Red Alert

Cartoons irresponsible and racist

Posted by on May 31st, 2013

 I believe the two cartoons in the Christchurch Press and the Marlborough Express were a clumsy and objectionable attempt to draw attention and raise debate about an important issue.  The approach taken is indefensible and potentially damaging.

 The cartoon depicts two stereotypes.  The first is that those who access food in schools have the financial resources to feed their children but would rather spend the money on gambling, smoking, booze and a lavish life style.  While there may be some people who fall in this category there are many who don’t and who just simply can’t make ends meet either on a low income or on a benefit.  These depictions refuse to accept that. The second is that most of those who fall in this category are brown, overweight and irresponsible.

 Like all stereotypes the depictions malign those parents who access food in schools most of whom the cartoons depict as Māori and Pacific Islanders.  Therefore they are offensive.  The defence that the cartoons depict people of different ethnic background is just plain unbelievable.  The figures are overwhelmingly brown and overweight, gamble, smoke, drink and have a flash lifestyle.

 If the cartoonist’s message was that in New Zealand everyone should be able to feed their children because we are a welfare state, he failed miserably in getting that across.  Rather the cartoons accidentally or deliberately discount the fact that for whatever reason a good number of children live in poverty and they come to school hungry and in no position to take advantage of the education offered.  Any perspective that had an understanding of the needs of children would not depict the programme to feed our hungry children in this way. 

 The alternative surely can’t be to let the children go hungry or take them away from their parents?  Neither option is realistic and shows little appreciation of the real financial pressures on many families who are not in work or who are in poorly paid jobs.

 The second stereotype is even more troubling.  Some would say it incites racial disharmony.  It certainly does not assist positive race relations.  If the cartoons had asked people to take negative action on the parents, who it believes are brown, it would have breached the Human Rights Act for inciting racial disharmony.  As such it would have led to the commencement of the process of mediation and even eventual prosecution.  I accept that it does not reach that threshold.

 The cartoonist does have a responsibility to present issues fairly.  Satire is fine but there is a fine line.  There are many complex issues behind child poverty.  The cartoons should also show an appreciation of the impact of the depictions on minority ethnic groups.  Instead they trivialise these two issues and as such the two papers ought to print a retraction.  The Race Relations Commissioner should also take a much stronger line to discredit this approach and to caution cartonists who periodically stay into this style.

 Dr Rajen Prasad MP



11 Responses to “Cartoons irresponsible and racist”

  1. bbfloyd says:

    The obvious, and inherent racism expressed in these cartoons, and the fact that “competent, and responsible journalists” decided to publish them, knowing them to be an expression of bigotry is what really scares me…..

    The second thing, is that what is really despicable about these works of art?, is that they are actually a deliberate dogwhistle to the redneck spine of the reacionary ruling classes regarding poor people in general….

    I am sickened by the fact that our own fourth estate has rushed to highlight the “racist” angle whilst deliberately ignoring the much more toxic attitude being promoted by our own government toward the poorest in our society…Something these cartoons encapsulate brilliantly…

    These cartoons depict ALL poor people as lazy, shiftless, bludging, dishonest low life, who, whilst too stupid, and bone idle to “get a haircut and a real job”, are quite clever enough to figure out a bludge from what amounts to the raiding party playing politics with the wellbeing of disadvantaged children…

    If I was of a Paranoid disposition, I would be alleging that these cartoons were published to deliberately distract from the reality of what the raiding party ISN’T doing.. Namely, actually lifting a finger to create enough employment so that these children CAN be fed by their parents…

    There is a very nasty game being played by the raiders, with the full complicity of our news media, and the very people who have been hurt the most by their dishonest, self serving, disloyal actions in government, are the target of this particular hate campaign..

  2. Anne says:

    100% support for your post Dr Rajen Prasad – and bbfloyd’s response.

    What shocked me… despite Campbell Live last night putting up some excellent rebuttals by two school principles – and various street interviews all of whom expressed disgust – 77% of those who took part in a poll conducted in conjunction with the programme agreed that the cartoons depicted reality.

    Words must fail all informed and reasonable people.

  3. bbfloyd says:

    “Words must fail all informed and reasonable people”…Welcome to the group due to feel the chill wind of “marginalisation” any time soon Anne….

    I quote a great bass player…”ignorance is bliss, So it won’t be long before we reach nirvanna”…

  4. Jack Ramaka says:

    Listened to the cartoonist on talkback the guy is the atypical Christchurch redneck he admitted he knew very few Maori or Pacific Islanders, totally unnecessary cartoon.

