White Privilege, by Keith Knight

Posted with the kind permission of Keith Knight; visit Keith’s website for many more cartoons.

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34 Responses to White Privilege, by Keith Knight

  1. 1
    Harold says:

    Hi, while I understand the larger point about who people in general believe commit crimes, in many instances I think during many public crimes and bad behavior in general “please do not have the person turn out to be similar/similar looking to myself”. I do understand the repercussions can be much more server for non-white people.

    Note: I believe the reason is that I have a fairly high degree of Self-consciousness.

  2. 2
    RonF says:

    I must say that in a situation like this it has never occurred to me to think “Please don’t let it be a white guy.” I’m not sure why he has the white guy reacting as he does in this cartoon, though.

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    The current cartoon that Keith has posted made me think of last night. The big local story here in Chicago regarding the Olympics is that so far two athletes with local connections have won gold. The gold medal winner in Men’s Figure Skating is from Naperville, a well-to-d0 western suburb. But Shani Davis won the 1 kilometer speed skating gold yesterday. He is the first athlete ever to successfully defend that medal, having won it in 2006 as well. Shani Davis is black and famously does not train or work much with the USA speed skating team’s other members and coaches. He and his mother have not been happy with them and I think his mother at least thinks they’re racist (I think more the team management, not the individual members). Shani is from Evanston, a northern suburb that borders Chicago and Lake Michigan.

  4. 4
    macon d says:

    RonF wrote,

    I must say that in a situation like this it has never occurred to me to think “Please don’t let it be a white guy.” I’m not sure why he has the white guy reacting as he does in this cartoon, though.

    He’s reacting that way because he has white privilege. In cases like these, that means that he and other white criminal suspects are often treated by the media, the police, and the judicial system, as individuals, and people of color are often not. Also, when white people hear that another white person has committed a crime, they never seem to feel a connection to the other person — nor that anyone else is making a connection between them and the other person. People of color, on the other hand, often do feel that way.

    Does that make any sense to you?

  5. 5
    Robert says:

    RonF, he’s saying that because he’s the gunman.

  6. 6
    RonF says:

    Also, when white people hear that another white person has committed a crime, they never seem to feel a connection to the other person

    Well, if he doesn’t feel a connection to the other person he’s not going to say “they’ll never catch me” – as opposed to saying “they’ll never catch him” – unless Robert’s right.

    If Robert’s right then you’d have to think that “white privilege” makes him invisible, which hardly applies to gunmen running around in cities. Cops tend to have a low tolerance for that kind of thing regardless of the gunman’s race.

    I’m not challenging the concepts you elucidate regarding the reactions of the other two characters in the cartoon. You’re right – I’d never hear about a crime and say “I hope it’s not a white guy”. But I don’t think the white guy’s reaction makes any sense.

  7. 7
    sylphhead says:

    The white guy being the gunman is the joke. Hence why it doesn’t make sense.

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    In cases like these, that means that he and other white criminal suspects are often treated by the media, the police, and the judicial system, as individuals, and people of color are often not.

    This is a rather broad generalization that I am having a hard time coming up with specific examples for.

  9. 9
    nobody.really says:

    “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog: few people are interested, and the frog dies of it.” E.B. White

    Here’s my take:

    The cartoon’s caption creates an expectation that the cartoon is about some large social dynamic.

    You see the black guy responding to the news story about a gunman and you’re supposed to realize, based on context, that this is not just any black guy, but a representation of black people in general.

    You see the next guy responding and you’re supposed to realize, based on context, that 1) he’s of Mid-Eastern descent and 2) he’s not just some guy of Mid-Eastern descent, but a representative of people of Mid-Eastern descent in general.

    Then you see the white guy. You’re primed to hear him say something that parallels what the first two guys said, something representative of white people in general. Instead he says something indicating he’s one specific individual white guy – specifically, the gunman.

    It’s funny, assuming you have developed an expectation about what the white guy is going to say – an expectation that can be thwarted to comic effect.

    It’s akin to the old joke “Knock knock.”/”Who’s there?”/”Boo.”/”Boo who?”/”Gee, you don’t have to cry about it….” The joke is funny to people who are sufficiently acquainted with Knock Knock jokes that they have an expectation about what the end of the joke will be – something like “When will boo open the door?” – but instead find a pun on the “boo hoo” expression of crying.

