The racist, anti-immigrant spirit of 19th century cartoonist Thomas
Nast lives on today in the pages of /The Washington Post/.
In your August 22 edition, you published a Pat Oliphant syndicated cartoon
of Cuban Americans being shoved back to their homeland in a crowded
small boat by a grinning Uncle Sam, who refers to them as “nuisances.” A
figure on the shore approvingly waves farewell. The outcasts are being
told to “Say hello to Batista,” implying that they are all supporters of
the Cuban strongman who died in 1973. Oliphant depicts the Cuban
Americans as demanding “a chance to interfere with the ‘08 election.”
The cartoonist mimics Cuban Communist propaganda stereotypical
depictions of Cuban Americans as elderly, cantankerous people, with
mustachoed men wearing Mafia-style fedora hats, dark eyeglasses, and
smoking cigars. In contrast, when Fidel Castro announced last year that
he was relinquishing power, most of the Cuban Americans who appeared in
the newsmedia celebrating and dancing in the streets of Miami were young
I am honestly grateful that you have published this cartoon, as it gives
me the opportunity to show my students that a leading U.S. newspaper
like /The Washington Post/ is insensitive toward a politically-active
Hispanic minority, which has four representatives and two senators
elected to Congress in one generation, and turned Miami into a major
American city. My students will now be able to have class discussion on
how they would feel if Mr. Oliphant had drawn a similar scenario with
African Americans being sent back to Africa by boat, American Jews being
shipped off to Israel, or Mexican Americans being deported south of the
border, while demanding to “interfere” in the upcoming American
political process. As a class assignment, we will compare this cartoon
with those made by Thomas Nast, showing the Irish as violent, ape-like,
drunken creatures who “corrupted” U.S. elections.
My students will also be able to determine if /The Washington Post/ is a
truly liberal newspaper by publishing this inconsiderate cartoon and how
Mr. Oliphant does not need to hide behind a white hood to express his
racist views.


Antonio de la Cova, Ph.D.