    The lower socio economic sectors of society do have problems with drug, alcohol and gambling however not all lower socio economic people have brown skin. Also chuldren need the best possible start in life to get positive outcomes down the track.

    This food in schools program is a very small step especially after the lower socio economic groups have been damaged by this National Government. The raising of gst has been a real killer and its effect on the lower socio economic groups in society has been far greater than anticipated.

    This National Government is a nasty machine driving the lower socio economic groups deeper into the mire.

  5. bbfloyd says:

    I quote Chris Trotter here….”Clearly, they came to the view that a decision to censor Mr Nisbet would not have been well-received by their readers – a majority of whom quite likely share and endorse the sentiments depicted in his cartoons”….

    So, is it the artist, and the newspaper he works for, who reflect local attitudes that we take aim at?… Or do we finally address the sort of ignorant assumption that drives a wedge between “us and them”….??

    That there are still whole communities where this sort of cliche ridden nonsense is the “accepted wisdom”, should be seen as a failure to utilise the boon that mass communication represents, in a way that promotes the evolution of mature human society….

    There are no excuses, only reasons…bad ones, for wilful ignorance to be promoted as the acceptable norm…..

  6. old sammy says:

    Of course the cartoons are racist. Of course people should speak out, as Rajen Prasad has, as so many of us have, both the public and politicians.

    So why has the Labour leader been conspicuously silent? Yes, we know the strategy is to keep David Shearer from saying anything about anything until it’s safe, but really, this is not leadership. It’s nothing.

    I’m sure David Shearer the man would have seen the cartoons as racist, and would have simply said so. But David Shearer the politician has been spun into craven silence. Probably by the same people that delivered Labour’s failure in 2011. It’s so sad.

  7. bbfloyd says:

    young sammy, you could have saved us the time we wasted reading that piffle by simply taking a laxative…. Then you would have been relaxed enough to think relatively clearly. (assuming the capacity, of course).. And possibly more loquacious…

  8. bbfloyd says:

    “are quite clever enough to figure out a bludge”…I was remiss in not pointing out the obvious message in that statement…. and that is the use of “transferrence” by the raiding party, and our so called “news media” regarding their assumptions about the poor…

    If there is group in this country that is better at figuring out how to bludge off the state than the raiders… then they are well hidden, because I havn’t been able to find them…

  9. Mac1 says:

    I am sorry to say that the Marlborough Express has not retracted but compounded its error with tonight’s editorial. The editor who is a decent enough man did however have the gumption to print nine letters criticising his stance directly under his editorial.

    He says firstly the cartoon was “possibly” offensive but not racist, according to the ruling by Susan Devoy, which he says found the cartoon “beneath the official threshold required for racism.”

    He says it “was intended as a provocative comment on the Right-wing stereotyping of those who may try to take advantage of the Government’s new ‘food in schools’ programme.”

    Funny way to do that, I would have thought.

    Anyway it seems that those of us “who saw skin colour first, above all else, might like to consider whether they were guilty of that sentiment.”

    I think that is called blaming the messenger.

    As a defence, it ranks just above Aaron Gilmore’s first protestations as he dug an even bigger hole for himself.

  10. bbfloyd says:

    He says it “was intended as a provocative comment on the Right-wing stereotyping of those who may try to take advantage of the Government’s new ‘food in schools’ programme.”

    That ranks as possibly the most ridiculous statement since the last set of excuses Johnny sparkles offered up to explain his lack of relationship with a person he has known most of his life(head of spy agency)…Anyone taken in by that piece of specious sophistry is swallowing it willingly…(unfortunately, that would be a large percentage of the locals, on the evidence so far)…

    I’m convinced that the “racist” angle is being deliberately highlighted as a distraction from the core message…”poor people are poor because they are morally, and intellectually flawed in ways that make them unfit to be considered as equal members of society, and therefore, it is reasonable to point out their failings”…

    The decision to put brown skin on the elder members of the group depicted was just a way of showing that polynesians are simply the most useless, and dishonest, of a group of deadbeats….Killing two birds with one stone….

    What is so disgusting to me, is that regardless of how transparent the excuses made for this lack of depth, and humanity, there will be significant support within the community for this approach…

    I think that a letter writing campaign, along the lines of providing templates online for people to download, add to, and sign, so that they can flood the respective newspapers inboxes with what the rest of us think of that kind of ignorant bigotry…would be great…

    If they must indulge their bigotry down there, then we must make it awkward for them!!!

  11. peterquixotesbrother says:

    always good to have a foreigner tell us about our racism