    The irony, to me, is that Amp appears to be presenting the cartoon here as a serious commentary on race relations, rather than as a light-hearted joke played on people who are sufficiently well-versed in commentaries about race relations to have developed expectations – expectations that can be thwarted to comic effect.

    Admittedly, I could read the cartoon more sardonically. Perhaps the cartoonist does offer the third character as a representative of white people in general. That is, the cartoonist may be saying that white people tend to behave antisocially and get away with it, whereas people of other ethnic groups do not. But absent more background on the cartoonist’s work I wouldn’t draw that inference — in part because it would seem more heavy-handed and less clever, and I place a high premium on cleverness.

  10. 10
    Sailorman says:

    huh. I don’t get the confusion. I got it right away:

    As a white dude (particularly a non-impoverished, reasonably conventional white dude) my chances of being undeservedly profiled based on my race are basically zero. That’s because nobody would profile me based SOLELY on my race. When a white dude commits a crime, people don’t don’t start going after “white dudes” in general.

    If I were nonwhite, my chances of being undeservedly profiled based on my race would be decidedly nonzero. When a nonwhite dude commits a crime, people often start going after “nonwhite dudes” in general.

    Ergo the cartoon. Seems perfectly accurate to me.

  11. 11
    Fat Hen says:

    The idea of ‘white privilege’ is pure racist poison in the time honoured tradion of ‘all jews are money grubbing thieves’ and other assorted stupidities. A lot of your stuff looks good, but I’m surprised to find this kind of cringe-inducing bigotry here.

    Seriously, this is not good, it starts as light bigot banter, then the less smart people will push back in anger and one ‘joke’ will chase the next idiotic insult and before we know it, we’ll have the racists of all colours run the place with hate and suspicion whilst the decent people (of all colours) end up hiding in fear.

    Racism is truly colourblind, never forget that.

  12. 12
    RonF says:

    Racism is truly colourblind, never forget that.

    Here we go. Pass the popcorn.

  13. 13
    Fat Hen says:

    I don’t think this is a pop corn matter, but if you have a basket of rotten tomatoes handy that we can lob at the bigots… ;-)

  14. 14
    Mandolin says:

    fat hen–I’m not going to debate you on this thread on this, and neither is anyone else (and by the way, if you’re not a Jew, stay the fuck away from appropriating my experience for your racism, thanks). If you want to learn about the blog’s position on white privilege, then do a blog search on the term, and do some reading. Engage someone on one of those threads, and someone might do you the favor of responding.

    Starting links, because I’m feeling generous:
    http://www.case.edu/president/aaction/UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf
    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2005/12/02/how-not-to-be-insane-when-accused-of-racism/
    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2007/07/30/cartoon-white-lies/

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t think this is a pop corn matter, but if you have a basket of rotten tomatoes handy that we can lob at the bigots… ;-)

    If you won’t discuss this seriously — including speaking respectfully to (and of) folks here who disagree with you — you’ll be asked to leave this blog.

  16. 16
    Elusis says:

    RonF – do you like yours with artificial butter-flavoured substance? I do, and lots of it.

  17. 17
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I understood the joke, but I do think it’s exaggerated.

    White people aren’t going to think in terms of being unfairly blamed for crimes because of their race. This includes effects on group reputation– it isn’t just about the police coming after you.

    However, this isn’t the same thing as white people believing that white criminals never get caught. It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of white people overestimate the competence of the police.

  18. 18
    clicktrigger says:

    Wow. This… isn’t what I expect to see here.

    Really? The “joke(s)” aren’t obvious?

    “In cases like these, that means that he and other white criminal suspects are often treated by the media, the police, and the judicial system, as individuals, and people of color are often not.”

    This is a rather broad generalization that I am having a hard time coming up with specific examples for.

    I’m… flabbergasted.
    Not trying to snark here or pick on this one comment in particular—honestly— but… really? Not even now, what with Joe Stark? And Amy Bishop? Scott Roeder? Go anywhere online and behold the apologia on behalf of both Stark and Bishop. Here’s just ONE of the many comments I’ve seen:

    “[Stark's] was not the act of a killer. This is the act of a common person who suffered incredible hardship growing up and had nothing left to fight with. I think the law should fully investigate the IRS in this case to see if this person gave them clues that he was this desperate.”

