Mexican stamps 'insult people around the world'

Jackson, White House criticize cartoon character postage

Thursday, June 30, 2005; Posted: 2:02 p.m. EDT (18:02 GMT)
 . activists called on the Mexican government to withdraw a postage stamp depicting an exaggerated black cartoon character known as Memin Pinguin, saying the offense was worse than recent remarks about blacks made by President Vicente Fox.

Mexico defended the series of five stamps released Wednesday, which depicts a child character from a comic book started in the 1940s that is still published in Mexico.

But the Rev. Jesse Jackson said President Bush should pressure Mexico to withdraw the stamps from the market, saying they "insult people around the world."

"The impact of this is worse than what the president said," Jackson noted, referring to Fox's May 13 comment that Mexican migrants take jobs in the United States that "not even blacks" want. Fox later met with Jackson and expressed regret but insisted his comments had been misinterpreted.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan objected to the stamp, saying "racial stereotypes are offensive no matter what their origin" and have no place in today's world. He added that it was "an internal issue for Mexico and the postal authorities that issued the stamp."

The character on the stamp is drawn with exaggerated features, thick lips and wide-open eyes. His appearance, speech and mannerisms are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book.

Mexico said that like Speedy Gonzalez -- a cartoon mouse with a Mexican accent that debuted in the United States in 1953 -- the Memin Pinguin character shouldn't be interpreted as a racial slur.

"Just as Speedy Gonzalez has never been interpreted in a racial manner by the people in Mexico, because he is a cartoon character, I am certain that this commemorative postage stamp is not intended to be interpreted on a racial basis in Mexico or anywhere else," said Rafael Laveaga, the spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington.

Ruben Aguilar, a spokesman for President Vicente Fox, said the comic book has promoted understanding and family values for decades and deserved to be enshrined on a stamp.

"It seems strange to me that this celebration of Mexican culture and Mexico's post office's toast to Mexican cartoonists is misunderstood," he said.

Aguilar said the comic book was "not racist. It's exactly the opposite."

"I respect the reverend Jesse Jackson's opinion, but we think that he is uninformed about the historic role of this series in Mexican culture to combat racism and promote family values," he said.

But NAACP interim President Dennis Courtland Hayes countered that "laughing at the expense of hardworking African Americans or African Mexicans is no joke and it should end at once."

The NAACP -- the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People -- called the stamps "injurious to black people who live in the United States and Mexico."

Jackson also said Mexico should "issue a complete and full apology."

Activists in Mexico said the stamp was offensive but not unexpected.

"One would hope the Mexican government would be a little more careful and avoid continually opening wounds," said Sergio Penalosa, an activist in Mexico's small black community on the southern Pacific coast.

"But we've learned to expect anything from this government, just anything," Penalosa said.

Carlos Caballero, assistant marketing director for the Mexican Postal Service, said the stamps are not offensive, nor were they intended to be.

"This is a traditional character that reflects part of Mexico's culture," Caballero said. "His mischievous nature is part of that character."

"At this point in time, it was probably pretty insensitive" to issue the stamp, said Elisa Velazquez, an anthropologist who studies Mexico's black communities for the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

"This character is a classic, but it's from another era," Velazquez said. "It's a stereotype and you don't want to encourage ignorance or prejudices."

Laveaga, the embassy spokesman, countered that "if you look closely at many of the cartoon characters in U.S. pop culture, those who try will be able to find something offensive."

But, he noted, "the vast majority will see a cartoon character, which is what Memin Pinguin is."

The 6.50-peso (60 cent) stamps -- depicting the character in five poses -- was issued with the domestic market in mind, but Caballero noted it could be used in international postage as well.

A total of 750,000 of the stamps will be issued.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
how's this for racism? This Canadian-born law professor is off the planet. Feel free to email him (and adminstrators at his university, which include (Deputy VC) and Dean ( -- I think the university may have begun reprimanding him, but he is unrepentant and I notice "fan mail" for him growing from far-right US hate-sites.


