Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Mexican stamp offensive to blacks? Come on people

Culture: Why would anyone think these stamps are racist and offensive?

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- The Mexican government has issued a postage stamp depicting an exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin, just weeks after remarks by President Vicente Fox angered U.S. blacks. The series of five stamps released for general use Wednesday depicts a child character from a comic book started in the 1940s that is still published in Mexico. The boy, hapless but lovable, is drawn with exaggerated features, thick lips and wide-open eyes. His appearance, speech and mannerisms are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book. Activists said the stamp was offensive, though officials denied it. "One would hope the Mexican government would be a little more careful and avoid continually opening wounds," said Sergio Penalosa, an activist in Mexico's small black community on the southern Pacific coast. "But we've learned to expect anything from this government, just anything," Penalosa said. In May, Fox riled many by saying that Mexican migrants take jobs in the United States that "not even blacks" want.
More Memin comic covers here. Don't expect the professional race complainers to start protesting this in a big way, it will be passed off as you need to understand race relations there, a culture trait or whatnot that is ingrained and hard to get rid. Be understanding. Update# Well I'm happy to be wrong. on the front page of the Washington Post.
"The Mexican government issued a series of stamps yesterday depicting a dark-skinned Jim Crow-era cartoon character with greatly exaggerated eyes and lips, infuriating black and Hispanic civil rights leaders for the second time in weeks. Mexican postal officials said the five-stamp series features Memin Pinguin, a character from a comic book created in the 1940s, because he is beloved in Mexico. A spokesman for the Mexican Embassy described the depiction as a cultural image that has no meaning and is not intended to offend. ....But the leaders of the NAACP, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the National Council of La Raza and the National Urban League denounced the image in strong terms, calling it the worst kind of black stereotype. The curator of a Michigan museum that collects Jim Crow memorabilia said the Memin Pinguin caricature is a classic "pickaninny" -- a black child, oafish and with apelike features. "It is offensive," said the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, who like other leaders called on Mexican President Vicente Fox to apologize and stop circulation of the stamps. Jackson vowed to lead a demonstration at Mexican consulates if Fox does not do so. It was the second time in seven weeks that Jackson called on Fox to apologize for a racial offense. In May, Fox apologized for saying that Mexican migrants in the United States work jobs that "even blacks don't want," a comment he said was taken out of context. Marc H. Morial, executive director of the National Urban League, joined Jackson in calling on President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to denounce the stamps. "It's outrageous, it's offensive, and it really raises the question of whether President Fox's apology was sincere and meaningful," Morial said. Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, said it is "impossible to overstate how appalled and offended I am, not only by the stamp but by the reaction of the Mexican postal service." She added: "Hispanic Americans and all other Americans will and should be equally outraged."

More reaction and roundup from Michelle Malkin, American Digest, Mysocalledblog and Waveflux. One point I want to make on something by Gerard Van der Leun of American Digest who said

"Is it too much to hope that the United States issues a similar tribute using, say, Gordo and Speedy Gonzales?"
Speedy Gonzalez is popular in Latin countries and when Cartoon Network took Speedy off the air, it created enough controversy partly helped by Hispanic groups coming to the aid of a Speedy fan that it was put back on for a bit. HispanicOnline has a slew of articles about it from 2002. I don't know about Gordo though and no one pick on Mr Popo. Update#2: Via the LATIMES, which hits upon the racism that exists in Mexico

"....Now the stamp is forcing Mexico to re-examine an issue that usually remains below the surface. Many here and in other parts of Latin America say their societies are more classist than racist in explaining discrimination suffered by indigenous and black people. Money and family history, they say, are the real social markers. But social commentators say light-skinned Mexicans of European heritage are generally seen as having a leg up in competing for jobs, social prominence, education and other public services. The social pages in local newspapers infrequently feature Mexicans of color and Indians are rarely seen in television programming. "Mexican society is fundamentally racist and classist," said Guadalupe Loaeza, a newspaper columnist. "The color of your skin is a key they either opens or shuts doors. The lighter your skin, the more doors open to you." For many Mexicans, the problem of racism is most manifested toward indigenous peoples, who get the short end of the stick in "1,000 different ways," Loaeza said. Discrimination toward Mexican blacks has different historical roots from the United States and should be placed in a "Mexican context," because Mexico's history is very different from that of the United States, said Mexican sociologist Sagrario Cruz of the University of Veracruz. "Mexico hasn't had a civil-rights struggle," Cruz said. "There isn't a conscious awareness of being black. Most black Mexicans don't think of themselves as being black." Jose Luis Gutierrez Espindola of the National Council to Prevent Discrimination contends that the problem is that many Mexican blacks feel marginalized. Blacks are poorer and receive less education and fewer social services than any other Mexican demographic group, he said. "They don't feel integrated into the country." Sociologist Luisa Strickland said Mexican blacks, most of whom entered the country centuries ago in the Caribbean port city of Veracruz as slave laborers for Mexico's sugar-cane fields, are Mexico's "forgotten, invisible people."

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