Sunday, July 03, 2005


The Mexican attitude seems a lot more mature than the American one to me

A set of new Mexican postage stamps featuring a black comic book figure with stereotypically thick lips and a flat nose has sparked off a fresh controversy with the United States where anti-racism activists want them banned. Coming on the heels of a tactless remark about blacks by Mexican President Vicente Fox, the images of the much-loved 1940s Mexican character Memin Pinguin have sparked fury in the United States.

But Mexico, which has few blacks and considers racism much less of an issue, is baffled at the U.S. reaction. It said the stamps were a harmless tribute to a popular Mexican cartoon. "I find it odd not to understand this celebration of popular Mexican culture and this tribute that the Mexican post office is making to Mexican cartoonists," presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar told reporters on Thursday.

Yet the White House said the stamps, which civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson wants pulled from circulation, had "no place in today's world." "It is an internal issue for Mexico," spokesman Scott McClellan said. "With that said ... racial stereotypes are offensive no matter what their origin. The Mexican government needs to take this into account."

The comments are bound to rile Mexico, which has already asked Washington to keep out of its affairs following frequent U.S. criticism in recent months of Mexico's failure to quash drugs gangs and organized crime along the border. Mexican-U.S. relations are typically jittery. Mexico is keen to be treated as an equal by its powerful neighbor and trade partner, but unable to bury lingering resentment over the U.S. seizure of chunks of northern Mexico in mid-19th century.

The latest controversy is mystifying ordinary Mexicans, however, who often affectionately call Caucasians "Whitey" in the street and nickname darker-skinned Mexicans "Negro" or "Moreno" without causing upset. "It's not offensive. He's a comic book character and it's about his personality not his color. It's no different to having a white character," said Irma, 33, a post office clerk in Mexico City who grew up reading Pinguin comics. "We aren't racist, if we call someone "Morenito" (Darky) it's a term of endearment. There is more racism in the United States which may be why they are on the defensive," she said

More here


Norman Mailer yesterday undertook a cultural suicide mission, dive-bombing not only The New York Times but also a group of Asian-American journalists incensed over his strike on Times book critic Michiko Kakutani. The 82-year-old novelist - who in an interview with Rolling Stone called the Japanese-American critic "a one-woman kamikaze" and "a token" minority hire - received a spanking yesterday from Dallas Morning News reporter Esther Wu, president of the 2,000-member Asian American Journalists Association.

"Calling out Norman Mailer as a racist … would be easy," Wu wrote to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner. "But that's not why we're writing. We take greater offense at his reference to her as a 'two-fer' and a 'token' because she's 'Asiatic, feminist,' which essentially diminishes the accomplishments of all women and journalists … To Mr. Mailer, we'd simply like to say: Shame on you."

From his summer home on Cape Cod, Mailer dismissed Wu's letter as "an excellent example of high-octane political correctness."

Wu fired back: "Perhaps if Mr. Mailer were a little more politically correct, he would not be making such racist remarks."

In an exclusive statement to me, Mailer repeated his "token" charge and added that "authors do like to reviewed on publication day, not two weeks earlier with a heinously bad review … This is what Ms. Kakutani has been doing to my books for many years now, and that may not be politically correct, but it sure is foul."

Wu retorted: "But this has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with character assassination of two whole classes of people (women and minorities) by Mr. Mailer."


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