Wal-Mart bans Mexican comic

art.comic.mexican.03.khou Wal Mart bans Mexican comic
Wal-Mart has pulled copies of a Spanish-language comic starring Mexican comics mainstay Memin Pinguin CNN reports on charges the character is racist:

For more than 60 years Mexicans have followed the adventures of “Memin Pinguin.” But the dark-skinned Memin’s exaggerated features in “Memin for President” came as a shock to Houston, Texas, Wal-Mart shopper Shawnedria McGinty.

“I was like, OK, is that a monkey or a boy?” McGinty said. “To me it was an insult.”

She’d never heard of “Memin Pinguin.” She bought a Spanish-English dictionary and tried translating but still didn’t like what she saw.


This isn’t the first time Pinguin has run afoul of contemporary tastes; a few years ago the White House branded the character as racist after Mexico released some stamps of the beloved character.

The White House on Thursday objected to a postage stamp issued by the Mexican government, saying that “racial stereotypes are offensive no matter what their origin” and have no place in today’s world.

The stamp depicts an exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin, 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, which started in the 1940s and is still published in Mexico.

Comments

  1. Wal-Mart really needs to pick a moral compass and stick to it. This “social sensitivity” stuff is not usually their jive.

  2. Wow, the one time Wal-Mart does something decent (well, maybe not after they stocked them in the first place) and they get crap for it.

    I can’t believe Bush condemned this cartoon–especially since the Texas republicans will probably turn it into an Anti-Obama ad.

  3. Well, Bush has certainly had his own history of monkey-face spoofing. That’s probably why he condemned it, he thought it was supposed to be him.

  4. “She’d never heard of ‘Memin Pinguin.’ She bought a Spanish-English dictionary and tried translating but still didn’t like what she saw.”

    So, she was going out of her way to be offended.

  5. Just because Wal-Mart says they are going to pull something from their shelves doesn’t mean they will actually do it. They have a really bad track record when it comes to stuff like this.

    http://consumerist.com/tag/walmart/?i=348776&t=walmart-nazi-tshirt-watch-week-62

  6. New logo, same politics. Do they still carry firearms? That’s offensive.

  7. So, she was going out of her way to be offended.

    DUDE. If I saw that character presented in any English-language context, I’d be hard-pressed to imagine how it COULDN’T be, at BEST, an intentional parody of racist caricatures, and at WORST, a non-ironic example of racist caricatures.

    The fact that she actually took the time to try and figure out the text accompanying the pictures is a point in her favor.

    I mean, seriously, unless such a figure was meant to exaggerate racist ways of depicting black people in art, how is it not racist on its face?

    I look forward to seeing people get criticized when they point out the racism of a comics character with cobra-slit eyes, buck-teeth, yellow skin and a pigtail.

  8. Robert Crumb is the only guy who can or could pull this off in the last 50 years and he has balls of steel.

    Just as long as the don’t start trying to mess with Terry And The Pirates–Chop Chop and Big Stoop– cos’ then somebody’s gonna get a baseball bat up side the head.

  9. Robert Crumb is the only guy who can or could pull this off in the last 50 years and he has balls of steel.

    And with Crumb, there’s a subversive intent at work – he’s laying his own racism (and misogyny) out on the page, dissecting it for all the world to see.

    With stuff like this, there probably isn’t any racist intent, and that’s precisely what makes it racist, because the producers of these comics likely don’t even see anything wrong with it.

  10. Torsten Adair says:

    CNN: “Memin is a poor Cuban-Mexican kid with bug eyes, thick lips and protruding ears.”

    So, being Cuban-Mexican, he has Iberian, Native American, and African genetics. Which means the Whites, the Reds, the Blacks, and the Browns should either all be offended by, or entertained by, the book.

  11. Allen says:

    Houston Wal-Mart staff clearly erred in allowing such material to be sold at their location.

    However, given the popularity of stereotypical television filth-shows like “Flavor of Love”, chances are that they saw no harm in it.

    I do find it mischievously delightful that in this post ‘The Beat’ grants G.W. no credit by name for objecting to Memin Pinguin — and that a few comments go out of their way to mock G.W. for objecting to Memin Pinguin.

    I wonder if things would be different if “President Gore” and a Middle Eastern styled Memin Pinguin were elements of this post. Wal-Mart goes without name of course.

    G-d I love politics! :)

  12. The Beat says:
  13. Jonathan says:

    I am just sick to death of a few people causing a commotion. A WHOLE COUNTRY likes this character, the world is not run by U.S.A….Everytime someone gets a hair up that butt everyone has to suffer. I understand the reasons behind the ban but I just sick to death of people getting everything ban! If a few people dislike something they take it the media, the media blows it up, and then everyone suffers…UGH!!