    Got that? His issues were very, very special and unique. Generalizations cannot be made! Not a killer!! Incredible hardship, y’all!! [Holy...!!] He just… I mean, he just had nothing left to fight with. Have some pity. Also? We should investigate the IRS! Sure he flew his private plane into a building full of federal employees probably a lot less solvent than himself, but it’s the IRS that’s responsible for this! Um… somehow. Point is, he’s the victim here!

    Have you ever heard anything like that for a nonwhite criminal?! I know I haven’t! That is a lot of compassion for a murderous, tax-dodging stranger; where the hell is it coming from?? Seriously. Jaded as I thought I was, I’m honestly shocked by the outpouring. And I’ve seen stuff like this everywhere. Ditto for Bishop. Students complained about her a year ago, but she kept her job. What do you think people would be saying if she weren’t white? Two words, over and over: “affirmative action!” Bitterest reflection: as a white woman, she may well have benefitted from it! But nobody cares about that!
    “Ha!! They’ll never catch me!”

    Have you ever, in your life, heard someone exclaim (seriously): “why do white people commit so much criiime??!” Probably not. And yet: Rape and sexual assault? Child porn and abuse? Drunk driving? Fraud and other “white-collar” [heh] crimes? That’d be white people, overwhelmingly. And yet, nobody talks about how white people are such degenerate criminals, or how their religion is dangerous, threatening and immoral, or even thinks to mention their ethnicity at all. Why is that??

    Okay, okay, I’m getting foamy now. Sorry. Let me try this this instead.
    Here’s what the cartoon means:
    Pleeese don’t let it be a black guy.
    (Money quote: “If he’s found guilty, blacks will riot!”)
    Pleeese don’t let it be a [Muslim].
    (Money quote: “I told my kids to stay home.”)
    …versus…
    Ha!! They’ll never catch me!!
    (MONEY QUOTE: “In case you haven’t been reading the horror stories on here, white people are getting hurt/killed/raped by white people.”)

    Sorry for the epic comment, but damn.

  19. 19
    Robert says:

    Amy Bishop didn’t get white privilege, she got female privilege. (Well, she got white privilege in other things, of course. But a white man with her history would have been in jail or a mental institution long ago.)

  20. 20
    JutGory says:

    I think what is making it difficult for people to see the humor in this is that the three people are not similar. I got the joke, but I had some similar hesitation about how funny it was.

    I think for the joke to work, the white guy should not have been the perpetrator. Then, his reaction would be similar in quality to the other two. The fact that he is the perpetrator automatically gives him a different perspective.

    That is what feels disjointed about the joke. You expect to compare his response to the other two, as if all three of them are disinterested observers. Privilege would still dictate his response as different, but, given that the difference is based on the fact that he IS the person they are looking for, it does not flow right.

    Some of the other commenters have given good alternate interpretations of the joke. But, it is a different joke than I expected-and fell flat as a result. I expected a comparison of apples and apples; making one of the apples an orange made it a little confusing and less funny (because it did not seem as well-crafted, or as witty, or as insightful). And, for that matter, I am not sure which interpretation is the intended one.

    -Jut

  21. 21
    RonF says:

    Go anywhere online and behold the apologia on behalf of both Stark and Bishop.

    The places I hang out at on-line condemn him as a killer. I haven’t seen anyone at Free Republic or other such places attempt to justify his act. Now, I’m sure you can find some citations that do. But if you look on the ‘net you can find citations to justify anything that anyone does. That doesn’t mean that they are representative of any great number of people.

    Have you ever heard anything like that for a nonwhite criminal?!

    Sure. It is common (in the Chicago Tribune at least) that when some black or Hispanic gang member slaughters or rapes someone a quote will be presented in the story that says he was really a nice kid, wasn’t in a gang, would never kill someone, etc. Or else you’ll see a comment justifying it because the kid was brought up in a broken home, in the projects where he’s surrounded by poverty/crime/drugs/bad associates/racism, etc.

    Have you ever, in your life, heard someone exclaim (seriously): �why do white people commit so much criiime??!�

    I think I’ve seen it here on this very blog.

