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Just as I predicted, I got an angry letter from someone who thought this cartoon was racist. It is my humble opinion that many Americans are confused about the very definition of the word, believing that any mention of a minority group in anything other than complimentary terms constitutes racism. They are wrong.
If this cartoon had implied that all African Americans dressed or talked this way, or were somehow inferior, untrustworthy, un-anything you’d have racism. All this cartoon does is depict an alternative meaning of a common phrase used by a common person in common dress. Yes, this character is a stereotype but he is one that roams my Brooklyn neighborhood in droves and the cartoon does not disparage him. It only depicts him. You may feel that stereotypes of any kind are wrong, but then you’d have to start complaining about every businessman or housewife or family dog in every cartoon you ever read. That would get tiresome, although I would doubtless get a lot of entertainment from the letters.
Cartoonists deal in stereotypes routinely, it is how we communicate. It is also what enables the reader to recognize the character and gives context to their predicament or dialogue. It is my opinion that calling everything racism detracts from actual racism.
It should be noted that the person who wrote to me wasn’t even black. Oy vey.