  14. Jonathan says:

    I am just sick to death of a few people causing a commotion. A WHOLE COUNTRY likes this character, the world is not run by U.S.A….Everytime someone gets a hair up that butt everyone has to suffer. I understand the reasons behind the ban but I just sick to death of people getting everything ban! If a few people dislike something they take it the media, the media blows it up, and then everyone suffers…UGH!!

  15. Jonathan says:

    I am just sick to death of a few people causing a commotion. A WHOLE COUNTRY likes this character, the world is not run by U.S.A….Everytime someone gets a hair up that butt everyone has to suffer. I understand the reasons behind the ban but I just sick to death of people getting everything ban! If a few people dislike something they take it the media, the media blows it up, and then everyone suffers…UGH!!

  16. The Beat says:

    Now just WHAT are you sick to death of, Jonathan?

    Double posting happens to all of us, even the Beat, but it is particularly side splitting when it happens on a tirade.

  17. Kirk–agreed.

  18. Guido says:

    It’s funny, reading in the context of the post, I can totally understand, and even justify why people would be offended by the character. I might be offended by it under those circumstances too. However, being from Mexico, I’ve been exposed to Memin Pinguín all my life and it always looked normal to me. But recalling the character from my childhood, I remember not even being aware that the character was supposed to be a black kid. I always thought he was some sort of funny animal. He was drawn in an extremely cartoony way, whereas the rest of the (white) characters were drawn in a more reallistic style and were always making fun of him. Wow, come to think of it, this is a really racist character! It’s amazing how familiarity can cloud your judgement!

  19. I just want to say the name, “Shawnedria McGinty” is full of awesome and win.
    It’s like an Irish urban hip-hop tag.

  20. I can see where a person named “Shawnedria” would be worried about perpetuating stereotypes…

  21. Scott says:

    Also, I’ve NEVER seen comics in a Walmart period. They don’t carry them in any of the stores by me. The only place I’ve seen them in Walmart is in the magazine section (i.e. – the Spider-man magazine) but those are magazine and not single issues or trades.

    Now in Target I have seen trades and the oversized reprint books.

  22. “I can see where a person named “Shawnedria” would be worried about perpetuating stereotypes…”

    Classy.

  23. Allen says:

    LOLZ @ Lucas — the ‘magical troll’ post if I have ever seen one! ::rolls eyes::

  24. Steve Taylor says:

    This seems like North Americans transposing their ethics and points of reference on another culture,…that they don’t understand and then,…going ahead and making an uninformed judgement about it.

    I guess it’s a good thing that Memin Pinguin doesn’t have a nuclear program.

  25. Ah…racial insensitivity…catch the fever!

  26. Unpopular says:

    Once again a term is used incorrectly. I’m tired of people saying things are racist when in fact things cannot be racist. They can be accused of encouraging racial stereotypes or prejudices, but that isn’t racism. Writers and/or cartoonists who use stereotypical characters acting in stereotypical ways aren’t necessarily racist either. Racism is a mindset.

    Furthermore, stereotypes are grounded in reality. I was recently watching the Olympic trials, and one of the competitors bears a resemblance to this supposed “racist” character–Allison Felix. Look at this picture and try to convince yourself they’re not similar: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2028/2081457171_10ce3c3a32.jpg?v=0

    Is her face “racist”? Should she wear a bag over her head to avoid perpetuating racial stereotypes?

    There is still racism in America, unfortunately. However, we’re getting to the point of the racism card becoming a Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf situation especially when so many people still use the word INCORRECTLY. You don’t see white people in an uproar when a black comedian mocks the way they talk or their other stereotypical behaviors. They laugh. Is Eddie Murphy “racist” for his mockery of Marc Blucas’ speech pattern in the trailer for Meet Dave? Of course not! The sooner you get over it; the sooner the rest of the world will move on.

    …but do they want the world to move on? Probably not. We live in the age of the lawsuit. I chalk this Wal-Mart incident up to someone wanting to get something for nothing. Maybe she thought if she made a big deal out of it Wal-Mart would give her some apologetic gift cards to make her go away… if that didn’t work, go to the news outlets and get on TV….in this day and age, if you make enough noise (especially in the vicinity of a corporation), chances are you’re going to get some hush money. Do I seriously think this lady was trying to get something out of Wal-Mart? Not really, but I said “maybe” and that’s what I’m going to chalk it up to because I’m a cynic and I’m tired of all the whining and at this point all I hear is “WOLF, WOLF, WOLF!” and I’m just not buying it.

