Special delivery for MultiCultClassics readers — here’s a follow-up to Essay Sixty.
In a totally predictable move, Mexican President Vicente Fox gave his wholehearted stamp of approval to the postage designs showcasing the big-lipped, bug-eyed Memin Pinguin comic book character. Fox went on to rave Memin Pinguin “is an image in a comic that I have known since infancy … It is cherished here in Mexico.”
To be honest, almost every country on Earth — including the good ol’ U.S.A. — creates questionable comic books and fictional figures. So Mexico is hardly unique or original in this prickly area. But to present this stuff on government-sanctioned material is a whole other story — especially when it may literally travel throughout the civilized planet.
Displaying nearly the same befuddled response he had to the outrage sparked by his earlier comments about U.S. Blacks, Fox said, “Frankly, I don’t understand the reaction. Let’s hope they inform themselves ... and later form an opinion.”
By his own arrogant admission, Fox just doesn’t get it. And his ignorance — whether real or calculated — makes him look as cartoonish as the characters he now praises. This guy may represent uncharted territory for the reprogramming tactics of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Vicente Fox is no Memin Pinguin — that is, he’s not a buffoon. His published biographies offer conflicting details, but usually start by highlighting his connection with Coca-Cola, where he rose from a delivery supervisor to company president. He then moved to politics, serving in his country’s Congress and later becoming the Governor of Guanajuato. In 2000, Fox was elected President of Mexico.
However, Fox has shown his insensitive side before. During his presidential campaign, he called one competitor a sissy and transvestite. He also used a banner of the Virgin of Guadeloupe, a very sacred symbol among Hispanics, to allegedly flaunt his Catholicism at a political rally. In short, this hombre is not afraid of ruffling feathers. Or being a bigot.
Fox and his supporters argue his U.S. Blacks commentary, and the creation and adoration of Memin Pinguin, are purely cultural thangs. Hispanics simply view racial issues differently than the rest of us. Perhaps this is true. Or perhaps the entire country is suffering from Passive Bias (see Essay One for the explanation of this term). Regardless, there appears to be a disturbing similarity between Hispanics and U.S Blacks regarding feelings about skin tones. The beauty standards and stereotypes definitely skew Eurocentric versus Afrocentric. Denying this would be a bald-faced — or Black-faced — lie.
Fox suggests everyone get informed before proclaiming judgments. El Presidente should follow his own sage advice. Let’s hope Fox and his supporters inform themselves about racial attitudes and stereotypes from perspectives beyond their own. It’s one thing to have in-jokes among neighbors and citizens. Sharing the gags with outsiders may generate contrasting comebacks.
The advertising industry offers infinite examples of this insight. Slogans, messages and concepts have entirely diverse meanings to separate audiences. Additionally, when successful marketers do business with foreign lands — or even localized multicultural segments — great care is taken to recognize distinct nuances and traditions. In layperson’s terms, if you want me to respect you, you’ve got to respect me. (At this point, Aretha Franklin music should kick in.)
For U.S. folks to remain true to their beliefs, Memin Pinguin must be accepted as demonstrating freedom of expression and freedom of speech. But Fox and his supporters should not be so naïve to think everyone will join the fiesta. The rights of freedom come with options to debate and protest — plus, certain levels of social responsibility. That’s what makes it all so damned fun and entertaining.
Finally, here’s some free guidance for Mexican President Vicente Fox: If you seriously hope to bring your country to the global stage, stop being so ghetto.