energy someone puts into making an “oompa loompa” a racist remark and if they channeled that in a different way, they could do so much more. But instead they want to make something it isnt to put a spotlight on themselves, sounds a bit selfish to me.

  4. I’ve been offline for a day or so, and I appreciate your recap, Heather, because I seriously had no idea what anyone was talking about and had to google, “nestle, mommy bloggers”. I’ve never understood why people seem to get such a charge out of “being offended.” It’s seems very immature and thinned skinned and is often just a way for people to justify their own actions and opinions by being so easy to offend. It’s a waste of time, energy and a life. I could get offended looking at my dog right now, but I choose not to :)

  5. Great article… and so very true!

    just for the record I am not bald or a man and as long as you arent writing about yellow lollypops I am all ok with it… but those yellow ones are my favorite..just saying :)

  6. “It is very, very easy not to be offended by a book. You just have to shut it.” – Salman Rushdie

  7. I missed the Nestle firestorm. That oompa loompa picture is scary, and I just want to add that some of my best friends are oompa loompas and we should do what we can to support their community, and breastfeeding. Breastfeeing oompa loompas have been marginalized for far too long.
    I just want to keep people focused on the true issues at hand! (breastfeeing oompa loompas)

  8. As a writer and one who frequently expresses my viewpoint, I have been the “victim” of misinterpretation of something I’ve written. For one, I think you’re right that it’s our responsibility to keep that in mind as writers or conveyors of information. Secondly, I think the one person who misread what I meant was looking to be offended and read something into my writing. Now, on to the Oompa Loompas, I was surprised at the parallel made between slavery and that, but when you explained it (in your excellently written post) I totally got it and agree when you said, “Do I believe Roald Dahl intentionally meant to mock slavery? No. Do I see the parallels and possibility for someone to come to that conclusion? Yes.”

    It is very interesting the type of things that people take time to debate, get angry about and are offended by. I sometimes get offended, but keep that to myself realizing that not everyone has that intention or thought to certain matters.

  9. Let those who ride in glass elevators cast the first stone.

  10. I agree that tere are people out there that will read something totally innocent and twist it all around and give it a whole different meaning. It’s very irritating when it’s done to you. I try not to let it get to me anymore. It used to really bother me.

  11. Ay Yi Yi. Crazy Stuff….Crazy Stuff!

    With all of that said, I had Runts for breakfast.

  12. First of all, Can Can’s comment CRACKED ME UP.

    Second, Linda’s Runts comment also made me snicker.

    Third, Oompa Loompas used to scare me (and that picture does not help). Them and the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz.

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