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realclearworld

More on the bigotry of Pat Oliphant (Updated)

In case youve forgotten, here's the Pat Oliphant WaPo cartoon we've been blogging about:

elcolmo.gif
We've read editorials and letters to the WaPo editors from numerous folks - Fontova, de la Cova, Eire - all which, as you will learn with the following letter from Prof. Carlos Eire, fell upon deaf ears:

On the Oliphant issue: I got a hold of someone at the Washington Post, a Yale alumnus. He was kind enough to reply to my letter, but politely informed me they could not print it. I expected that. Then he let me know that the Post had not run the Oliphant cartoon in its print edition. They had only posted it on the web, on Aug. 22. He has forwarded my complaint to the ombudsman at the Post, and also to the website department that ran the cartoon. Let's see what happens. I also tried to track down Mr. Oliphant himself, but the best I could do is to find the syndicate that distributes his cartoons. So I wrote the man a letter, and sent him a copy of my book. In the process I also found out that he is an immigrant too, from Australia. I append the letter below.

And here is the professor's absolutely brilliant response to Oliphant himself:
Mr. Pat Oliphant
c/o Universal Press Syndicate
4520 Main Street
Kansas City, MO 64111-7701

Dear Mr. Oliphant:
Er... ahem...(tug on forelock; head bowed in deference; a shuffling of feet)....Please excuse me, sir. You are so far superior a human being, and I so unworthy of sharing the same space with you, even through a letter; I tremble as I address you. Please do not strike back in righteous anger. I should know better than to address my betters directly, especially those who have the power to sway public opinion with an acid brush. But this is an emergency: I do need to point out to you that Cuban-American men do not wear fedoras.
As a historian, and a professional pedant, I have to care about such details.
And....perhaps you neglected to costume Uncle Sam in the correct garb? Shouldn’t he be wearing a white robe with a peaked hood? And shouldn’t the shadowy figure on the shoreline be standing next to a burning cross?
If I may, I would also like to ask you a question. What kind of response do you think you would have received if you had placed some other nationality or ethnic group in the boat? African Americans? Asians? Jews? Italians Mexicans? Arabs?
Australians?
Please do not take umbrage at my temerity, but I also feel compelled to enclose a gift. It’s a book filled with all sorts of information about our sorely benighted culture. It may help you avoid further inaccuracies in the future, should you deem us Cuban exiles worthy of your ridicule again.
From the back of the bus, where I belong-- but without a fedora-- I remain your humble servant, ever eager to do your menial chores and to receive the abuse I so richly deserve as a spic and a nuisance.
Carlos M. N. Eire
T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies
Chair, Renaissance Studies Program

A thing of beauty if I ever read one.
Update: Via Scoitt G. Here's a link to Marti's letter "A Vindication of Cuba." (just scroll down a bit). All I can say is, Wow!
Update II: You can read Marti's letter in its entirety here, where you'll be able to copy and paste and print. This letter should hang on the wall in the home of every Cuban living in exile. H/T RR.

25 comments to More on the bigotry of Pat Oliphant (Updated)

  • Amazing. I'm speechless.

  • asombra

    Very glad to see this post. Here's some related and very relevant historical material:
    In 1889, due to rumors that the US was considering buying Cuba or otherwise annexing it, a Philadelphia newspaper called "The Manufacturer" published a piece opposing that, claiming Cubans were undesirable, lazy, morally deficient, incapable and other choice adjectives. It went on to say that the lowest black man in Georgia was better fit for the presidency than the average Cuban black was fit to be an American citizen. You get the picture.
    Anyway, the Manufacturer piece was picked up by the New York Evening Post, which ran it and endorsed its sentiments. Jose Marti, both a great patriot and a great writer, responded with a predictably formidable and very famous letter to the editor of the Evening Post, titled "Vindication of Cuba," which THAT Post had the decency to publish on March 21, 1889.
    The vile Oliphant cartoon should be treated similarly. I feel that, for a number of reasons, Professor Carlos Eire is the person best suited to draft the text. He can easily get a hold of Marti's letter, which has been published in English, and he can also refer to and use what has been written on the Oliphant matter by de la Cova, Fontova and others. If the WaPo does not run the letters already sent by Eire and de la Cova, as seems likely, that means space will have to be bought in the paper as Jewbana suggested. BUCL and possibly other entities should be able to raise the funds.
    We can bemoan MSM hypocrisy all we want, but something focused and concrete like this can have much more impact. This could be a blessing in disguise after all.

  • Claudia

    Professor Eire, will you marry me?

  • George L. Moneo

    A thing of beauty. Damn, that was good.

  • LaConchita

    ...in furthering to assombra's excellent proposal, if would great if someone can 'photo-shop' the vile cartoon with Mr. Eire's descriptively rich examples of "peaked white hood" and the shoreline "burning white cross", and the optional 'PC-protected' ethnic/racial group inhabating the boat.

  • delacova

    Kudos to Carlos. Oliphant will think twice before ridiculing Cuban Americans again. The Miami Herald subscribes to Oliphant's syndicated cartoons but opted for the wise choice of not reproducing this one.
    Claudia, read "Waiting For Snow in Havana." Carlos is happily married and has kids.

  • ruth

    Wow! The Prof has outdone even himself. Bravo! A special thanks for librarians. Scott, you have my thanks.

  • LittleGator

    Marti's letter is timeless. It is as relevant today, in practically all respects, as it was when he wrote it almost 120 years ago. These issues have not gone away.
    There is a generation in Cuba that disdains El Apostol because castro has used him to justify his actions, and has very successfully wrapped himself in Marti's thoughts and writings [very selectively]. Hence, some in Cuba have an almost visceral reaction against any study or deference to Pensamientos Martianos. That is a shame, and should be remedied once the dictatorship is no more.

