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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Several problems with this cartoon:

1) Most Inuit don't have a fancy log home, a satellite dish, a Humvee, two snowmobiles, and a boat (!). The premise is false and potentially harmful, because Piraro (or his readers) may conclude this situation is typical rather than atypical.

2) Since most Inuit aren't this wealthy, there's no real contradiction between their desire to hunt for traditional reasons and their taking advantage of modern conveniences.

3) Even if an Inuit were this wealthy, there'd be no real contradiction between his traditional and modern life. Mainstream Americans practice traditional rituals that are thousands of years old—the Christian Easter, the Jewish Passover, the Christmas tree decorating—while surfing the Net or watching DVDs. A Native tradition is no different.

Note:  If it isn't obvious, the Native hunting of whales or whatever is fraught with religious overtones. Traditionally, Native people didn't hunt for sport or some other frivolous reason.

Natives talk about "living in two worlds" so often that some consider it a cliché. In fact, all believers, whether Native or not, have to reconcile their traditional religious beliefs with their modern secular lives. That they consistently do this is commonplace and unremarkable, for the most part. So to pick out a Native person and make fun of the dichotomy in his life, as if it's something unusual and noteworthy, is unfair.

The cartoon implies Natives are more two-faced about this issue than anybody else. It implies they don't really believe what they say—that their spirituality is shallow or a put-on. That makes the cartoon stereotypical and vaguely racist.

If Piraro really wants to attack the "problem," he should show a Christian millionaire (like George W. Bush) complaining about how his corporate dealings keep him from emulating Christ. Of course, he won't do that because it would upset mainstream America and cause a firestorm of protest, probably leading to Piraro's banishment. So he sticks with the "safe" Native topic, offending a minority rather than the majority.

In short, singling out a minority for the majority's problem suggests that only the minority has the problem. That's what's wrong here.

Related links
Eskimos:  the ultimate aborigines
Native comic strips vs. comic books

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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