How to begin ? for those that haven’t read last week’s comic that I drew titled “When Comics Aren’t Funny?” please understand that it is a form of social commentary.
For those that have, and understood it as such, thank you. For those that interpreted blatant racism from the comic and were offended by it, please accept my deepest apology. It is this misunderstanding that has brought me to the page again to write. In America we need to examine and have discussion on two aspects of racism ? racial hypersensitivity and structural racism.
My comic from last week pictured a black character being hung from a tree by a white character. It also said at the very beginning that “This has happened? Everywhere, USA.”
First, we must not deny that violent racism is part of our history, with lynching being the most prominent symbol of that legacy. We then must recognize that comics are not only a way of being funny, but also a way of expressing views and opinions.
With this in mind, the comic is no longer read as racist, but as a point being made that we need to be aware of our past white on nonwhite racisms.
If we are quick to judge the comic as racist, we potentially fall victim to a larger symptom of America’s inability to admit its racist past and present ? racial hypersensitivity.
As a white person, I could potentially think that every black person being mean to me is doing so because I am white and she or he is black. But such action would be absurdity ? people are people as humans are humans.
Perhaps a harder part of our present syndrome of racism to understand is the racism that pervades our social structures. While person-to-person individual racism may be very well dead among many people, structures still exist that are responsible for the imprisonment and impoverishment of a disproportionate amount of African-Americans and Latinos nationwide, the presence of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York State ? unduly harsh laws that it could be argued target nonwhites ? and the police brutality that happened this August resulting in the murder of a black man. Yet people still stand here claiming that racism is over.
So where does my comic fit in? I hoped to respond to an earlier comic, saying that by depicting a black male baiting a white male into a racial slur and then having that black male being violent is something that we need to be very careful with.
The tricky part with this individual comic is that it came from a situation that almost happened. This does not change the fact that a reader could misinterpret the comic easily and understand it to be saying something systemic about black males being violent.
Thus, more clarity with the first comic was needed, so that racial hypersensitivity did not kick in. I feel that this clarity was provided with my comic.
There was a link to the original comic, there was enough preface and there was a statement citing that it was a response. Yet still there was confusion.
For this I have apologized, but I feel not all of the onus lies with me ? some must lie with the reader. If we are to overcome our problems in this country with racism, we must be willing to go past our potential initial hurt feelings and find an objective space.
Rather than pointing fingers instantly, we must look at the full picture. In doing so we must be conscious of the need for clarity of understanding, for structural and subtle racism is only slightly less sinful than blatant and violent racism.
Indeed, if both comics are read as racist, what is the real difference between the two?