Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Funny Thing About Race is...

You probably have heard about the recent outcries of racism levied against the Mexican government because of some commemorative postage stamps featuring a black cartoon character they have issued recently. I suspect this story will make the headline news in the coming days. I have never read any Memin Pinguin comic books, but according to the article, his antics reinforce negative stereotypes of blacks as lazy, mischievous, and uneducated.

Here we go again…We (Black America) claim to be so sensitive to negative racial stereotypes, that we are upset about commemorating a cartoon character who was developed in the 1940’s. The character was actually created by Yolanda Vargas Dulché shortly after she returned to Mexico after living in Cuba briefly. She was fascinated by the Afro-Cuban children she met while there and created this character. I read a few sparse plot outlines in English, and it to be honest, it’s debatable how racist this character is…but that argument is for another time…after I learn to read Spanish ;-)

What amazes me is that Jesse Jackson (to be followed by Al Sharpton, I’m sure) is charging the Mexican government with racism, when it seems to me that what Mexico really suffers from is historical ignorance. They apparently don’t realize how sensitive black Americans are to this type of thing. I admit, however, that I know very little about Mexican attitudes about race, and Mexico may, in deed, be very racist. That is not why I'm questioning our black leaders for demanding yet another apology from Mexican President, Vicinte Fox.

The reason the animosity about these stamps is so bewildering to me is because we tolerate and even celebrate the same negative stereotypes here in America, as long as they are presented from within the black community. Snoop Dogg can do his thug-thizzil on his latest record, or portray a pimp in the new Starsky and Hutch movie and no one boycotts his movies/CD’s. Chris Tucker and Mike Epps can play Ice Cube’s comic foils: shiftless, lazy, foul-mouthed, misogynistic, cowardly, ignorant marijuana aficionados and we not only tolerate it, but we line up at the theatres to laugh at them. Here in the US, we have plenty of television, movie, and music video images of black people that are certainly reinforcing negative sterotypes every day, but we look south of the border to make sure that Mexico is not perpetuating any comic book images that are ambiguous in the messages they portray. It strikes me as ironic because Rev. Al and Rev. Jesse have not been as vocal about black Americans perpetuating stereotypes…They have let Bill Cosby bear that burden alone (maybe because they are politicians…)

I would be very curious to hear what other people think about these stamps and how offensive they are compared to what we endure from our own media icons every day. At some point these stereotypes go from being funny to being offensive. It's sometimes difficult to tell when.

I remember when I about 11 or 12 years old, I found a book of jokes at a bookstore. These "tasteless" jokes (about women, Jews, Catholics, Asians, and so on) were pretty amusing to me at the time, but when I got to the section about black people, I remember feeling a little uneasy about laughing (How do you keep black kids from jumping up and down on the bed??? Now, is this old joke really offensive, or does it simply point out the differences in our hair?) At that young age, I had already realized that race could be a humorous subject, but whether the joke was funny or not seems to depend on who said it, and who heard it. Seems not much has changed in 20 years.

Your (stereo)typical brother,

You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.
Bill Cosby

Are these any more offensive...

Memin Pinguin commemorative stamps from Mexico

...than these?

Some recent theatrical work by black American actors


At Sun Jul 03, 02:29:00 PM, Blogger Ciance said...

I am in complete agreement with your perspective on this. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton perpetuate the continuum of racism by assuming the role of advocates on behalf of the black community during some of the most inappropriate perceived "hot button" issues.

If the black community were smart, they would bemoan the appearance of these two at all costs as they only serve to maintain or widen the division of the races.

You're correct in that Mexico is historically ignorant. It doesn't make the country racist. And how does this accusation ring accurate when Mexicans daily suffer the ignorance and cruelty of racism in our side of the border?

Regarding your reference to Snoop Dog, et. al., again, you hit it dead center. This also includes how it is absolute taboo to use the "N" word, yet they use it on each other in front of every other race in America.

They claim it takes away the power of degradation from the word when they use it on each other. Sure.

This to me is more psychobabble as was the period of Ebonics (early 90's) when they stubbornly tried to retain it by claiming it encouraged black people continue to speak like their forefathers of Africa.

Anyway, well done Chad.

At Mon Jul 04, 02:25:00 PM, Blogger Chasen said...

Chad, I agree with you as well. I actually wrote a paper about this topic in high school about minstrel shows and what debt do black actors owe to them. In it I talked about how blacks continue to perpetuate the stereotypes in their music, movies, etc. Glad to know somebody agrees.

At Tue Jul 05, 01:42:00 PM, Anonymous Audrey said...

You have great insight for one so young. Being much older and your former teacher, I understand exactly where you are coming from.
When we as a race stop elevating our own stereotypical images,perhaps then we can began to dissolve the racial biases that exist today. But after more than 100 years, I am skeptical.

Living next door to other races does us no good if we never invite them into our homes and/or are never invited into theirs. Each of us has a responsibility to dissolve this misconception.


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