    Rape and sexual assault? Child porn and abuse? Drunk driving? Fraud and other �white-collar� [heh] crimes? That�d be white people, overwhelmingly.

    Do you mean as an absolute number or in proportion to their percentage of the population? Fraud I would expect white people to dominate because they have a higher representation in the professions, etc. where you have to be to perpetuate large-scale fraud. To support the rest of this statement on the basis of population percentage I’d have to see some citations.

    And yet, nobody talks about how white people are such degenerate criminals, or how their religion is dangerous, threatening and immoral, or even thinks to mention their ethnicity at all.

    Hm. What religion is specifically associated with white people? Christianity? If you can’t find postings holding up Christianity as immoral and threatening you’re not looking very hard. I’ve seen plenty of postings out on the ‘net about how horrible white people and Western culture, etc., etc. are.

  22. 22
    Robert says:

    I agree, Jutgory. If the white guy had been thinking “man, I wish they would put the game on”, it would have made the point more effectively – he isn’t even in the same world as the other two.

    I’m sure Mr. Knight is delighted to know that all of us (think we) know how to make his cartoons better than he does. ;)

  23. 23
    Sebastian says:

    Rape and sexual assault? Child porn and abuse? Drunk driving? Fraud and other white-collar crimes? That’d be white people, overwhelmingly.

    Do you mean as an absolute number or in proportion to their percentage of the population? Fraud I would expect white people to dominate because they have a higher representation in the professions, etc. where you have to be to perpetuate large-scale fraud. To support the rest of this statement on the basis of population percentage I�d have to see some citations.

    I also wonder how you mean this. I have often seen on this very blog the assertion that the serial murderers in the US are overwhelmingly white people, but that is because white people here are (still) a majority. A random black male is more likely to be a serial murder than a random white male by a factor from 1.4 to 2.7, depending on which study you believe (I found eight by law enforcement agencies from 2001 to 2006). And while for other crime one can make the argument that African-Americans are convicted at a rate disproportionate to the number of crimes they commit, will anyone honestly argue that the law coddles white serial murders?

    Ok, and just because this started me thinking, I checked how we are doing on this metric ourselves. If one disregards La Resistance killing Germans, in France Muslim serial murderers and rapists are scarily overrepresented. And I mean scarily.

  24. 24
    sylphhead says:

    Fraud I would expect white people to dominate because they have a higher representation in the professions, etc. where you have to be to perpetuate large-scale fraud.

    There’s nothing that prevents blue-collar or day laborers from committing fraud. Paper fraud isn’t the only type of fraud; however, the circumstances are such that it’s the easiest to get away with. Much like street crime and living in inner city communities.

    If we have to normalize such crimes by professions, then it’s only fair to normalize street crime by residence in poverty-stricken inner cities.

    If one disregards La Resistance killing Germans, in France Muslim serial murderers and rapists are scarily overrepresented. And I mean scarily.

    Sure. Impoverished minorities in any society, especially those that can be singled out by physical appearance alone, will always disproportionately commit crimes. Even if in another society – say, Arab immigrants in America – they act very differently.

    That’s not to excuse crime. But that does suggest criminality is not genetic between ethnic groups. And while very few actually believe this – or at least, admit to believing this – more than a few “entertain” or “consider” it, as if they’re being the rational ones. Which is like “considering” both sides of the Holocaust Denial debate.

    That was a bit of a tangent, I know.

  25. 25
    Phil says:

    I think for the joke to work, the white guy should not have been the perpetrator. Then, his reaction would be similar in quality to the other two.

    If his reaction was similar in quality to the other two, then the panel wouldn’t really have a punch line. It would just be an illustration of the perceptions/experiences of people of different races. A joke requires a derailing of the train of thought.

  26. 26
    JutGory says:

    “If his reaction was similar in quality to the other two, then the panel wouldn’t really have a punch line. It would just be an illustration of the perceptions/experiences of people of different races. A joke requires a derailing of the train of thought.”

    Yes, I understand that. There has to be some difference. As Robert suggested, he could want the channel changed. He could say, “that black guy sure looks suspicious” or “I hope they show video footage.” You are right, his reaction has to be different in a way that makes the point about privilege to make the punchline work. However, this joke has TWO differences: he is white and he is the perpetrator. If the black guy had been the perpetrator, he would not have had the reaction he did.

