Little explanation was given when Brentwood Patch editor Dennis Wilen was quietly relieved of his position in Spring of 2011. Nearly a year later, we find out that Wilen was sacked for running a cartoon–a supposedly “racist” cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz.
The cartoon went live just after midnight on May 5; I Tweeted about it, per AOL policy, and posted a link on Brentwood Patch’s Facebook page. The headline Lalo and I wrote? “It’s Cinco de Mayo – do you know where your gardener is?” I thought the cartoon — marked as opinion — perfectly expressed Brentwood’s reality and it still makes me laugh.
Early the next day I got a call from my regional editor directing me to remove the cartoon and delete my Tweets and Facebook posts. Someone in AOL’s New York headquarters decided Lalo’s image of two Latinos “reenacting the Battle of Puebla” (a housekeeper with a broom and a gardener with a leaf blower) constituted “blatantly racist stereotypes” (it could have been “patently racist”.) They were objectionable, said my boss.
“Wait!” I said. ”Lalo IS a Latino. He is the country’s first nationally-syndicated Latino cartoonist (La Cucaracha.) He has written books and won awards! Are you calling Lalo a racist?”
“New York finds it objectionable, ” was the reply.
Wilen was canned the next day for publishing “racist” material. The cartoon in question can be seen here. We’re not the end-all-be-all on such matters, but it seems pretty obvious to us that the cartoon is nowhere near racist, and is clearly satirizing the patronizing approach to race relations and cultural empathy that many people in wealthy neighborhoods like Brentwood employ.
Wilen kept the incident quiet until this week, when he announced that he would now be helping Lalo re-launch his website POCHO.com.
H/T LA Observed