Gary Varvel cartoon called racist, paper apologizes

The Indianapolis Star has removed a cartoon and apologized for a Gary Varvel cartoon that depicted an Hispanic family crawling through the window while a white family is starting their Thanksgivings dinner. The white father says, “Thanks to the president’s immigration order, we’ll be having extra guests this Thanksgiving.” At issue is the use of the stereotype of an Hispanic mustached man and tying Hispanics to illicit entry. The cartoon was later changed to remove the mustache, but eventually removed completely.



Here’s the apology:

But we erred in publishing it.

The cartoon depicted an immigrant family climbing through a window of a white family’s home as Thanksgiving dinner was served. I was uncomfortable with the depiction when I saw it after it was posted. We initially decided to leave the cartoon posted to allow readers to comment and because material can never truly be eliminated once it is circulating on the web. But we are removing the cartoon from the opinion section of our website, as well as an earlier version posted on Facebook that showed one character with a mustache.

Cartoons are seldom intended to be read literally. And Gary did not intend this one to be viewed that way. He intended to illustrate the view of many conservatives and others that the president’s order will encourage more people to pour into the country illegally.

I’ve met Gary once and have watched his work from afar. At no time have I ever had the sense that he was racist. I’ve gotta chalk this one up to stupid.

23 thoughts on “Gary Varvel cartoon called racist, paper apologizes

  1. If a mustache = stereotype, then WTF?

    Basically, ANY fear of ANYTHING illegal by ANY group = stereotype…

    Who has a good sense of the nonsense that is Political Correctness? Is there a list of NON-STEREOTYPICAL bad behavior that is safe to point out? Or is it more likely that pointing out ANY bad behavior from ANY minority group is racist?

    Seriously, someone should make a list of exactly what bad behavior is NOT racist/insensitive – I look forward to reading it. But I’m afraid such a listing would be a single blank sheet…

  2. “But we erred in publishing it.”

    No, you erred in removing it. And by doing so you revealed yourself to be just another wimpy editor frightened by any whiff of politically incorrect content. A shameful move.

  3. The mustache isn’t what’s offensive. What’s offensive is the notion that immigration reform means letting loose chaotic hordes of brown people to invade the peaceful homes of properly white Americans. Which is clearly what the cartoon says. Just look at the face of the blonde daughter-I don’t know what she’s imagining, but I’ll bet it isn’t the prospect of sampling some good tamales.
    It’s worth noting that what opponents of immigration reform ostensibly object to isn’t the ethnicity of illegal immigrants but the moral hazard of letting people who broke laws off the hook. That’s not Varvel’s problem, though–he’s worried about ethnic pollution.
    That’s why this cartoon upset people, and if it’s not the message the editors of the paper it appears in wanted to send, they were right to pull it. BTW, it’s my observation that when someone whines about “political correctness” it almost always means they’re about to say something cluelessly racist.

  4. Terry:
    It’s absurd to interpret Gary’s image literally. No person in their right mind would think he’s saying immigrants will literally invade their homes on Thanksgiving. It’s a cartoon. Editorial cartoons employ humor, metaphor and hyperbole to make a point. And Gary’s depiction of Latino illegal immigrants wasn’t nasty or derogatory in the least. In fact, they’re smiling. You can find similar depictions in the work of many other editorial cartoonists of all political stripes. Imagine it was Obama or Uncle Sam holding the turkey in the cartoon and pleasantly saying, “Come on in!” Would the cartoon still be racist?

  5. The white family isn’t smiling. I agree with Terry’s take on this.

    I find it kind of ironic that a white family is worried about immigrants on THANKSGIVING. Think about it.

  6. When someone whines about someone whining about political correctness, it always means they are defending moronic political correctness….

    BTW, Terry Laban, did you just call me racist for what I DIDN’T say? That’s a morally indefensible and hateful thing to imply…

    To be anti-racism is to be anti-hate. So. Maybe don’t be hateful. Just a suggestion. Do as you wish…

  7. If Varvel was trying to show a visual concept of Obama’s immigration reform plan as perceived by conservatives, the literal image–that of a Mexican family invading the white middle class American home uninvited through a window, communicates that pretty well. That explains the looks of distress and woe on their faces, though he could have pushed it even farther to make that point.

  8. @Nate Beeler
    Thanks for explaining political cartoon theory. I think it’s absurd for you to imply I actually think Varvel’s saying immigrants are going to climb through people’s windows, though I wouldn’t be surprised. Just so we’re clear, I’m saying he’s using a metaphor that represents an ALIEN INVASION. Yes, the (latino) immigrants are smiling, but that’s just because they’re going to steal a real American family’s hard-earned turkey. And thanks Clay Jones for pointing out the deeper irony that, of course,Thanksgiving is a holiday that essentially commemorates an instance of illegal immigration. While we’re at it, let’s also remember that something like a third of this land we call home was forcefully annexed from those happy Mexicans.
    @Dave Stephens
    Golly, defensive aren’t we? I didn’t accuse you of anything. I just made an observation. And how does anti-racism equal anti-hate? Some things are worth hating. Like racism.

  9. We have met the enemy and he is Jeff Taylor. Jeff’s job as editor of his newspaper was to protect his ‘talent’ from the ‘chilling effect’. Good luck to Gary and his ed page editor next time they believe their boss has their back?because most likely Jeff’s knife is in it.

  10. The cartoon speaks the truth. When liberals can’t face the truth they resort to the good ol’ racism argument. We only need to look at what’s happening in Ferguson to see that. Confronted with overwhelming evidence that officer Wilson’s version of what happened is true, liberals can’t argue the facts so they scream “racism.” They did it in the Trayvon Martin case. They did it in the O.J. case. And they’re doing it now in the Michael Brown case. And Terry LaBan is doing it with this cartoon. When do they stop, look in a mirror, and ask themselves, “Hey, maybe the problem isn’t racism, maybe the problem is us.”