  27. I can’t fault black Americans for being offended by Memin Pinguin. And the objection is really not quite the same as objecting to old Stepin Fetchit reels or the various “mushmouth” characters populating U.S. comics in the 1940s. This is more or less current material being published in the present day, not historical archives of a bygone era.

    But before rushing to condemn his Mexican creators and publisher, we should consider that Mexico has long been just as much a mixed-race country as the U.S., and has had a rather different history with regards to race. They ended chattel slavery in 1810, and never had the Jim Crow regime we had here. Things are different there. I’m not saying they should be immune from criticism, but critics ought to first take the time and effort to understand Mexican culture before pulling out the long swords.

    Oh, and by the way, Rob, I was offended to hear that Wal-Mart STOPPED selling long-guns in some of its stores. But I can still buy them where I live, so it’s not all bad.

  28. Dweeze says:

    Things cannot be racist. Wow. That’s an incredibly convoluted way of thinking. Technically speaking, if you limit your definition of book to nothing but a grouping of pages with letters and images bound together in some fashion, then a book cannot be racist. But most of us believe that the contents of a book, the messages and meanings those letters and images are trying to convey, defines what a book is as much, if not more than, the pages and the bindings and the printing. Thus when people say a book is racist, they are not referring to the pages and bindings and the printing – they are referring to the content. Further, racism is more than mindset – it’s more than intent. Racism is also present in deed, in result, in outcome.

    But congrats – whether you meant to or not, you nailed the closet racist trifecta in your post: “People aren’t racist just because they do racist things, besides black people say racist things about white people all the time, and anyway, they are like that.”

  29. Andrew Davis says:

    I remember the postage stamp controversy back in 2005. When I went on a trip to Mexico that summer, I was eager to pick up a few issues of the comic to see what the fuss was about, and I did find some. I…I actually haven’t gotten around to picking through the Spanish to really read them yet though.

    There’s another interesting video on the Dallas Morning News site. Watching the videos is a good way to gain some context on this story. Reading the comics, I’m sure, is a much better way.

  30. Andrew Davis says:

    I remember the postage stamp controversy back in 2005. When I went on a trip to Mexico that summer, I was eager to pick up a few issues of the comic to see what the fuss was about, and I did find some. I…I actually haven’t gotten around to picking through the Spanish to really read them yet though.

    There’s another interesting video on the Dallas Morning News site. Watching the videos is a good way to gain some context on this story. Reading the comics, I’m sure, is a much better way.

  31. Andrew Davis says:

    oh crap yet another double post! My apologies.

  32. Angry Girl says:

    Clearly this was a case of judging a book by it’s cover. I wonder if the books were published simultaneously in english and spanish with an updated cover image, it could have clarify what might have been lost in translation.

    To: Dweeze, Scott Bieser, david brothers, Guido,Kirk Boxleitner, a.k.a. K-Box – thank you for taking the high road and calling the obvious racist on their comments.

    To: Franklin Harris, Unpopular, Bill Cunningham – there are no words…however every once in a while I remember what a good old boy genre/industry comics are. So I will do less to defend the stereotype images of fanboys (40+ living at home preferably in the basement, blowup dolls, you name it) and spend more time defending athletes looks or African American names.

  33. OK. That was the last time I write anything ironic around here. The thin air up on those high horses seems to render some people incapable of recognizing irony.

  34. Angry Girl says:

    My apologies Mr. Harris – apparently I missed the irony of your remark.

    “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”

  35. Unpopular says:

    “But congrats – whether you meant to or not, you nailed the closet racist trifecta in your post: “People aren’t racist just because they do racist things, besides black people say racist things about white people all the time, and anyway, they are like that.””

    So not only do you have a problem with using words properly, you have problems with reading comprehension.

    Point by point:

    “People aren’t racist just because they do racist things”–Never said that. That’s what you misinterpreted. Sounds a lot like the crazy lady at Wal-Mart.

    “besides black people say racist things about white people all the time”–Didn’t say that either. What I said was, “You don’t see white people in an uproar when a black comedian mocks the way they talk or their other STEREOTYPICAL behaviors. They laugh. Is Eddie Murphy “racist” for his mockery of Marc Blucas’ speech pattern in the trailer for Meet Dave? OF COURSE NOT!! The newly capitalized parts were done by me to show that I wasn’t even saying “black people say racist things”. Oh, maybe it’s because you have trouble understanding what racism is which is at the root of my post. Racist is in quotes to point out that it is being misused in the first place, which is then compounded by me saying that he in fact ISN’T being racist. However, he is making jokes which perpetuate racial stereotypes and he gets no flack for it. I can’t help that being true.

