We as a society can’t dance around the issue of race. The recent debate that arose from a series of comics run in the past three issues of the CT, culminating in a response comic where a black man is lynched after inquiring to a store owner about all the “crackers” in the store. Taken in context, this comic was not racist.
This comic was in response to another comic that some perceived as promoting stereotypes of black people as actively seeking an excuse to commit violence against whites. That “Undersexed” comic potrayed a black student who cut the ‘T’ out of a Tigger costume, and then beat up a white student when he was asked what an “igger” was.
The author of “When Comics Aren’t Funny” perceived that many people, especially whites, were not even aware of that potential interpretation.
He created a comic to illustrate to white people what it was to be the subject of such racism. The artist chose to respond in comic form so it was a direct parallel response to the initial comic.
When people laughed at the “Undersexed” comic, the author felt people unwittingly supported these attitudes. His comic was to provoke thought, and question the source of that laughter.
Our decision to run “When Comics Aren’t Funny” was not to provoke debate or be clever, but since the debate had already begun with the “Undersexed” comic ? rightly or wrongly ? we did not want to prevent the debate from occurring. The CT values the free exchange of ideas, and it would be inappropriate to stifle one side of the debate just because it makes people uncomfortable.
Since clarity is so important to journalism, the CT did its best to place the comic in the context of the larger debate. This was done by adding the note to the comic directing readers to the “From the Editor” and a link to the “Undersexed” comic on our website.
We did not make the note any more prominent because the intent was not to unnecessarily highlight the comic and draw undue attention to it, but to place it in the context of the debate for those who did read it.
“Undersexed” was not rerun along side it because that would have aggravated the problems people had with the first comic, and it is against our policy to re-run items that letters or editorials discuss. The CT’s responsibility is to facilitate understanding the best we can, but we can’t force or ensure that people will follow the links we provided to learn about the entire issue.
Now that we’ve seen how “When Comics Aren’t Funny” was largely misunderstood, in hindsight we may have been able to make the comic more clear by providing additional written commentary. But in all sincerity, at the time we thought that we did place the comic in sufficient context to clearly convey its message. The CT continues to stand behind its decision to run the author’s message in comic form, because this medium allowed him to parallel the other comic as closely as possible.
It is important to make it clear that this comic would not have run in isolation. This comic was designed as a response, so it wouldn’t exist without the context it was written in, and therefore can’t be judged without this context.
Taken out of context the imagery used in Woodcock’s comic can be viewed as offensive, but in context the imagery is simply a powerful tool used to convey his message. The imagery’s power comes from the fact that it refers to a period in our history that makes blacks and whites alike uncomfortable, but this alone is not reason enough to hold the comic.
The fact that this imagery is so powerful underscores the fact that race still is an issue in today’s society. The CT’s job is to provide a forum for students to discuss all important issues, even when they are uncomfortable.
We apologize to the people who were not able to appreciate the context the comic was placed in. We in no way intended to sensationalize a sensitive issue, but rather to provide both sides of an argument.