  • Pardon my ignorance, but what the hell is a fedora?
    Great letter; I do hope I meet him one day in the Academic rounds.

  • josejulian

    I echo your sentiments about Professor Eire's letter. In response to your inquiry, a "fedora" is a hat, i.e., a hat that is usually associated with Cuban men who wore them to all occasions. I remember my Father having a collection of fedora hats that he proudly wore to work, church, the beach, family gatherings, baseball games...you get the picture. They range from the panama style fedora to the straw fedora, and there is even a military style fedora that was very popular.
    I'd like to wear one with my Guayabera to Fidel's funeral very soon. Again, I believe that Jose Marti would be very proud of Professor Eire's letter, as we all are.

  • Tony (De la Cova):
    I have read the excellent "Waiting for Snow..." and I am also married with children- my marriage to proposal to Carlos was just a joke. :)
    Claudia

  • josejulian

    To La Ventanita: I forgot to mention in my previous response to you that the fedora hat is also associated with the Italian Mafia (picture Al Capone); therefore, the clear implication in Oliphant's cartoon being that Cuban American's are "Mafioso's". The cartoon should have included a picture of Oliphant in the water towing Fidel's line......

  • Feuertrunken

    Good thing I am not a polygamist, Claudia!
    Let's see if we can get a ball rolling on the anti-defamation front. We do need to improve on our advocacy and maybe it is high time that we joined the big leagues when it comes to such things. I am sure we could make it work. NAACP, etc.. would never let crap like this escape unnoticed.
    thank you all for your kind words and encouragement.
    Carlos

  • Ray

    If you go to Cubanet.org, you'll find that the Cuban American National Foundation, also wrote an excellent letter. I'm glad that more and more Cubans are uniting their voices against this infamy. So far we have scholars, authors, organizations, blogs and individual citizens complaining. If the Washington Post continues to ignore us that only increases their guilt and should make us more determined to pursue this to the end. The Washington Post is hoping that this blows over and that we'll just let it go like we've allowed hundreds of other slights and insults to go unanswered.

  • Firefly

    Could someone please tell Pat Oliphant that Batista has been dead since August 6, 1973. And while you’re at it could you please also tell him that the reason fifo’s rebellion triumphed was because Cubans DID NOT WANT Batista in the first place. I know, I know, it must be very stressful for Mr. Oliphant to use his brain considering his age and all, but do try to explain in very simple terms that those Cuban-American EXILES he ridicules in his cartoon, CAME to the United States YEARS before his own arrival in 1964. In fact, please tell Mr. Oliphant, that by the time of his arrival to the U.S. many of our fathers, brothers, husbands, children and other male relatives had given their lives serving in Vietnam (as Cubans have done since the American War of Independence).
    I understand that Mr. Oliphant’s intellect is somewhat lacking and perhaps he may not be able to grasp all the historical facts about Cuban-Americans at once, but give it shot anyway. Do let him know that the fedora hat fell out of popularity back in the late 1950s early 1960s and they are no longer in use. Perhaps, Mr. Oliphant is living in a time warp? Make sure to take your time in explaining for he may have forgotten (being a foreigner and all) that HERE in the United States what he considers interference it’s called the RIGHT TO VOTE! It’s quite possible that he is confused! He must think we are Democrats… For isn’t it the leftist liberals that ALWAYS try to interfere?
    But above all, I would like for you to thank Mr. Oliphant for taking the time out of his busy schedule to conjure up a cartoon that reflects how deeply concerned he is by the influence Cuban-Americans can exert in politics. It really, really, really, makes me very happy that he is so unhappy!
    Do tell him he did have something right! Cuba is 90 miles away.

  • Claudia, I was hoping to marry you. Darn, all the good ones are taken.
    You love her, but she loves him,
    and he loves somebody else -
    You just can't win.
    And so it goes until the day you die.
    This thing they call love,
    it's gonna make you cry.
    I've had the blues, the reds and the pinks.
    One thing's for sure...
    Love stinks
    Love stinks...yeah yeah...
    ...Just another episode of "As the Babalu Blog Turns"... :-)

  • Jewbana

    Yes, there are scholars, authors, organizations, blogs, and individuals complaining to WaPo. But we are not UNITED! Why can't we try to consolidate that power and $$$?
    At least half a page on the WaPo Sunday paper with the most eloquent protest. Signed by some of our scholars, congressmen, business moguls, artists, and civic leaders.
    It's hard to believe that THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MINORITY IN THE HISTORY OF THIS NATION CAN'T DEMAND AND GET THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE!
    WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE?

  • Ray

    Jewbana,
    I agree with you 100%. We need to unite in this endeavor. We need to pool our $$$ together and take out an eloquent ad denouncing this infamy.
    The Washington Post is going to continue ignoring our clamor as long as they perceive that we're weak [i.e. not united]. I'm absolutely sure that they're confident [AND EVEN DISMISSIVE] that we're not going to take this to the next logical step: AN ORGANIZED FRONT with whatever it takes [with decorum of course] to get from them the respect that they would accord any group that they don't consider third-class citizens [which undoubtedly is how they see us].

  • Jewbana/Ray,
    Sounds like a job for bucl.org.

  • Claudia

    Jorge:
    What? No Shakespeare?
    Claudia

  • LOL, Claudia. What, quoting Adam Sandler quoting an '80's hit not good enough? Ay me! The course of true love never did run smooth. :-)

  • tabrown

    Hello All,
    Just writing to let you know that a Sun-Sentinel journalist by the name of Guillermo Martinez wrote a column opposing that cartoon titled 'Racial Slurs Increasing'. I then sent in a letter to the editor to the Sun-Sentinel and it was published today (you can access it here: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/sfl-pbmail793xpnsep04,0,7010326.story ).

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