Thursday, 1 September 2011

Is this cartoon racist ?


Is this cartoon racist ? It was made in 1930 and depicts San Francisco (note landmarks and islands) . But then, most white Americans had no real experience of Chinese and swallowed myths that hard working migrants all smoked opium and kidnapped white women for evil deeds.  So it's much more frightening when blacks are depicted in this kind of cartoon because people were more exposed to blacks, so there's no excuse for some of the really degrading images of black people that were shown at the time. So I don't think this cartoon is racist, just misguided. Unfortunately in our more enlightened age, there's still a great deal of unthinking casual racism that still goes on. Because the world is dominated by the internet and the English language it's all too easy to forget that other races have value, too.

BTW "chop suey" simply means "miscellaneous left overs". Supposedly the term came around when non-Chinese gatecrashed Chinese kitchens after closing time and wanted to be fed,. So the cooks would rustle up whatever and serve it. "What's this dish called?" said the tavern folks. Perfectly honestly, the cooks said "miscellaneous leftovers". Apocryphal or not, there was an anecdote about tourists visiting Chinese restaurants in China demanding "Chop suey", completely confusing Chinese cooks, who could not figure why anyone would want scraps.

1 comment:

Henry said...

I'd say it might be racist but not malicious.