>Racist Humor?


(For a larger view, click a peep)
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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.

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16 Responses to >Racist Humor?

  1. Amy Alkon says:

    >I'm a syndicated columnist who got an e-mail from some Italian American foundation criticizing me for this line:http://www.advicegoddess.com/ag-column-archives/2010/06/flee-collar.htmlBy Amy Alkon: If honesty were actually the best policy, people would use it more often. In a mob hit, instead of making up some ruse involving fresh cannoli, they'd say "Tommy, come over, we're gonna garrote you."——Most Italians aren't in the Mob, and sure, there are also Russian mobsters, but it was John Gotti, Jr., on 60 Minutes a few weeks ago.

  2. Yet Another Steve says:

    >On behalf of all balding fat middle-aged white guys, I find this (and everything else) offensive. So there.

  3. dannybuntu says:

    >This is not racist.On another note, the rubber duckies would've been a little twitter like if they were blue. Anyway, I wonder how you would portray Asians. I am one and I'd love to see how you would do it. :)Hoping to get amused more. Cheers!

  4. Warrior Two says:

    >The links are as entertaining as the strip itself!

  5. Mchl says:

    >I think the white pig in the picture on the wall is three times as racist.

  6. morganthe3rd says:

    >I go so far as to say that African Americans are under depicted in the funny pages. Instead of being racist you are probably doing a service by showing a realistic looking black man.

  7. Jym says:

    >=v= I dunno whether Nina already showed you this, but the bottom of this web page has photos of real live actual Brooklynites hanging with their peeps. Draw your own conclusions. ;^)

  8. The Tone King says:

    >There's no way this is racist. Black people don't have Bizarro books on their coffee table. They don't even read Bizarro books. It's a racist cartoon! ;^)

  9. wit's End says:

    >I think this is adorable! To my mind (emphasis on MY) it is a send-up people who think a black president has peeps as opposed to a veep! It is a subtle, kind, gentle mockery.

  10. jeff says:

    >This cartoon didn't bother me much, and I'm fairly sensitive to racism (and sexism and the like) in comics, for whatever reasons. That said, so much of what you've said just seems…wrong…to me. The whole "stereotypes" thing seems like a dodge, frankly–to some degree, *any* stereotype can be disparaging: In particular, this stereotype is disparaging simply because it's one of the only ways that black folks are portrayed–if you depicted more black folks in your comics outside of this stereotyping, for instance, you'd have more credit (where are the *black* businessmen and housewives in your comics?–they exist in far greater numbers than black folks with thick gold chains around their necks). Anyway. I could go on. Racism is on a spectrum (not a binary), etc., but really it's unlikely to change any minds for me to do that–"stop being so PC!" is the call of the Tea Baggers, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm unlikely to change *their* minds! :)

  11. jeff says:

    >oh, and the placement of the "hidden" object in this cartoon are particularly fabulous…

  12. CherieNB says:

    >Those are PEEPS, not rubber duckies. You know, marshmallow in the shape of chicks, coated in pink or yellow sugar? Taste best when stale? Fun to nuke in the microwave?

  13. Piraro says:

    >@jeff…thanks for your comments. I draw people of various races and skin tone in my cartoons all the time. Rarely as any kind of stereotype.

  14. jeff says:

    >@Dan: I think you do a better job than most at depicting various types of folks in your cartoons; I simply don't think you do as good a job as you think you do. Just click on the "January" archive for this blog–you'll find about 57 humans drawn (there are a few more, in big groups, on pictures on the walls, but this is just guestimating), two of whom are black. Of these two black men (no women of color represented at all, as far as I can tell), one is a football player and one is the subject of a baggy-pants joke, both kinda obvious stereotypes. So: Kudos for doing better than most, but I'd feel better about cartoons like the "peeps" cartoon if cartoonists in general, and you in particular, drew more black folks. I mean, out of the 55 white people drawn, almost any of them could have been drawn as black folks without changing the joke in any way. I hope it's clear I'm not singling you out–this is a pervasive problem in daily comics, and daily comics are my favorite medium, so I hope this can be constructive criticism…

  15. Cheryl Lawson says:

    >My 74 year old retired English teacher mother pointed it out to me. I translated. She looked at it again I think she chuckled. We moved on.

  16. Mike Rea says:

    >Although in my neck of the woods, anyone dressed like this is usually White or Asian.

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