  11. It would have been nice if the cartoon had mirrored, not the fear of anti-immigration people who haven’t examined the executive order but its reality. The metaphor of “they’re coming in the window” suggests new people coming, when the policy deals with those already here and not only is explicit in not including newcomers but directs funding to increased border security.

    I’m not saying it’s as simple as showing everyone gathered around a table with the father saying, “I guess we’re not allowed to throw you out until you’ve eaten,” which would be more accurate. Sometimes a metaphor simply doesn’t work and I think this is one of those cases.

    On the other hand, if you were to try that, you once more would run the danger of depicting the “deserving” as “default Americans” which is to say, Ken and Barbie and Ozzie and Harriet. There are a lot of born-Americans who don’t look like that, and “politically correctness” is a knife that cuts both ways. Apparently from the counter-outrage, it’s not politically correct to suggest that America is a multicultural society, either.

  12. @Carl Moore
    The cartoon “speaks the truth”? Which is…that America’s being overrun by Mexicans? Uh, ok. You’re a brave man, Carl, spitting in the eyes of the political correctness police. I’d just love to know what you think that has to do with Ferguson.
    Actually, I don’t think this cartoon IS racist. It’s nativist, that is, it seeks to defend an group it sees as embattled–regular, i.e. white Americans–against an invading Other. Racism and nativism are cousins, flip sides of the same coin. They’re not the same thing, but if you put them together, you have the Klu Klux Klan.
    @ Mike Peters
    The fact Varvel doesn’t address Obama’s actual policy proves my point. Varvel doesn’t care about actual policy–he’s just terrified of the brown hordes. Which is exactly what makes this cartoon so odious.

  13. Wow. I really don’t get all of this. It’s an editorial cartoon and by definition it means the cartoonists opinion. Whether you agree with it or not it should’nt have been altered or pulled.It should have just been debated on it’s own merits and left at that.
    Is there any of us here who have never done a cartoon that someone might find offensive?
    I get the point. It’s sorta humorous and the art is great but guess what, maybe I don’t agree with it. That’s where it should end.
    For example I loathe FOX news as much as anything but they should be left to their own devices and we as cartoonist should make fun of them and welcome the endless stream of material.
    We should talk about them but we shouldn’t get rid of them.
    The hardest and most important speech to protect is that in which you don’t agree with.

  14. @Terry
    You are misreading this toon and you are misreading what I’m saying. And you’re doing so because like many liberals you’re wearing racism-colored glasses and see racism even when it’s not present.

    The cartoon is not about racism. Nor is it implying anything about racism. It’s your comments that raise the specter of racism. The family having Thanksgiving dinner represents the United States. The people climbing through the window – an act that signifies criminality – represent immigrants coming into our country illegally. Some 90% of illegals happen to be latino, yes, but the ethnicity of these immigrants in terms of the cartoon itself doesn’t matter. The cartoon is saying that coming to this country illegally is a is a rude and gross thumbing of the nose at and disrespecting of our laws. The fact that you see the cartoon as a white family fearful of brown hordes supports my point that liberals – I assume you are a liberal – throw around the accusation of racism much too easily and often unwarranted. In Ferguson liberals are also making unwarranted accusations of racism. There is no evidence at all that officer Wilson was motivated by racism. Why are liberals so quick to make claims of racism? Answer: Racism-colored glasses.

  15. @Carl
    How am I misreading this cartoon? You’re interpretation is essentially the same as mine. You just agree with the opinion. And I’ll say it again–the cartoon isn’t racist. It’s nativist. Nativist, nativist, nativist. That’s still bad, but it’s different. As for Ferguson, I’m still not sure what happened stemmed from racism. But given that pretty much EVERY issue in this country involves race and always has, it’s always worth asking the question. I understand that’s a statement that will make your veins bulge. But white conservatives–and I assume you are one– have always had a pretty tangential relationship to history.
    Just because it’s someone’s opinion doesn’t mean it’s worthy of being printed on the editorial page of a major metropolitan newspaper. Editors of private, for-profit publications have the right and responsibility to curate the opinions that are printed under their masthead. If Varvel doesn’t like his paper’s editorial policy, he’s free to submit cartoons to, say, Stormfront.

  16. As a non-American, I understand this cartoon as a comment to the reform of the US immigration policy.
    A political/editorial cartoon without exaggeration and provocation
    would be worthless. Gary Varvel did his job well.
    IMO, the editor who not only removed this cartoon but even apologized seem to be one hell of a spineless yes-man who should apologized to his reader and his boss because of being the wrong man on the wrong job.

    Karsten Schley, Cartoonist, Hamburg, Germany

  17. As a non-American, I understand this cartoon as a comment to the reform of the US immigration policy.
    A political/editorial cartoon without exaggeration and provocation
    would be worthless. Gary Varvel did his job well.
    IMO, the editor who not only removed this cartoon but even apologized (to whom??) seem to be one hell of a spineless yes-man who should apologize to his readers and his boss because of being the wrong man at the wrong job.

    Karsten Schley, Cartoonist, Hamburg, Germany

  18. To those who are indignant at the assertion that this cartoon is racist and/or nativist, there is only this to say: You don’t get it. That’s all there is to it. You just don’t get it.

  19. Would have to know Varvel’s inner thoughts, but shouldn’t we give him the benefit of doubt in this case? Unlike his lack of facts when he attacks the Affordable Care Act…. Would he acknowledge that the Bush administration paid Jonathan Gruber more than &1.2 million for his expertise on health care?

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