Warner Bros.’ racist cartoons are troubling.


This morning I read  an article on Slate.com calling for the release of vintage cartoons depicting Blacks in a distorted, dehumanizing way.  I am appauled and against it.

Here’s an edited version of what I had to say on Slate.com.

The Warner Bros. cartoons’ only purpose is to satisfy ppl’s internal racism, an unhealthy interest in the humiliation of others and need to maintain power, control and self esteem based on cultural degradation.  Regardless of what apologists say, selling them to the public is not about art or providing an historical perspective on US culture. It’s cultural porn (the gross kind).

According to the American Psychological Association there are actual mental and social reasons why racism still exists. One has to do with building up one’s self worth by putting others down. Another is to maintain hierarchy/control by keeping certain groups oppressed. We know this is not exclusive to race.

But should this be embraced as part of mainstream society? Should we be having a cocktail party sort of discussion about the merits of culture degradation? Should Warner profit from this sort of racist entertainment? This all seems like a slippery slope where Americans become desensitized to harsh racism before there is a return to overt behaviors/systems of the past. As a Black person, you will have to excuse me for not being down with that program.

Releasing the cartoons (on DVD) has nothing to do with furthering a constructive dialogue or making society better or more advanced, which is what fighting racism is REALLY about.  If America is ready to examine itself, OK, let’s talk about how and why Europeans imposed inequality, color hierarchy, exploitation, torture and white privilege onto brown people. Let’s talk about who benefited, and continues to profit, from man’s inhumanity toward man.

Those issues loom within society every single day and vintage Looney Toons are necessary to see that.  A broad-based conversation can start immediately. Is that what we want? or do people want social and culture cover to sit in their living rooms or to croutch in front of computer computer screens getting off the degradation of Blacks while Warner Bros makes Its profits off the controversy?

Note: As a Black person, the concept of selling racist cartoons is the equivalent of the Franklin Mint reproducing and selling Nazi coins.  Totally offensive and unacceptable.  I hope Warner Bros. Home Videos has not made a final decision. If  the cartoons are sold to the public or released for entertainment purposes (as opposed to given to a reputable academic institution), they should expect a national boycott. (I’d support one, that’s for sure.)

In the meantime, I shared this post with WB customer service.  I encourage you to speak out and to spread the word.

Also, let me know what you think here at the RC site:  Should the ‘toons be released? Why is there so much interest in these images? Did you know that these cartoons are among the most requested at Warner Bros?  SMH.

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4 Responses to Warner Bros.’ racist cartoons are troubling.

  1. blackessence says:

    You know, I can totally understand and agree with where you are coming from. But, let me play devil’s advocate here, which is a role I don’t like to play, but I may make a point here that you may not have considered:

    Look a the President that we have today. Interracial families are at an ALL time high. Interracial dating is slowly but surely becoming and “IN-THING”. These cartoons…are classics. No one can deny that. They depicted a terrible, terrible time when race was the pentacle of this country. But, with these accomplishments that I listed above, these cartoons show NO WAY offend you any longer. Why? Because look where we are today. There are still some bad apples left, yes. But, we are way much better off than we were then when these cartoons were made and do you know what makes these cartoons funny? Do you know what makes me LAUGH at these cartoons, being african america myself? The fact that when you watch them, the IGNORANCE behind them…the blatant STUPIDITY that was channeled into the artists and story writers who wrote and made those cartoons….the blatant STUPID RACISM that, back then, was so unjustifiably believed to make these cartoons is what makes me laugh at them. I can watch all of these cartoons and not get offended one bit because those kinds of “characters” are NOT TRUE of african americans. Sure, some may live up to them, but its not an accurate depiction of our race. It’s a lie. And I know this.

    Should they be on DVD? I am not sure. It would be interesting to own a copy and see the stupid depictions of Blacks and asians and any other people of color in the cartoons back then. To me, its a history lesson. A lesson to THANK GOD that I was not born during that time. That is what it should be for you.

  2. convo_girl says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I must agree to disagree that this has any historic, cultural or entertainment value. I also disagree that releasing the cartoons will be harmless.

    For me, I am concerned that the same motivation behind creating these cartoons still exists today and that as a culture we will be desensitized to it. I have serious problems with the zeal of these cartoons and people’s excitement about embracing history in a way that fixates on Blacks in a dehumanizing way. The historical argument made by WB’s PR team is dishonest. To discuss history you need context that these cartoons do not provide.

    Also, we would need to confront CURRENT history of the growing and overt racism sweeping this country. Since Pres Obama’s election membership in white supremacist organizations has increased. Traditionally white supremacist groups have supported and funded local tea parties. There have even been candidates for elected office saying OPENLY that America is a white country for white people and no one else should be in office. I saw a video online of a guy selling t-shirts saying, “yup, I’m a racist.” And let’s not forget all the photos and images of Obama as a spear chucking sort of distorted figure. Blatant racism is all over the place. I would think Warner would be a little more sensitive to the timing and the risk it would spark controversy. Certainly people have the right to think what they want, but it’s not difficult to see that mainstream society is becoming more and more tolerant of blatant racism.

    If they were banned 50 years ago, why are they being sold now? I believe that if people become desensitized to it….it will influence American culture for the worse.I also ask myself why, all of a sudden, is there a market for these cartoons?

    Black people might be equal under the law but we are FAR from being equal from a cultural or societal perspective. Money doesn’t change that. Having a Black president definitely has not changed that. Interracial relationships aren’t changing that.

    I grew up during the Spike Lee and Bill Cosby age where positive images were dominant. Now Tyler Perry and hip-hop/R&B dominate how we represent ourselves while entertainers STRUGGLE to produce positive, Black images. That’s not progress. These cartoons are not progress. What’s next? Selling mammie dolls and black face kits at Wal-Mart? IMHO, we as Black people are letting our culture slide and it’s getting out of hand. The idea of these cartoons being mass marketed makes me feel so sick inside. That’s all I can say.

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. blackessence says:

    I understand how you feel and I agree with you. I really do. I was just speaking from my point of view and I, in now way, find it harmless at ALL. But, hiding it….in some cases, doesn’t make things COMPLETELY better. African americans, to keep from being desensitized, need to see this. Even the white kids. And the person teaching this, while teaching the history of this, should emphasize how IGNORANT those cartoons are. How IGNORANT the thought process was. That was what I was trying to make a point about. But, I understand what you are saying. I appreciate the response! ^___^*

  4. click here says:

    Have you thought about adding some relevant links to the article? I think it will really enhance viewers understanding.

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