    However, the punchline used is a DIFFERENT joke than what Robert and I suggest. Part of the reason why I think it does not work is, if I were the white guy, I would be VERY worried that they would catch me. As a result, the joke is not REAL enough to be funny.

    It seems that the point of the joke is that minorities have different reactions with respect to high-profile crimes because they fear a backlash then white people do. It is a perfectly good observation and a good basis for a joke. But, for the reasons stated, I did not think the joke worked as well with the punchline given.

    -Jut

  27. 27
    clicktrigger says:

    Interesting responses.
    To clarify (and I admit, I was frothy and gettin’ loose with the language there), confine my comments to the United States. When I said “anyone,” I meant the mainstream, overall perception/media zeitgeist. So, I’m not talking “Alas, A Blog,” I’m talking… you know, “ABC.” If that makes sense. White. (As in, “brimming with unconscious/unacknowledged USian-style white privilege” not “pale-skinned.”) I have never seen a network anchor, talking head or article falling all over itself to excuse a nonwhite suspect/criminal. I just haven’t. I watch Fox, PBS, NBC, CNN— I make a point to try to keep an eye on them all.

    The fact that AAB is (I think) the kind of place where one would occasionally see “why do white people commit so much criiime??” being expressed “seriously”— in the way I meant “seriously”— is part of what got me so incoherent! Sorry about that.

    And my point with the crime bit wasn’t per capitas and whatnot, but simply: white people do commit egregious crimes, but they do not have a criminal “reputation.” I hate to pick something so politically divisive, but take radical-anti-abortion crimes (firebombings, shootings, anthrax letters, etc.) They’re mostly (all?) committed by unrepentant white Christians, and they’ve been going on for 30 years, as promised. I don’t hear people saying they’re afraid of white churches and their dangerous views. [No more steeples!!]

    Their behavior doesn’t get generalized in the same way.

  28. 28
    Sebastian says:

    The fact that AAB is (I think) the kind of place where one would occasionally see “why do white people commit so much criiime??” being expressed “seriously”— in the way I meant “seriously”— is part of what got me so incoherent!

    Well, I certainly hope that AAB is NOT the place where a racist comment like this would be expressed seriously. Disadvantaged people commit crime, oppressed people commit crime, disheartened people commit crime. Different kinds of crime in each of the above case. Suggesting that race predisposes one to commit crime is… I do not know what it is, but it tastes bad.

    That is not to say that race does not correlate with crime. Take a poor man, make him feel inferior, convince him that he has no legal ways to advance himself, and you have increased the chances he’ll turn to crime. In France, religion correlates with the above. (Not race. I have some Creole heritage, and I do not consider myself anything but French) In the US, it’s race.

  29. 29
    clicktrigger says:

    [Deleted at request of Clicktrigger.]

  30. 30
    clicktrigger says:

    @Mods:
    Please delete my previous comment.
    It got all kinds of hashed up somehow.

  31. 31
    dcmoviegirl says:

    The fact that this simple joke flies over the heads of those with white privilege in this thread, pretty much proves it’s validity.

    …And it really is quite simple.

    The fact that the white dude is thinking ‘you’ll never catch me’ is based on the fact that he knows that he won’t be racially profiled regardless of the perpetrator’s color, while the Muslim and the black dude, know that they will be.

    Why is this so diffcult to comprehend?

    Also, regarding what RonF says about not being able to see any example of this…

    Again, white privilege, you don’t have to “see it.” There’s that pesky privilege.

    But, if you were to say google a race a that litle to no meaning to you, you find all kinds of articles wherein “black leaders”, hell just regular famous black people (i.e. Cosby) are implied to speak for an entire race of people.

    ….But strangely, I’ve never heard that Bush speaks for white people.

    Wonder why.

    Get it now?

  32. 32
    Keith Knight says:

    Thank you, dcmoviegirl, for getting it.

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  34. 33
    P.L. Frederick says:

    Keith fans: Will you help support his true graphic novel, “I Was A Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator!”? Learn more by going to his Kickstarter page. Hurry, your chance ends at 3 pm EST on April 6, 2012!