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This cartoon was originally published on The Splinter. Thanks, Splinter!
There’s an adage I’ve seen around; I’ve seen it put various ways, but always from Black writers. I don’t know who said it first, but Aditi Juneja put it especially well in a deservedly viral tweet:
“If you’ve wondered what you would’ve done during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights movement… you’re doing it now.”
I’ve seen the same sentiment, in similar words, expressed by Kamala Harris and Shaun King. It really resonates with me – especially when thinking about voting rights, an issue that should be decades behind us.
This cartoon, obviously, owes a debt of inspiration to Juneja and Harris and King, and probably others as well.
Doing the 1950s in art was hard, because – especially given the simplicity and lack of detail of my drawing style – it was hard to figure out how to indicate the 1950s visually. Many of the buildings around today were there in the 1950s, after all. I ended up leaning hard on 1950s cars and suits (and of course of course the hats). Jen Sorenson suggested I lean hard on color palette differences, and I tried to take her suggestion.
The gentleman in the last panel is my best attempt at doing a caricature of MLK in this style (and my best attempt, frankly, was not that great). Fortunately, the gag really doesn’t depend on readers recognizing MLK, or I’d be in trouble!
Transcript of cartoon:
The image shows a white man with glasses and a polo shirt – let’s call him “BOB” – talking at a young woman with brown skin and short spiky hair. Bob is carrying a protest sign that says “ILLEGALS GO AWAY!”
BOB: Voter ID laws aren’t racist! They just make sure that voting isn’t controlled by illegals! No one’s more against racism than ME!
Bob continues to cheerfully talk, waving an arm. Behind Bob, a magic fairy, with blue butterfly wings and purple hair, has appeared with a big “POOF” sound effect and touches their glowing magic wand to Bob’s waving arm.
BOB: In fact, I wish I was back in the 1950s – I’d protest with Martin Luther King Jr!
FAIRY: Wish granted!
Bob is now in the 1950s. We can tell it’s the 1950s because the color scheme has changed, and also, there are a lot of 1950s cars parked on the street in the background.
BOB: Whoa! I’m in the 1950s! It looks just like “Back To The Future!” Bob is listening thoughtfully, one hand on his chin.
A white man in a suit, tie and hat (all 1950s style), and smoking a pipe, is talking to Bob.
MAN: “Literacy tests” aren’t about race! They just make sure that voting isn’t controlled by ignorant people!
BOB: That makes sense.
The man is continuing to talk to Bob, now making an emphatic gesture with his pipe. Bob snaps his fingers in agreement.
MAN: No one was angry until Martin Luther King started agitating! He’s actually making racial strife worse!
BOB: Like “Black Lives Matter” in my time!
MAN: Black lives what?
Bob is talking cheerfully to a black man, who has a thin mustache and wears a dark suit. The man could be MLK Jr. Bob is holding a protest sign that says “MLK GO AWAY!”
CAPTION: And so…
BOB: No one’s more against racism than ME!
“Kicker” panel (a small “extra” image below the last panel)
Bob is talking happily at the Fairy, while pridefully pointing to himself with his thumb. The Fairy facepalms.
BOB: If I lived in the 1800s, I’d definitely be an abolitionist!