September 20, 2010

Indians shoot arrows in New Yorker cartoon

Gawker Zings New Yorker's 'Racist' Caption

'You chose this as contest finalist?'

By Mary Papenfuss
Gawker is slamming a New Yorker cartoon that's part of the magazine's weekly caption contest as "pretty racist." The cartoon shows an apparent executive in a cowboy-like hat talking on the phone and crouched behind his desk as he's being fired at with arrows. The winning caption? "Quick, give them a casino." We're all "post-racial liberal elites here who love us some New Yorker cartoons," notes writer Adrian Chen. But "seriously, New Yorker cartoon editors? You chose this as a finalist? And, seriously, New Yorker readers, you voted for it?"

Gawker suggests a caption that probably very nearly made the cut: "Dang redskins tryin' to steal my Blackberry!" Oh, the magazine probably intended an "ironic commentary on the half-hearted reparations Indians have received ... or something," Chen adds. "But still—it's just dumb."

Comment:  Yep, this cartoon is pretty racist, all right. And don't blame the caption. That only adds an extra layer of racism: "The Indians are shooting arrows because they want a casino. They're so violent and warlike they can't get one any other way."

The main racism is implying that today's Indians would try to kill someone for any reason. Whether it's a casino, a Blackberry, or frybread, the implication is wrong. It stereotypes Indians as primitive people of the past. As savages incapable of diplomacy, reason, or calm.

And New Yorker readers are supposedly America's liberal elite. This demonstrates how pervasive Native stereotypes are. Even people who know (or should know) better are okay with Indians shooting arrows. It's like having a white man as president or a marriage between a man and a woman--i.e., something Americans have assumed to be true.

For more on the subject, see Native Comic Books vs. Comic Strips.

P.S. It would be difficult to salvage this racist cartoon, but how about this caption:

"No, no Indians. Just angry white readers trying to make a point in an ironic way."


Mamalayne said...

Yes, I saw this before the winning caption was chosen. Appalling.

dmarks said...

It could only be salvaged with a Green Arrow or Robin Hood caption. Then it would be merely lame and not racist.