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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Was Walt a Racist

For years people have accused Walt Disney of being a racist, an anti-Semite, a communist, a Nazi and a host of other awful things. Do any of those charges actually pan out?

The first one you can blow out of the water is the charge that he was a communist. Walt Disney HATED communists. When his animators went on strike he blamed the strike on the growing communist influence in America. If you called Walt a communist to his face I think it’s safe to say he’d knock your teeth out.

The Nazi charge makes me laugh. During World War Two Walt nearly ran his company into the ground making pro-allied war shorts. Many of the cartoon shorts they managed to get out made fun of the Nazis. Calling Walt a Nazi is almost as funny as calling him a communist.

Walt the anti-Semite? No one really knows where this idea came from. There are a few things that people point to but those things are circumstantial at best. One of those things is rather insane. People claim that during WWII Walt laid of 90% of his staff and that most of those 90% were Jewish. Think about for a minute. If Walt laid off mostly Jewish that meant HE HIRED MOSTLY JEWISH PEOPLE IN THE FIRST PLACE. How many anti-Semites would do that? He hired the most talented people he could find. The fact that they were Jewish most likely had nothing to do with it.

Another thing people jump all over is the appearance of Nazis and Jewish themes in his cartoons. Two things to keep in mind here. One: the term politically correct wouldn’t appear for decades when these cartoons were made. Two: How do you think people will look back at our portrayal of people from the middle east, decades from now? I’ll stick my neck out and say terms we use freely like Arab will not be PC then. We portray them now because it strikes a nerve with people. Media has always followed that rule. Walt was no different.

How about Walt the racist? People look at films like Song of the South, the crows in Dumbo, and a host of other characters as proof that Walt was a racist. If you take those out of context I’d agree. One glaring problem with that argument – all this took place before the civil rights movement. What you saw in those movies and cartoons was how the average person thought back then. That’s why they were so successful because a vast majority of Americans were entertained by them. Were a majority of Americans back then racist? The term “racist” infers hatred and loathing; a feeling that other races are less than human and should be treated as such. To label Walt with that term is insane.

To call Walt a racist based on the evidence that has been presented is not fair. If someone can provide me with real evidence I might change my story. If someone can point me to a statement he made in an interview or witnesses who saw him act in a truly racist manner I’d change my tune.

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