You may remember Memin Pinguin. It’s a Mexican comic book featuring an exaggerated black cartoon character with thick lips and wide eyes whose “appearance, speech and mannerisms are the subject of kidding by white characters in the comic book.” Back in 2005, I noted that Mexican President Vicente Fox’s administration had issued a special Memin Pinguin stamp despite objections about the racially-charged image:
The comic book remains popular among Latinos. But Wal-Mart has had enough:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Wednesday it removed the comic book “Memin Pinguin” from its stores after receiving complaints the popular Mexican character was a racist depiction of blacks.
The series started 60 years ago in Mexico, and the main character, Memin Pinguin, is a black Cuban-Mexican boy with enlarged lips who often gets into mischief.
Wal-Mart recently started offering the Spanish-language comic in parts of California, Texas and Miami, where the giant retailer serves large populations of Hispanic customers.
“We understand that Memin is a popular figure in Mexico. However, given the sensitivities to the negative image Memin can convey to some we felt that it was best to no longer carry the item in our stores,” said Lorenzo Lopez, a spokesman for Wal-Mart.
“We apologize to those customers who may have been offended by the book’s images,” Lopez added.
A black woman in Houston told the Houston Chronicle this week she complained about the comic books after seeing them at a Wal-Mart.
“I said, wait a minute: Is this a monkey or a little black boy?” Shawnedria McGinty told the newspaper. “I was so upset. This is 2008.”
Many Mexicans argue Memin Pinguin is misunderstood in the United States and that he is a lovable character and not a racist depiction of blacks.
Somehow, I doubt they would buy that same explanation if a comic book depicted Mexicans in the same crude way.