random brain dribbles of a nurse, novelist, and ninja enthusiast

Stereotypical Cats: An Introspective Look At Racism and Prejudice In America

I was lying around the house thinking about the Disney channel and naturally began to wonder whether or not I was racist (when you have ADD stuff like this happens). Let me explain: I was looking at my orange tabby which made me think of Oliver and Company which made me think of all anthropomorphic animals, which made me think of All Dogs Go To Heaven, which made me think back to other Disney movies, which made me think of Lady and The Tramp which made me think of the Siamese cats upon which I immediately realized, Disney is racist.

At first, I questioned this, but then searched for the clip online, re-watched it and yep, racist. The cats speak in horrible Asian accents, have buck teeth, and short of driving modified Hondas while performing kung fu onscreen, were as quintessentially stereotypical of Asians as you could possibly be. Don’t believe me, well then watch this video for yourself.

Now, I’m not saying Disney is purposely prejudiced, but inadvertently through the art of cartoons. When you draw cartoons you accentuate characteristics of cultures to enhance the humor of the subject you are intending to display, making many cartoons inherently racist in some way. Even Disney with its rainbows and sunshine, strawberry shortcake image is not exempt from this. Like many crackers (that’s racist for white people, which I can say because I am white) I immediately drew upon years of pent up white ancestral guilt and began pondering many race related topics.

First and foremost was the ultimate question: was I an accidental racist. I try not to be, going out of my way in that typical white manner of constantly being aware of any and all actions possibly misconstrued by black people as offensive. You may note that I haven’t included other races, but it is well established that white people tend to be more lax with all other races except for African Americans.

The same white dude who would never in a million years say anything remotely offensive to his black friends will turn to pretty much anyone else within the cultural milieu that is his social life and let loose a string of sarcastically placed racial or cultural epithets without so much as batting an eye.

These racial jokes are rarely ever appropriate, but seem to predominate the conversation with some cultures attacked far more than others (see: Mexican Americans and Asians). Why is this? Why the double standard? Does it stem from the powerful guilt we feel for the sins of our fathers or is it culturally ingrained by our society. Also, is the double standards existence indicative of racism still lingering in the backs of all our minds through our extreme discomfort as a form of secret racism. Let me give you an example of what a super secret racist might say.

Suburban guilt letter to Africa a well meaning but very prejudiced Junior High kid might write after learning about imperialism in his world history class:

Dear Africa,

Sorry I looked at you weird that one time, but I just don’t understand why you guys have all those stretchy rings around your necks. Is it because you like giraffes and want to be like them. I too like giraffes. Lions are also cool.

How many of your villagers get eaten by them every year? Never mind, that was rude of me to ask. I like your cute huts and how you use dirty puddled rain water for drinking, because it reminds of camping and I love to camp. But I am worried about the quality of your dirty drinking water so I sent some from home. Don’t worry, it’s sterile. It’s from my pool which is full of chlorine.

Okay, the main reason I am writing is to let you know that I am not a racist. We just studied how the British took in slaves, pillaged your land, and pushed you toward years of unrelenting and severe discrimination and apartheid. Since my parents are British, I am worried that I may have inherited their racist genes. But don’t worry, I can’t be racist. Surely, the drinking water speaks for itself, but I can also provide proof through my ability to achieve erections from naked African tribal people in National Geographic magazine I have hidden under my bed. Racist people don’t get boners from other races. That’s fact.

Love,

Stewart

This type of racism also happened after these recent summer games when olympian gymnast Gabby Douglas won the gold medal and an unfortunate commercial about monkeys doing gymnastics appeared. Olympic induced Twitter vitriol about the commercial went viral and spread among all the major social media outlets, but why? There is no way NBC could have predicted Gabby’s win or the resulting placement of that commercial on the television. These ads are constructed months in advance before they even make it to the acceptance stage among the major corporations vying for precious olympic real estate.

NBC would need to predict not only who will make the olympic team before it happened, but then who would win that day and ultimately place their commercial in that exact location. Nostradamus and the Mayans couldn’t even predict the end of the world, what makes you think NBC can predict the future of the olympic games.

How on earth could they be racist in any other way than accidental. This is the type of racism I am talking about. I believe that racism is very much alive and survives in the discomfort of each and everyone around us. Make no mistake, if you watched that commercial and made any type of associations between black people and monkeys then you are probably racist. Still, fear of super secret racism is a constant of every white person’s existence as they assure themselves that yes, I voted for Obama, contrasted with the ever present danger of enslaving future generations . I am no exception.

Cartoons seem to provide a powerful degree of permissive controversy. Just watch Family Guy, Simpsons, or South Park and you can see this. I love these shows. I love this humor. I’m a crass person by nature and our multiracial group of close friends and family often engage each other through sarcastic, ‘witty?’ racist banter. I enjoy this humor and feel as if it is okay among a select group of very close friends, but can you go too far. When do the cartoons and humor start moving from adorable to deplorable. Well, in the spirit of the aforementioned racist cats I present to you…

Stereotypical Racist Cat Breeds

The Siamese

The Siamese

The Persian

The Persian

Genus Africanus Americanus

Black cat: genus Africanus Americanus

Stereotypical Black French Cat

Black cat: French genus

The White Russian

The White Russian

What do you guys think? I read a book by Charles Barkley that tackled a lot of these complicated issues through interviews with famous African American celebrities entitled, Who’s Afraid Of A Large Black Man.

Barkley's Book

Note: click on the link to check out the book he wrote and take note that this picture was also obtained at the same link on amazon

The book includes interviews with Barak Obama, Samuel Jackson, Tiger Woods, and George Lopez and others, discussing racial issues among which is a predominating understanding that this controversial topic is one still in need of discussion. I hope we can continue that discussion here.

What do you guys think about racism today in America. Is its ever present use in humor inappropriate? Personally, I feel that humor is an excellent tool to make people aware of the topic by making people comfortable about it, but have we as a society gotten too comfortable. I know that I used pop culture as an example of one aspect of racism, but can you think of others. The only way we will truly get this problem solved is to finally get comfortable talking about it.

(Originally posted August 6, 2012 on my old website)

2 Responses to “Stereotypical Cats: An Introspective Look At Racism and Prejudice In America”

    • josefkul

      I don’t know how sweet my cartoons about stereotypical cats are, but I’ll take it. I enjoyed the header cartoon and you do have a distinctive style reminiscent of a jazzed up version of Cyanide and Happiness.

      Reply

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