Monday, July 4, 2005

On Being Culturally Sensitive

The US has condemned a set of newly-issued Mexican stamps that celebrate Memin Pinguin, a black Sambo cartoon beloved by Mexicans. The cartoon, many in the US feel, perpetuates racial stereotypes.

The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said "Racial stereotypes are offensive, and I would say racial stereotypes are offensive no matter what their origin. The Mexican Government needs to take this into account. Images such as these have no place in today's world."

People are expected to be "culturally sensitive and politically correct" in today's multi-cultural world. However at times this is overdone. Some symbols have a particular meaning in a culture and another in a different culture (For example: the symbol of Swastika in Hindu cultures Vs. European cultures, or the significance of various colors in different cultures). People who espouse the cause of cultural sensitivity often fail to show the same understanding when it comes to thinking about other cultures. A symbol has to be judged according to the standards of the culture that it was born in and belongs to. A symbol's cultural context MUST be taken into account before reacting to it. The American reaction to Mexico's Memin Pinguin is a case in point. US activists (and the White House spokesman) are guilty of being insensitive to Mexico's culture here.

Read the full report here.

Link via Rahul Bhatia's: Green Channel

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