This blog entry showed up on my social media today, and lets just say it made me a bit squicky... If you click on it, you can see why. I thought about saying something to the AATF about it (the group who shared the blog) but some folks beat me to it.
Because I didn't ask for permission to publish their comments i'm going to copy and paste the conversation below. My take is that i'm all for trying to represent diversity within francophonie, but the group who posted this should have been more aware about how this would be problematic, esp in the north american context. Having said that, I don't think it's appropriate even in a European context, given that there's a history of blackface there along with the the current rise in racism in France at the moment.
Here's the conversation(translated from French):
Commenter1: I find these drawings offensive. Who looks like this??? Is it the 1940's???Small hairy is not against the stereotype. It is a stereotypes. I find it insensitive to others. Like me and my family for example
AATF: I'm interested in your reactions to this BD. It is quite well known in Belgium and France. is the character or the story? I contacted Stéphanie who uses it with her CM classes. She is also curious. Please let's continue this conversation. Merci! (they then posted this link)
AATF:All the themes of the series makes an undeniable openness to the world: very strong and high-profile issues such as racism or pollution permit, for example to initiate the debate on social issues.
Commenter2:I had never heard of Petit Poilu until today. From what you are saying, the themes it tackles seem totally appropriate. I was shocked by the appearance of the character and his mother though. It evokes the depiction of African Americans in animated cartoons in the first half of the 20th century. As such to use this cartoon in your class would appear to condone the inappropriate racial attitudes of this period that thankfully are no longer the norm in the US . Being a cartoon from Belgium or France , it does not carry over there ( in Europe) the same charged historical meaning that it does here, especially for an African American student. While the themes are important, they would be overshadowed by the racist connotations ( for an American viewer).
AATF:Someone brought up the point that Petit poilu and Elmo are quite similar, but that Elmo is Red. We also noticed that there are no black Muppets. Stéphanie (French CM teacher) noted that he is well-liked by parents of all backgrounds in Europe because he is black. The cultural differences between the continents can be tricky. Investigation and conversation are great ways to share our thoughts. Merci encore!