It's pretty funny seeing Dr. Seuss artwork in political cartoons. Explore the links to the cartoons. There's some interesting stuff there. Some of the issues he's dealing with are old enough that I have no clue what he's getting at, and some were probably really controversial for their time but now seem amazing that they were an issue to begin with. But what struck me as especially strange was the comment thread.
The very first comment links to a cartoon related to Japanese internment. I find it absolutely astounding that everyone in the discussion would just assume that what Geisel is portraying in that cartoon is an endorsement of internment rather than a portrayal of how strange the policy was, showing the paranoia in thinking every single Japanese American is all lined up ready to betray this country. Given his thoroughly liberal (for the time) views on racially-related policies, why would people simply assume that the cartoon endorses internment? Even leaving aside what we know about Ted Geisel, I look at the cartoon and can see how someone with either view might have created such a portrayal. This is a political cartoon. People do things like that all the time. I seem to remember a Eugene Volokh at the very same blog about someone who produced three political cartoons intended to portray three very different and in fact contradictory views of the same incident (but unfortunately I couldn't find it when I just looked). Yet on the same blog, people completely ignore that and assume that a cartoon portrays the literal views of the person doing it. Has the possibility of satire completely left our political consciousness?
That was just something I found strange about this conversation. What I found truly offensive was the assumption throughout the conversation that support for internment could come only from a racist, which is just crazy. Aside from the issues of whether there were internment policies for other groups (e.g. German Americans) and whether being Japanese counts as a race (rather than the more accurate category of ethnicity), someone could advocate a policy that involves heavy racial or ethnic profiling against a group that one believes (wrongly or rightly) to have a high percentage of people who are a threat, all without harboring any negative attitude toward anyone on the basis of race or ethnicity
One need not be a racist to practice racial profiling in high crime areas where 98% of the crimes are committed by young black males dressed in a certain way. It's easily motivated by a deep concern for a high crime rate in a neighborhood largely populated by black people, wanting that neighborhood to be safer for its residents. One need not be a racist to practice racial profiling of Arabs with a certain look who are more likely to be terrorists. It can just as easily be motivated by a desire to protect Arabs and to distinguish between the real criminals and the law-abiding Arabs. One similarly need not be a racist to practice racial profiling of Japanese who might be more likely to be spies in a WWII setting. Even if internment is the wrong way to go about it, that would be an intellectual mistake and not racism.
Someone should be able to admit this no matter their views on whether internment was the right policy. What I'm saying has nothing to do with whether it's wrong to profile in such a way. That's not the issue. The point is that it's not necessarily racist. Racism requires a negative attitude toward the group in question. One may not have that but still think it's the most effective law enforcement strategy given the statistical facts. I think it's incredibly unfortunate that people jump from Malkin's view to the charge of racism when that's just a complete non sequitur.
The best that can be done to motivate the racism charge is to call it a kind of institutional racism, i.e. a set of policies or structures in society that harm along racial lines. But that doesn't seem to me to be the claim here. These people are calling Michelle Malkin a racist. You don't call someone a racist for being part of an involuntary and entrenched social structure that has an unintended racial harm. Calling someone a racist amounts to accusing them of racial ill will, and there's no evidence whatsoever that Malkin or Geisel can be accused of that. That's why I found most of the discussion in the comments on that post to be deeply offensive. When you're dealing with charges of racism, you must, must, must keep in mind these incredibly important distinctions. Otherwise you're minimizing the evil of true racism by treating much lesser offenses (and even things that are relatively unproblematic) as being on the same level as one of the deepest evils of human history.