    “and anyway, they are like that.”–Didn’t say that either. The resemblance of certain members of an ethnic group to their stereotypical representations isn’t coincidental. It simply illustrates the fact that stereotypes are grounded in reality. I can’t help that being true either. Saying “they are like that” isn’t racist; it’s prejudicial. Pointing out that SOME of them are like that is only speaking the truth, and truth is something the sensationalists can’t handle.

    Your problem is you just have no idea what racism is. “you nailed the closet racist trifecta” is testament to that fact. I can’t argue with someone who has no idea what they’re talking about. I am nowhere near being a racist. However, I challenge anyone to find someone who isn’t at least a little bit prejudiced.

    “Racism is also present in deed, in result, in outcome.” True, but all of that is a result of that particular mindset.

    Angry Girl needs to learn what racism means as well. “To: Dweeze, Scott Bieser, david brothers, Guido,Kirk Boxleitner, a.k.a. K-Box – thank you for taking the high road and calling the obvious racist on their comments.” Dweeze didn’t take any high road. I didn’t view Scott Beiser’s comments as having anything to do with calling out any obvious racists on any comments. Maybe I’m wrong on that… Mr. Beiser? And K–Box just said Crumb’s a racist and made this silly comment “With stuff like this, there probably isn’t any racist intent, and that’s precisely what makes it racist, because the producers of these comics likely don’t even see anything wrong with it.” I understand what he’s getting at though…. Some sort of absent-minded racism. However, I believe he’s also using the term “racist” incorrectly. And clearly Franklin Harris was making a joke. I don’t even see why you would attack that guy. Well, being generally “angry” would be reason enough, I suppose.

    And I think Allison Felix is kinda hot, is one hell of an athlete, and I hope she’s able to get the gold. I just happened to have been watching the Olympic trials recently and as soon as I saw that big picture of the comic character, I thought it looked a lot like Allison Felix. I didn’t go trolling the internet to find a single picture of one black person who looked anything like the picture just to prove my point. As for the name, Bill Cunningham doesn’t deserve to be labeled a racist for being correct either. He made a comment about stereotypes which pointed out how funny it is that some people who take offense at certain stereotypes being perpetuated are just as guilty of perpetuating other or similar stereotypes themselves. Can’t help that being true, either.

    I say again that I am not a racist. I do, however, know what racism means which is more than can be said for some people.

  36. i’m not for banning people’s free expression, but how do you live on this planet in 2008 and think that a stereotypical caricature of black people is alright? Come on, what are they thinking?

    BTW, my definition of racism doesn’t start at the KKK or militant black islamists. Most people are racist, meanign that they think better about their race than other races.

    Unpopular, you’re using semantics. When people say that something is being racist, they are implying that the person who created that thing created something which is seen as racist. Why would you be so literal about it?

    As for your picture, no it’s not a stereotype. It’s a picture of a black woman. Yes, there are certain facial features that black people have in common. However, if you know your history concerning racism towards blacks, you know that the drawing in question harkens back to extremely blatantly racist imagery. Are we going to pretend that it’s not reminiscent of that?

    On another note you don’t have to prove how little or how much or how little of a racist you are by outlining it to people. I feel sorry for white people, because when they do try to prove that they are not racist, they dig a hole for themselves. Just don’t bother.

    Wait, one more point in response to unpopular: why would white people be up in arms about the “white guy voice” jokes? That’s about as stinging as the word “cracker.” You are right, though, that people are way too insensitive about when feelings supposedly get hurt.

    I think that the Don Imus debacle was bullshit that meant nothing to nobody, and I think that if this drawing in question causes trouble for the creator, that is an exaggeration.

    People nowadays feel like everyone should be protected, but it’s not possible to cater to everyone’s sensitivities. At some point you should be able to express yourself without fear. Though I’m saying that, I still think you also have to have some goddamn sense when you create your art!

  37. Unpopular says:

    “how do you live on this planet in 2008 and think that a stereotypical caricature of black people is alright?”

    The Memin books are reprints. They should be available, and so should the old cartoons which feature racial stereotypes.

    Should ALL stereotypical caricatures be considered shameful or just stereotypical caricatures created by people who don’t belong to the race they’re caricaturing?

    “When people say that something is being racist, they are implying that the person who created that thing created something which is seen as racist. Why would you be so literal about it?”

    Because I want words to be used properly in accordance with their dictionary definitions. It can be seen as prejudicial and stereotypical, and it may even be seen as having a message which is in support of racism. To prove that something has a message in support of racism you will have to do more than show a picture of a stereotypical caricature and/or pick out a couple of lines of dialog which you find offensive.

    “However, if you know your history concerning racism towards blacks, you know that the drawing in question harkens back to extremely blatantly racist imagery. Are we going to pretend that it’s not reminiscent of that?”

    I can’t say whether it is or isn’t. That’s up to the creator to answer. However, even if it is reminiscent of racism imagery that doesn’t mean it’s automatically in support of that message. It could be using that imagery to send an anti-racism message.

    “On another note you don’t have to prove how little or how much or how little of a racist you are by outlining it to people. I feel sorry for white people, because when they do try to prove that they are not racist, they dig a hole for themselves. Just don’t bother.”

    I believe I not only avoided digging a hole for myself, but also further illuminated how I am not a racist. Labels like racist and misogynist allow people to brush off one’s commentary as invalid due to a preexisting bias. It’s not unreasonable for someone to fight against these labels when they’re applied incorrectly.

    “why would white people be up in arms about the “white guy voice” jokes? That’s about as stinging as the word “cracker.” ”

    Exactly. Why would black people be up in arms about stereotypical comic book characters and words like “nigger”? Getting upset by these things gives them power over you. You defeat negative stereotypes and racism by not living up to them and proving how much better than you they’re NOT. You don’t win by causing a ruckus at the Wal-Mart.

    I disagree with this statement the most, “Most people are racist, meanign that they think better about their race than other races.” I would say that most people are prejudiced and stick to their own. Racism doesn’t mean that one thinks better about their race than other races. It means one thinks their own race IS better than other races. There’s a huge difference between “thinks better” and “thinks is better”.

    Vichus Smith, I appreciate your arguments, and you made some good points.

  38. The books may be reprints, but that particular image on this page could be about 18 years old at most. Even back then, it would still be odd to have that depiction of a black person.

    I don’t know the ins and outs of this comic or the character, but hell, the people who are complaining about or banning it don’t know much about it either. What I do know is that there is and continues to be racial issues involving darker skinned people in the Spanish speaking community. So maybe this long lived cartoon is popular, but what was this character based upon more than half a century ago?

    I think that if someone wants to do racial caricatures and perpetuate stereotypes, I would hope that they just realize the fact that we are not isolationist nations without the technology to communicate. Look at how long I haven’t heard of this comic! Maybe this comic has a “classic” look but would there be any problem in updating it, making it slightly more true to life? Ebony White was updated in Darwyn Cooke’s Spirit run, and that did not destroy what the character is.

    I agree with you on the use of racial slurs. People shouldn’t care when it comes to slurs, but I am of the opinion that we should be beyond slurs all together. Language like that is for ignorant people who want to feel better about themselves at the expense of another group of people.

    I’ll say that most people are racially insensitive or racially ignorant. I think that’s true.

  39. Unpopular says:

    I would side heavily with most people being racially ignorant.

    I think people are too sensitive about anything and everything these days, so I don’t really care much about supposed insensitivity. I guess that makes me insensitive. Oh well…

    “Maybe this comic has a “classic” look but would there be any problem in updating it, making it slightly more true to life?”

    I think this was answered in the second blog post about Memin. It’s a rights issue or something along those lines.

    “I am of the opinion that we should be beyond slurs all together.”

    I agree.

    “Language like that is for ignorant people who want to feel better about themselves at the expense of another group of people.”

    Well, yes and no. I don’t even see why some “racial slurs” are considered insulting. Some because I’ve read up on their origins, and some because they just don’t make any sense to me (most likely because I haven’t looked up their origins yet). (“Wop”, for example.)

    On the subject of race and proper word usage, another thing that bugs me when it comes to using words properly is when someone is referred to as “Oriental” instead of Asian. Drives me nuts….

    Vichus Smith, thanks for another interesting comment.

  40. Robert Lopez says:

    I work with this person Shawnedria and she will find any reason to use the whole race card to her advantage. Being of Mexican decent myself i grew up with this character “memin” i have never thought of it as racial. Leave it to Shawn to make it into that.

  41. Walmart is just trying to suck up to the illegal aliens in the Huston area. So they come out with a Black stereotype from Mexico. That’s classic. Hey did anyone bother to tell the Mexicans, they are Racist?

  42. I don’t know where “Huston” is, but I think that when you run a store you try to cater to the people who live in the area. Walmart isn’t the INS, so they’ll sell to anyone who has money. It’s the government’s job to make sure illegal immigrants aren’t also happy Walmart shoppers.

Speak Your Mind

*