Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Table Is Not Racist

Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Table Is Not Racist

Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving Table Is Not Racist

In the classic show A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown is roped into throwing a Thanksgiving dinner by Peppermint Patty – who invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over for dinner – even though all he can serve his guests is toast, pretzels, and popcorn.

I should know the plot; I’ve only watched this show about 100 times since Halloween ended and my kids promptly switched to the next Peanuts DVD in our collection.

But apparently, there’s a rumor that just won’t die: that Charlie Brown, or strip creator Charles Schulz, is a racist because Franklin sits all by himself in a folding chair on one side of the table.

ABC aired A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving as part of their pre-holiday programming, and fans had some issues with the classic special.

The classic television special based on the Peanuts comic strip originally aired back in 1973 and continues to be essential programming for American families, along with the other specials 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas and 1966’s It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

However, 2018 audiences did not stay silent to some controversial scenes from the show, with many labeling the program as “racist” on social media.

“Watching Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving is hard knowing they put my n— Franklin at the end of the table by himself,” one Twitter user wrote.

“Watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving as I always do and I’m tight [as f—] every year because they give Franklin a freaking folding pool chair to sit on while everyone else has a comfy chair,'” another user commented.

One particular scene did not sit well with viewers as the Peanuts cast united for the holiday feast when Franklin, the only African American member of the cast sits on his own on one side of the table.

The confusing seating arrangement for the dinner left many viewers concerned as to what message the vintage television special showed its younger audiences.

“How come Franklin, Charlie Brown’s only black friend, sits alone on the other side of the table? And in a lawn chair,” another user commented.

You know how long this slander has been going around? Since at least 2015, because that’s when Snopes published an article about it, telling the story of Franklin and declaring the slander as false.

And people forget that the lawn chair that Franklin sits in was a huge comedic moment earlier in the show.

After that fight, it’s a wonder that the chair can actually still have anyone sit on it.

But more to the point – the character of Franklin turned 50 years old earlier this year. Here’s a brief history of how he was created.

Martin Luther King Jr. had been dead 11 days.

His assassination fresh on her mind, Harriet Glickman, a teacher raising three kids in suburban Los Angeles, sat down at her typewriter.

“Dear Mr. Schulz,” she wrote, “since the death of Martin Luther King, I’ve been asking myself what I can do to help change those conditions in our society which led to the assassination and which contribute to the vast sea of misunderstanding, hate, fear and violence.”

Mr. Schulz was Charles Schulz. Glickman thought the creator of the popular Peanuts comic strip could play a small part in promoting tolerance and interracial friendship by including a black character in his strip.

She sent off the letter, not expecting a reply.

Schulz did write back, to say he had considered her suggestion. But he worried that if he created such a character, black parents might think he was condescending to their families.

With Schulz’s permission, Glickman asked two of her black friends to send him some ideas on how to make a black character relatable.

A few weeks later, the cartoonist responded.

“You will be pleased to know that I have taken the first step in doing something about presenting a Negro child in the comic strip during the week of July 29,” Schulz said. “I have drawn an episode which I think will please you.”

Just like that, Franklin was born.

Franklin is just a regular kid, being treated by the other kids like any other kid in the strip. He might not have excessively quirky characteristics, and he ends up playing the straight man, but his presence in the Peanuts universe is simply normal. I am so tired of the “woke” of 2018 looking back at cultural touchstones like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and coming away with social justice lectures instead of any kind of feeling of fun or gratitude – especially considering that Charles Schulz staked his strip on Franklin’s inclusion.

In a 1988 interview, Schulz told the story of how the president of United Features, Larry Rutman, the syndicator for Peanuts, wanted him to get rid of Franklin.

Later on, when Franklin was introduced into the strip, the little black kid—I could have put him in long before that, but for other reasons, I didn’t. I didn’t want to intrude upon the work of others, so I held off on that. But I finally put Franklin in, and there was one strip where Charlie Brown and Franklin had been playing on the beach, and Franklin said, “Well, it’s been nice being with you, come on over to my house some time.” Again, they didn’t like that. Another editor protested once when Franklin was sitting in the same row of school desks with Peppermint Patty, and said, “We have enough trouble here in the South without you showing the kids together in school.” But I never paid any attention to those things, and I remember telling Larry at the time about Franklin—he wanted me to change it, and we talked about it for a long while on the phone, and I finally sighed and said, “Well, Larry, let’s put it this way: Either you print it just the way I draw it or I quit. How’s that?” So that’s the way that ended. But I’ve never done much with Franklin, because I don’t do race things. I’m not an expert on race, I don’t know what it’s like to grow up as a little black boy, and I don’t think you should draw things unless you really understand them, unless you’re just out to stir things up or to try to teach people different things. I’m not in this business to instruct; I’m just in it to be funny. Now and then I may instruct a few things, but I’m not out to grind a lot of axes. Let somebody else do it who’s an expert on that, not me.

The world of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and their friends is simpler and more uncomplicated than the world of 2018. It’s also a lot nicer of a place to be, especially considering Charlie Brown’s grandmother ends up inviting all of her grandson’s guests to Thanksgiving dinner at her condo at the end of the show. Even Franklin. Where, presumably, everyone sits in a real chair around a real table, with a real Thanksgiving dinner.

May we all be as generous as Charlie Brown’s grandmother on this Thanksgiving.

Welcome Instapundit Readers!

Featured image: A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (image via screenshot from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment YouTube channel)

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  • George V says:

    Way back when there was a Bob Dylan song “Talkin John Birch Paranoid Blues”, a first-person narration of a guy who thought them Reds were all around him. (Today, maybe they are, but that’s another story!).

    One line of the lyrics went: “I wus lookin’ high an’ low for them Reds everywhere, I wus lookin’ in the sink an’ underneath the chair. I looked way up my chimney hole, I even looked deep inside my toilet bowl! They got away…”

    These folks who see racism everywhere remind me of that guy in Dylan’s song. Substitute “racists” for “Reds” and there it is.

  • windbag says:

    I noticed that Marcie and Linus are seated alone. Surely, there’s a message there, too.

  • GWB says:

    while everyone else has a comfy chair
    Say what? Marcie is sitting in one of those crappy 1950s aluminum kitchen chairs. Patty is sitting in something that looks like a bamboo chair from a porch (that one might be comfy), and everyone else is in a straight-backed, un-cushioned dining room chair! You know, the kind that “give you good posture”. “Comfy” is not the word most people use to describe those!

    Now, if you had said “chairs from which it is easy to eat off the table” I might agree. Normally those things put you way too low to eat off a table. But Franklin appears to be doing just fine.

    The sensitivity is one thing. Sure, might not be the best we can do.
    But it’s the substitution of that for those feelings of gratitude and common affection that’s the real problem.

    When we look around and people are screaming at each other about “racist!” and “sexist!” and “homo/trans/whateverphobe!” that’s when we get that uncomfortable feeling. It can be hard to pin down. We get yelled at even more if we protest “but my friends/wife/children are _________”.
    But it comes down to, if we do not honor their religious beliefs of how awful and horrible America is, then we must be terrible heathens who should be cast out or tortured until we confess their faith. THAT is what that uncomfortable feeling is, that these people can’t even recognize goodness when they see it.

    I’m not one for excusing imperfection. In my faith, you can NEVER be good enough for God. But that God also gives us mercy and grace, and does commend us – even non-believers – when they show grace and love to others. Those good works won’t get you into heaven, but they certainly are pleasing to God when done. Especially when they’re done because you can see another person as God intended, not as sin has flawed them (while not excusing their flaws).

    The entire world is mired in sin. That we have overcome so much of it is testament to our founding in Christian values. Share those values today: love, faith, charity, hope, and yes, a yearning for true liberty.

  • Randy Wilde says:

    Forget racism… what about the dinner Snoopy and Woodstock share? Woodstock seems pretty excited about a turkey dinner… Cannabilism!

    • Joshua K. says:

      Woodstock looks like a canary to me. It isn’t cannibalism for him to eat turkey, just because they are both birds, than it is for a human to eat a cow or a pig, just because they are both mammals.

  • The Count says:

    Let’s go through the seating arrangements based on the characters and story:

    Linus sits a the head of the table because he does most of the talking and needs to face us.

    Sally sits next to him because she has always had a crush on him.

    Charlie Brown will sit next to Sally because he’s her brother and has an outsized sense of duty in these matters.

    Patty sits next to him because she’s kind of controlling and she put him up to this thing anyway so she’ll sit next to the host. Charlie Brown is now crowded in kind of awkwardly which also helps the comedy.

    Snoopy sits next to her because it’s funny and he should be close to us and not blocked by anyone.

    Marci is a nobody and has her back to us.

    So Franklin sits on the other side because it’s the only place left and because Shultz wants to feature him and the funny chair. He’s across the table from Charlie Brown, the star of Peanuts and the host. He’s not across from the dog, or worse, on the same side of the table with him. He could have had his back to us if Schultz wanted to downplay it but he didn’t. He wanted to feature him, make sure you noticed. Everything is working for the story and characters as we know them.

    Such a simple and human gesture, without being making it a central point in the way that is now customary in these matters.

    Thanks for posting, I’ve been a lifelong fan and am relieved that there’s nothing to this story.

  • Jack W says:

    I seem to remember that sitting diagonally across from someone is the optimal position for conversation. Franklin has the best seat at the table.

  • D3F1ANT says:

    Sad that so many sites have rushed to defend this peanuts cartoon. NOT because it’s racist (it isn’t), but because by dignifying this stupidity with debate just makes it seem like a legitimate issue (it isn’t). Let’s not forget that white’s aren’t throwing a fit every time we get bashed on The Boondocks…which ACTUALLY attacks us.

    There will only be equality between the races when we stop entertaining nonsense like this as legitimate discourse instead of ridiculing it for the absurd race-baiting it is.

  • harleycowboy says:

    They’re claiming it’s racist because the black kid is sitting by himself.

  • Knuto says:

    Well…He has a spoon!

  • Gale Raisanen says:

    I just wonder what happened to the other 3 chairs that were originally on Franklin’s side of the table? 3 seconds before you see him sitting alone in the folding chair, there are 3 other chairs on that side of the table that disappear…..

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