Making the rounds today of media watch blogs today is a story by a journalist about why he was fired from his job as editor of a suburban Southern California AOL Patch news website was fired a year ago. Dennis Wilen said he lost his job with Brentwood Patch last spring after he posted a cartoon satire of the Cinco de Mayo attitudes of the affluent residents in his community.
The cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz, a nationally syndicated Latino cartoonist. “I was thrilled to score a cartoon from a cartoonist of Lalo’s stature at Patch’s standard rate of $50,” writes Willen, who now works for Alcaraz at the news and satire website Pocho. Wilen gives an account of his firing on the Pocho website.
The cartoon was part of a Cinco de Mayo package. Wilen says he thought the cartoon “perfectly expressed Brentwood’s reality.” The cartoon, he says, still makes me laugh.
But he said someone in Patch’s New York headquarters deemed the cartoon offensive for its “blatantly racist stereotypes.”
Yes, the cartoon contains racist stereotypes, but the cartoon, to me, satirizes people who hold those sterotypes. Presumably, such people include white residents of communities like Brentwood.
Could it also include white residents of communities like Walnut Creek, Lamorinda, the San Ramon Valley?
This story attracted my attention because 1) it involves my former employer — and I’m familiar with the decision making processes that went into Wilen being fired; and 2) it raises questions about the nature of satire to deal with difficult social issues.
4 thoughts on “Is this cartoon racist and does it reflect attitudes around the East Bay burbs?”
It's satire. It reflects through humor the inaccuracies of stereotypes. Is it only racism if it's a stereotype of a non-european culture? Where's the outrage over the caricature of the ditzy blonde suburban mommy with child in one arm while holding a cup of Peete's in the other hand? Is the cartoon implying that all the blondes in Brentwood think like blondes? I don't think so. The blonde in the cartoon got the date right.
Its a cartoon people, lighten up. That someone was actually fired over this is what people should be outraged about. While stereotypes can not be universally applied, they exist for a reason. Are there no sunglassed mothers in Brentwood that carry a sunglassed baby in one arm and a non-fatt soy latte in the other? Are there no people of Mexican desent that work as domestic help? Are there no people of Italian desent that were in the Mafia (if any such thing exists)? Were there no German Nazis? The list goes on and on. We should be able to laugh and joke about our stereotypes without being labeled as racist or being fired.
Looks to me like the cartoonist was making fun of Brentwood attitudes. Satire is tricky because not everyone “gets” it. Generally, if everyone in the satire is equally being poked fun at, it's not intended to be racist.
It's fairly gentle satire, at that.