You’re a Racist, Charlie Brown?

On the belated controversy over a 45-year-old cartoon.

Jeremy Helligar

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I’ll never forget the time someone disinvited me from a party because I’m black. It was back when I was a seventh-grade student at Denn John Middle School in Kissimmee, Florida. One of my white classmates invited me to a party she was throwing at her house, but days before the event, she told me it was cancelled.

Shortly after she broke the news, another friend, who also was white, gave me a disturbing piece of intel. According to her, the party was still on, but the classmate throwing the party was too embarrassed to tell me that her mother didn’t want a black kid in her house. She demanded that her daughter disinvite me or call it off.

My classmate chose door number one, and I never told her that I knew. I was pretty sure I didn’t miss much, but the rejection stung.

I recovered fairly quickly and went about my tween life (to this day, I remain friends with both classmates), but I thought about that old sting this Thanksgiving when I read about the latest racism uproar. It concerned the 45-year-old seasonal animated special A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and the secondary character Franklin, the only black friend in the Peanuts bunch.

Suddenly eagle-eyed viewers noticed that during the dinner scene, Franklin was seated alone on one side of the table, in a lawn chair, while four were on the other side in proper dining chairs. Even Snoopy got one of the good seats!

Outcry ensued. Some apparently felt that the children’s cartoon was racist for segregating the black character. It’s the sort of controversy that could exist only in these times of deep racial division. Belated though it might be, there’s no statute of limitations on outrage.

I, however, don’t count myself among the outraged. Perhaps it’s desensitization. Or maybe it’s the knowledge that even if it was a deliberate move by Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz, it was also a reflection of the times. I was disinvited to my classmate’s party a decade after A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s TV debut, so, if nothing else, it accurately reflected America’s black-and-white culture in 1973.

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Jeremy Helligar

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj