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"What a maroon" is more than likely not a racist statement

by Cheryl E Preston 5 days ago in entertainment

The words were often uttered by Bugs Bunny and probably were a play on words and had nothing to do with runaway Jamaican American slaves.

In the early LOONEY TUNES animated shorts, Bugs Bunny at times said of Elmer Fudd, the Tazmanian Devil, and others "What a maroon." He uttered this statement behind their backs, always looking into the camera as if letting the audience know he was mocking his fellow Toons. Most of those who enjoyed the antics of the Wascally Wabbit probably assumed this was a play on the word moron which is a way to infer someone is an idiot for lack of a better word.

To be marooned indicates that an individual has been abandoned or left stranded somewhere. The cast of the 1960s television series GILLIGAN'S ISLAND was marooned on an uncharted desert Isle after being shipwrecked. There are however those who believe that when Bugs Bunny uses the word maroon that he is not implying that his Looney Tunes associates are stranded, and neither is he calling them morons. Some think the cartoon animators were inserting subtle racism into the wording because there is another use of the word maroon.

When the British conquered the Caribbean island of Jamaica in 1655 and took it from Spain, many slaves ran away from their Spanish-owned plantations. They were called Maroons which is derived from the Spanish word cimarrones which means mountaineers. The escaped slaves fled to the mountainous areas of Jamaica because it was difficult for their owners to find them there. As free men and women, these former slaves began their own independent communities.

Additional slaves were imported from Africa to work on the sugar plantations, and the number of enslaved Africans in Jamaica, began to grow which only increased the number of slave rebellions and some of the rebels joined the Maroons in the mountains. The Jamaican government saw these rebellious people as a threat and decided to wipe them out. A war ensued and led by Cudjoe the Maroons stood their ground and in 1739, the British and the Maroons made peace.

In the book In the Forests of Freedom: The Fighting Maroons of Dominica by Lennox, Honychurch describes the Maroons as fierce warriors who escaped captivity and survived fights with their enemies.

Statue of an actual Maroonthe

Maroons were also descendants of Africans in America who formed settlements away from slavery. They were considered to be fugitives and often mixed with indigenous peoples. Over time they evolved into separate creole cultures such as the Mascogos and the Garifuna. It is believed these runaway slaves were given the name Maroons because they were away from the General society forming their own settlements. Their communities were located in Florida, the Great Dismal Swamp on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, as well as the colonial islands of the Caribbean.

Some consider this group of escaped slaves to have been living in abandonment and said they were often without resources. This is more in tune with the original concept of being marooned indicating being cut off from civilization. It is quite a coincidence that the Jamaican word cimarrones which indicates a mountainous area sounds so similar.

For some reason there are those who believe that when Bugs Bunny says "What a maroon" he is poking fun at these runaway slaves. There is no way for us today to know exactly what was in the minds of these early animators but their reputation for offending does not make things any better. Pepe Le Pew was dropped from the new SPACE JAM film because the cartoon skunk through today's lens is considered as trying to force himself on Penelope Pussycat in spite of the fact that she pushes him away.\

Marooned on a desert Island

Throughout various cartoon episodes, Bugs Bunny refers to women as dames and witches. There has been a public outcry in recent years over the exaggerated accents and facial expressions of characters that represent those who are Scottish, Irish, Native American, Asian, French and African. Looney Tunes also stereotypes the mentally ill and the image of hillbillies. These issues were not examined in past generations as they are being now and most people laughed along considering it all as harmless fun.

Because of heightened awareness of what was inserted in the early cartoons, it makes sense that the use of the word Maroon would be questioned. The animators could have been using the word as a slur against the slaves that fought their way out of slavery in both the Caribbean and America but more than likely Bugs Bunny was doing a spoof of the word moron.

Cheryl E Preston
Cheryl E Preston
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Cheryl E Preston

Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, published author and former Newspaper columnist. She has degrees in Psycology and Biblical studies. She enjoys sharing natural cures, and Nostalgia related info. Tips are greatly appreciated.

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