The Ancient Order of Hibernians has commended the Overseas Press Club of America for changing their Thomas Nast award in light of his “ugly bias against immigrants, the Irish and Catholics.”
The Thomas Nast Award for Best Cartoons on International Affairs is no more, as a review of Nast’s attitudes toward immigrants, the Irish, and Catholics, caused the Overseas Press Club of America to change the name of the prize.
Since 1978, the award from the OPC has been named for the influential 19th-century American cartoonist but as Irish groups highlighted the anti-Irish bias Nast displayed throughout his work, the Board of Governors felt that his cartoons that “exhibited an ugly bias against immigrants, the Irish and Catholics” were not in line with the ideals of the prize.
“The Board had a thoughtful and robust conversation regarding the issues brought to light regarding some of Thomas Nast’s editorial cartoons,” said OPC President Pancho Bernasconi.
“Once we became aware of how some groups and ethnicities were portrayed in a manner that is not consistent with how journalists work and view their role today, we voted to remove his name from the award.”
The move was commended by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, who were among those to push for the change.
“The Overseas Press Club and their President Pancho Bernasconi are to be commended for their reevaluation of the totality of Nast’s legacy, their sensitivity, and their continuing commitment to promoting the highest ideals of journalism,” the AOH said in a statement.
“It cannot be disputed that Thomas Nast was a skilled, creative artist of historical significance. He is often considered the ‘Father of the Editorial Cartoon’ and is credited with the creation of the symbolism of Columbia, the Republican Party Elephant and the popular image of Santa Claus.
“However, Nast was also the creator and perpetrator of numerous bigoted stereotypes targeting Irish and Catholic Americans. The hateful bigotry manifested in Nast’s frequent depictions of Irish Americans as violent apes are commonly used in school curricula as prime examples of anti-immigrant nativism. There is no nuance in Nast's depictions of Irish Americans and Catholics that would lead any reasonable person to a benign interpretation.
“It is disappointing that apologists for Nast often dismiss his detestable depictions of the Irish and Catholics as a minor idiosyncrasy, or worse yet indulge in the same defaming Irish stereotypes in attempts to justify Nast’s despicable imagery,” the statement continued.
“Nast's hateful intolerance against the Irish cannot be palliated by his depiction of Columbia and Santa Clause; rather Nast’s anti-Irish works are a hypocritical betrayal of all that those beloved symbols stand for. Rather than being lionized in a prestigious award, Thomas Nast should instead be used as a cautionary tale of how great talent can be corrupted by prejudice.
“Amidst the current immigration debate gripping our country, today's talented editorial cartoonists are creatively challenging us to reflect on our attitudes and government policy; it is likely that many of the submissions for this year’s OPC Best Cartoon Award will center on this topic. It would have been an ironic tragedy if rightful commendation of a work pricking our conscience on immigration were to be depreciated by an award bearing the name of a hateful chauvinist.”
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