Summary: This clip features ten excerpts from late 20th century cartoons, which have been sharply criticized for their illustration of ethnic and racist stereotypes. The stereotypes on display include the scheming, buck-toothed Chinaman, the Jazz loving Black entertainer, a disruptive Black child who is easily appeased with watermelon, the gun-wielding but perpetually lazy Slowpoke Rodriguez, and the Black mammy who has trouble spelling the word "out." What is striking is how blatantly racist these scenes are in a medium which is primarily enjoyed by children. The depiction of Blacks as slaves, presumably for humorous effect, is particularly appalling in an excerpt from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Students can be reminded that stereotypes are unreliable generalizations about all members of a group that do not recognize individual differences. Because stereotypes work to reduce complex people and groups into caricatures, and in this way confound understanding, they are perhaps always harmful. However, one could argue that they become truly racist when they promote ideas about people along racial lines and particularly when those ideas can be easily arranged in a hierarchical order. Slowpoke Rodriguez's laziness and inclination toward violence, then, reaffirms a negative stereotype about Latinos, but it is also one that works in tandem with ideas about whites as inherently non-lazy and non-violent. The clip might also lead to a useful discussion about the idea of internalized racism, or the idea that stereotypes are one way in which members of minority groups subconsciously come to incorporate negative ideas into their own racial identities.
Submitted By: Lauren McLendon and Lester Andrist