Drew Fraser,
BA (Hons) LLB (Queen), LLM (Harv), MA (N.Carolina)
Associate Professor in Law. Macquarie University

Professor Fraser

I refer to statements attributed to you on "A current affair" of Channel 9, that:

        Australia should not allow migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa because their IQs are only about 70

These statements would be considered anti-scientific, unscholarly, and offensive in any university in the world, and deserving of reproach, if not academic sanction, in any reputable university. Universities should be places of free speech and tolerance, and of science, not intolerance and innuendo. I grant your right of free speech, as for all, and I trust you have been misquoted. If not then your cited statement is patently untrue--in fact I supervise African doctoral students whose IQs are clearly far, far, above that of a person who would consider making such a wild and untested statement as that attributed to you.  I also work with gifted Sudanese faculty and students and more recently have worked with refugee youth from the Sudan (with whom you seem to have a particular, irrational objection) who have demonstrated remarkable IQs in graduating from university in the face of incredible adversity. IQs are essentially unrelated to race or place. If you have been quoted accurately then you should consider apologizing for the deep offence and hurt caused to all people of African descent and also consider the discredit you are drawing upon Macquarie University. I am copying this letter to the Executives of the U.S. and Canadian African Studies Associations so their members may be aware of these unscholarly, unscientific, extremist, and deeply racist views.

`Racist' professor cautioned, but launches new attack
The Australian, 21-07-2005,
SYDNEY'S Macquarie University has warned a senior academic he faces disciplinary action if he continues making public statements that refugees have labelled racist and inflammatory. But a defiant Andrew Fraser, associate professor in public law, laun...

Top academic accused of neo-Nazi links. by Greg Roberts
July 20, 2005
SYDNEY'S Macquarie University is investigating allegations one of its senior academics has ties with a neo-Nazi group that wants to ban non-white immigrants.

Andrew Fraser, associate professor in public law at Macquarie, denied last night any association with the extremist Patriotic Youth League
"I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the PYL," Professor Fraser said. "Nor have I played any other role, officially or unofficially, in that organisation."

But the internet website of the PYL, an extremist right-wing group with well-established neo-Nazi links, records Professor Fraser being registered as a "new member" last September. The email address given for him was his Macquarie University work address at the time.

In an email to documentary producer Iain Lygo last March, PYL executive Luke Connors  said Professor Fraser was the league's legal adviser.

In the same email, Mr Connors said he had conducted an online poll asking PYL members to identify the most troublesome minority in their area - "abbos, curry munchers, wogs or chinks?".

Contacted yesterday, Mr Connors initially insisted Professor Fraser had no association with the league. But told of evidence seen by The Australian, Mr Connors said the Canadian-born academic was the group's legal adviser. "Yes, it's true he has been giving us advice but he's not a member officially."

Mr Connors denied the league was extremist. "Anyone disagreeing with the left-wingers is labelled a Nazi. We have taken in people who are neo-Nazis but we are not neo-Nazis."

Mr Connors admitted the league was influenced by prominent neo-Nazi Jim Saleam>, who was jailed for three years in 1991 for organising the shotgun attack on the home of the African National Congress's Australia representative Eddie Funde.

"Jim is giving us useful contacts and advice in a number of areas," Mr Connors said.

Professor Fraser, 61, said although he was not associated with the PYL, he believed the league's aims were legitimate.

"It seems ironic that leftists, who have made a meal out of (US) Senator (Joe) McCarthy and his tactics for over 50 years, now seem to be aping those political techniques," Professor Fraser said.

Macquarie University deputy vice-chancellor Elizabeth More has asked for details about the allegations on Professor Fraser in an email to Mathew Henderson-Hau, who tracks extreme right-wingers for the group Fight Dem Back.

In a letter to the Parramatta Sun last week, Professor Fraser criticised Sudanese migration, saying: "Anglo-Australians are again expected to acquiesce in the steady erosion of their distinctive national identity."


Peter Limb, Ph.D.
Michigan State University