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Political Cartoonists G.F Keller and Louis Dalrymple

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Life of a foreigner

Mohamad Farhat

Cluster 20A

Diya Bose

12 December 2017

After the Civil War ended, new constitutional amendments granted the American dream of liberty to all races despite skin color and ethnicity. These amendments are the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendment, which helped solidify America’s step towards an equal society. However, many of these rights were not carried out as intended because black codes, segregation, and immigration isolation created a division of inequality.  Political cartoonists G.F Keller and Louis Dalrymple illustrated an era fueled by the Civil War by using Uncle Sam and Columbia as a symbolization to portray racial perceptions that white people had towards minorities and immigrants. Symbolism is utilized when Keller discusses the achieved equality through the reality of social inequality caused by racial hierarchy and negative racialization, and as Dalrymple’s speaks of the post-civil war era revealing the ways in which U.S citizens racialized immigrants.  

Keller’s political cartoon symbolizes Uncle Sam to portray the reality of America and ethnic subordination resulting in white superiority. Through Uncle Sam’s arrogant posture, noble clothing, and unshared turkey dinner, he symbolizes the different perspectives of White Americans. Being a white American means societal privileges are allotted that benefit whites but not non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. George Lipsitz argues that, “white power secures its dominance by seeming not to be anything in particular…Whiteness never has to speak its name, never has to acknowledge its role as an organizing principle in social and cultural relations”[1].1In other words, one realizes white hegemony since Uncle Sam is being served by a black American which highlight that blacks do not fully have equal rights. Whites’ desire is to keep blacks enslaved and far from contributing in society. As illustrated in the political cartoon, Whites perceive Blacks as domestics.  In other words, white people are dominant over non-whites, because of their “white” title. Keller portrays this racial hierarchy by observing Uncle Sam’s stance in society through the Thanksgiving dinner with the foreigners.

While Uncle Sam is dressed professionally, seated in an extravagant chair, and ready to have a proper meal, the immigrants are dressed in faded clothing, handed inadequate silverware, seated in rusty chairs, and eating poor quality food. To illustrate, the imagery identifies a contrast between white predominance and minority subordination which is apparent in society. For instance, the Wagner Act, Federal Act, and post-second world war trade unions down casted constitutional guarantees and promoted a possessive investment in whiteness.[2]2 Keller’s use of Uncle Sam symbolizes white America as a country that felt they racially superior to minority groups.

In addition, Keller uses the depiction of Lady Columbia to exemplify the United States linked to negative racialization. Often, Colombia is portrayed with an elegant robe, but Keller portrays her with poor attire and a negative attitude. Columbia's image is transcended from being the symbol of acceptance and liberty to a cook for an unequal racially profiled Thanksgiving. Columbia seems horrified that her ideal Thanksgiving is being destroyed by the immigrants. With the use of Lady Liberty, it is a vital message that implies a negative racialization of immigrants that are ruining an idealistic United States, because she wants to remain in control during an important holiday dinner.  For example, the Native American man is shirtless eating an uncooked deer leg and a Chinese man is viewed eating a bowl of rats[3].3 These depictions of immigrants portrays them as animalistic. Racialization is created through racial hierarchy because the immigrants are dehumanized and irrational. Keller criticizes the ideas of a melting pot and demonstrates negative racialization that causes prejudice. In the cartoon, many of the immigrants are symbolically seated in America. The exclusion of the immigrants at the dinner tables, contrasts the symbolism of Columbia’s, due to immigrant incorporation and the lack of constitutional guarantees. In addition, Tomas Almaguer mentions that the Chinese Exclusion Act of 18824 is similar to Keller's use of Columbia that dismays the Thanksgiving dinner because political guarantees that is subordinated by the reality of racial inequality.[4]

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