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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Politics > Political cartoon portraying Sotomayor as a piñata is insensitive but deserves no rash judgements

Political cartoon portraying Sotomayor as a piñata is insensitive but deserves no rash judgements

LatinaLista — The announcement of Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court has elicited a flood of insensitive and offensive remarks. Some have been so over-the-top that retractions are being made.
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Newt Gingrich
The most noteworthy is that of Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich who earlier had Tweeted that Sotomayor was a racist — he’s taking it back!
In a column today for a conservative publication, Gingrich wrote in part:

My initial reaction was strong and direct — perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.
With these critics who want to have an honest conversation, I agree. The word “racist” should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person, even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted).

Yet, because the nomination of the first Latina to an institution that has been dominated by white, white-haired males is still such a novelty, and unexplored territory, in this nation, it’s clear that insensitivity will continue to dominate any descriptions or references to Sotomayor — even when the intention is clearly not to ridicule.
Why this insensitivity?
For a simple reason, some people just don’t know any better.
Take for example the latest political cartoon that features Sotomayor, a bunch of elephants, a sombrero-covered Obama and candy falling from Sotomayor’s skirt.


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The political cartoon, published in today’s The Oklahoman, actually didn’t come from the newspaper but was bought from the cartoon syndicate that carries freelance cartoonist Chip Bok’s work.
When some people saw this cartoon with Sotomayor portrayed as a piñata with a rope around her neck, the cries of indignation could be heard across the blogosphere. In all honesty, when I saw the thumbnail reproduction, it angered me too.
It evoked memories of another politically insensitive cartoon that featured a chimpanzee.
Yet, when I saw this cartoon at its regular size and took the time to study it, I saw that while it may be somewhat insensitive, it wasn’t really that offensive.
For starters, Sotomayor is depicted as a very healthy, strong individual smiling as she waits for what comes next. The noose around her neck isn’t even around her neck. It doesn’t cause her to hang limp or lifeless. It’s pictured more as a neckline to her judicial robes.
Next, look at the faces of the elephants, a.k.a., Republicans. They have worried expressions on their faces. They’re looking at each other waiting for the other to”hit” first at Sotomayor. Clearly, they are uncomfortable.
Thirdly, the cameras are off to the side of the frame but targeting the elephants. Their presence implies that the American people will be watching how the Republicans conduct themselves during the confirmation process.
Obama wearing the sombrero is meant to set the stage for the game of breaking the piñata. It alludes to how it’s anticipated that Republicans will take “swings” at Sotomayor during the confirmation process.
Overall, the cartoon seems to be more in favor of Sotomayor than trying to denigrate her. What is unfortunate, and this is where the unfamiliarity with Latino culture comes in, is that the cartoon clearly depicts Mexican elements though Sotomayor is Puerto Rican.
Last I heard, sombreros weren’t that big a fashion statement in Puerto Rico. Now, if the cartoonist had drawn Obama in a guayabera

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Comment(21)

  • Avatar
    Karen
    June 3, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Re: “Obama wearing the sombrero is meant to set the stage for the game of breaking the piñata.”
    I think the cartoon is insulting to Obama. By have him act as ring master, or facilitator, they are implying that he’s complicit in her mistreatment.

  • Avatar
    hissy
    June 4, 2009 at 6:12 am

    What???? Where does it say that “he took it back”? I don’t see a SORRY, I WAS WRONG or I TAKE IT BACK. He just softened his word choice but I don’t see an apology.

  • Avatar
    Cristela
    June 4, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I don’t know that I can fully agree with your assessment. While I can see the worried looks on the Republican faces, I also see candy falling from the pinata – does that insinuate what she is made of? Pinatas are made to break. In this editoral, it appears she’s already crumbling.
    Chip Bok is a conservative editorialist. Is he challenging the right to not be scared of going after this “toy” of a woman? Is it the world that is watching or the right?
    Insensitivity & unfamiliarity with Latino culture makes me roll my eyes – as a Latina I’m used to it. I’m sick of it, but used to it. It’s why? Why these images from this known conservative mouth? What is he trying to say?
    Plus, sometimes, it isn’t always what you are trying to say, but what some extremist right-wing wacko hears and sees. Build the wall, break the judge…

  • Avatar
    I. Feliciano
    June 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    How ignorant! Don’t even know that piñatas are not generally a “Puerto Rican” tradition.
    Let’s not go into the Sombrero stereotype!
    Is that a “hanging” or “lynching” disguised as a piñata?
    So, who is…racist?????

  • Avatar
    Melody
    June 4, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    If it can be done to Sheriff Joe it can be done to those two jokers!
    How do YOU like it?

  • Avatar
    uglyblackjohn
    June 5, 2009 at 12:39 am

    I know they have pinatas in Mexico, are they also common in Puerto Rico?
    Or do all Hispanics/Latinas just look alike?

  • Avatar
    Horace
    June 5, 2009 at 9:23 am

    This is a stereotypical cartoon of a Hispanic as it depicts Ms. Sotomayor as having a dark complexion when in fact she does not. She doesn’t appear to be Amerindian, and she has skin whiter than Horace which makes her likely to be pure Spanish.

  • Avatar
    LeaOrtiz
    June 6, 2009 at 9:14 am

    uglyblackjohn:
    Yeah, that’s it we all look alike. My name is Maria, and my husband’s name is Jose. That is all you need to know.
    Not only do we all look alike, but we are pretty darned good looking at that. 😉 So there!

  • Avatar
    Aron
    June 6, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Aside from mixing up stereotypes, and editorial cartoonists always drastically exaggerate things to make their point, I’m not finding it terribly offensive, personally, and I say it as a Puerto Rican man who has never voted Republican. If it was a white person being nominated that was somehow eliciting this same response (or Asian, Caribbean, American Indian or Pacific Islander descent), I’m betting similar imagery would have been used.
    The allusion makes sense, Supreme Court nominees go through long confirmation hearings regardless of bent, and they’re always attacked by members of the opposing party. The pinata imagery makes sense for it, as if she’s attacked, they look racist. So they’re afraid to hit something that everyone has always had no problem hitting.

  • Avatar
    Traci
    June 6, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    The author apparently can’t even get the character right. I note that the cartoon erroneously portrays Soto as having dark skin. She’s as light skinned as Marisa. What’s that all about, an effort to exacerbate the situation by claiming that this is injustice against Amerindians as well? If she didn’t make an issue of being Latino, she could pass as an Eastern European.

  • Avatar
    RealDemocrat
    June 7, 2009 at 10:53 am

    1)Denying people like me my rights eh? My speech is not offensive and you can’t deny me my right to free speech in a public forum like this one.
    2) How would Sotomayor rule on this one? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opxuUj6vFa4
    3) It’s a political cartoon for cryin’ out loud….lighten up people!

  • Avatar
    Hissy
    June 9, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Some of us are having our posts DELETED or simply not posted on this website so you are not getting some of our comments. I don’t care for the cartoon much but like you said Realdemocrat..it IS a joke.

  • Avatar
    cookie
    June 10, 2009 at 8:39 am

    Has anyone noticed that Sotomayer actually looks Asian around the eyes?

  • Avatar
    Marisa Treviño
    June 11, 2009 at 8:35 am

    Another racist remark? I say racist because why does it matter what she looks like? What purpose do you have in referring to what someone looks like? This is the second comment today that I consider racist from you Cookie. I have a low tolerance for such blatant racism.

  • Avatar
    cookie
    June 11, 2009 at 8:55 am

    Marisa, how is it racist to make an observation about someone’s looks? You have something against Asian looks? I sure don’t. It has been said that it was Asians that first came thru the Bering Straits to this country. She may have inherited the Asian look. How is this a racist or deragatory observation?
    When a witness to a crime is asked to describe the perpetrator, is it racist for them to make certain observations about their looks for identifying purposes? You are grasping at straws here.

  • Avatar
    Horace
    June 11, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Lighten up, Marisa. I’m sure that Cookie was just making an idle observation that didn’t have hidden implications.

  • Avatar
    Marisa Treviño
    June 12, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    For one thing Cookie, you gave no context to your question. You just threw it out there. Usually, from my experience, when people throw out a single question with no context they want to see the response they get. Next time you wonder about someone ethnic heritage, put some context around it or save it for another forum. We’re not going to debate someone’s ethnicity for the sake of discussion. As far as I’m concerned, we’re trying to move past all that — don’t you agree?

  • Avatar
    Appalled In Orlando
    July 12, 2009 at 11:39 pm

    Political “cartoons” have been part of America’s history, so one would expect caricature and exaggeration as part of the humor.

  • Avatar
    cookie
    July 13, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    There has to be a context to point out that someone has a certain look about them? I already explained how Soto probably acquired her Asian look IMO. Aren’t we being petty and oversensitive about my observation? Are Hispanics embarrassed or ashamed that some of them have acquired the Asian look from their ancestors?

  • Avatar
    Lorraine
    August 7, 2009 at 12:06 am

    We are Puertorricans & we do not use Mexican Hats. Our culture is amazing!!!
    Please be sensitive & get your culture facts in order! Not a matter of being from one Political party or anti-Obama. Its the portrayal of having her hanging!
    Disgusting!!! Shame on you for calling this art, I say lack of culture on your part

  • Avatar
    Victoria
    November 5, 2009 at 2:57 am

    Cookie, I agree with you. It is likely that if Sotomayor has Asian features, then she has some Amerindian ancestry.
    I am White and Amerindian and though I am a Spanish speaker, I don’t like the term Latino because it is given a racial value that it does not have.
    As a New World Mongoloid, I personally feel closer to the Cherokees or even Asians than to most other Spanish speakers. We just have very little in common usually, unless we happen to come from the same country and/or have the same ancestry.

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