Cartoon: White Lies


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This cartoon is actually a sequel, to this other cartoon I did at least a decade ago. It’s interesting (to me, at least) seeing how my style has changed over the years.


Transcript of Cartoon

TITLE PANEL
Fractured-looking letters say “White Lies.” Next to the lettering, a smiling white lady speaks directly to the viewer.
LADY: I don’t even see race!

PANEL 1
A smiling white man explains himself.
MAN: I was only being FUNNY! I mean, “ironic.”

PANEL 2
A white man stands holding a black woman in front of him. To his left, a white woman stands, hugging a little Asian boy, and holding an Asian baby with her other arm. The boy has an image of Captain America’s iconic shield on his t-shirt.
WHITE MAN: I have a Black wife!
WHITE WOMAN: I adopted Asian kids!
BOTH TOGETHER: So nothing we say could possibly be racist!

PANEL 3
A young white man types at a laptop, his coffee cop besides him. Above him, we can see what he’s typing – a social media comment, with “his” picture, showing a pretty Black woman, besides the comment.
He is typing: As a strong Black woman, I think we Blacks talk too much about racism.

PANEL 4
An angry white woman, standing near a fence with some giant sunflowers nearby, talks directly to the viewer.
WOMANL Only monsters are racist! So criticizing me for racism is calling me a monster! How dare you call me a monster? So uncivil!

PANEL 5
A middle-aged white man, wearing a suit vest, collared shirt, and striped tie, stands with his arms crossed. In the background , we can see a huge limo, and a Black man in a chauffeur’s uniform waiting patiently.
WHITE MAN: Who know who’s REALLY discriminated against? White people!

PANEL 6
A young white woman, stands in a coffee shop, holding a cup of tea and a saucer.
WOMAN: I DEFINITELY have a non-white friend who agrees with me.

PANEL 7
A white woman in slacks and a polo shirt sits on a park bench, reading a newspaper (“Daily Opiate”) and speaking cheerfully to the viewer.
WOMAN: Voting for Trump had nothing to do with racism!

PANEL 8
Two white people stand talking directly to the viewer: A man with a checkerboard shirt, and a woman wearing a sleeveless black shirt. The man, spreading his arms wide, has a angry expression; the woman is holding up one finger like a professor making a point.
MAN: When non-whites get ANGRY discussing racism, that proves they’re irrational!
WOMAN: And when whites speak calmly, that proves our opinions are super rational!

PANEL 9
A white woman stands on a golf course, holding a golf club across one shoulder. She looks anxious.
WOMAN: If “Black Lives Matter,” that means white lives don’t matter!

PANEL 10
An angry white man is yelling and pointing at a Black woman.
MAN: The word “racism” is unfair because it shuts white people up!
WOMAN (thought): If only…

KICKER PANEL
In a small panel below the bottom of the comic strip, an angry white woman speaks directly to the viewers.
WOMAN: This cartoon generalizes about white people! That makes IT the REAL racist!

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44 Responses to Cartoon: White Lies

  1. 1
    lkeke35 says:

    Yeah, this is about all of them, I think. Okay, you might have missed the new one, where if we speak wrong to a White person, they won’t be our ally anymore. I especially liked that last panel though. For a group of people who insist they can’t talk about their opinions, bigots like that don’t ever seem to stfu!

  2. 2
    Cerastes says:

    Except panel 4 has a legitimate point – you cannot simultaneously hold the belief that, to quote Avenue Q, “everyone’s a little bit racist” while still reacting to racist statements by screaming for that person to be fired / punished / excommunicated / etc. If “racist” isn’t synonymous with “monster”, these reactions are inexplicable and excessive, but nobody seems to think they are.

    People aren’t stupid. They know actions are what counts, and every time they see the word “racist” applied to someone, the resulting actions taken are consistent with the “racist” being seen as evil, abhorrent, monstrous, and possibly irredeemable. So when someone tries to apply that word to them, they know damn well what it really means, regardless of coyly dishonest assurances to the contrary.

  3. 3
    Kate says:

    They know actions are what counts, and every time they see the word “racist” applied to someone, the resulting actions taken are consistent with the “racist” being seen as evil, abhorrent, monstrous, and possibly irredeemable.

    This has not been my experience. Do you have any data to back that assertion up?

  4. 4
    Ampersand says:

    Except panel 4 has a legitimate point – you cannot simultaneously hold the belief that, to quote Avenue Q, “everyone’s a little bit racist” while still reacting to racist statements by screaming for that person to be fired / punished / excommunicated / etc.

    Okay, good example. Avenue Q – a musical written by, and much-loved, by liberals – says that all its characters are a little bit racist. Tell me, where in the Avenue Q script do you see a call for the characters to be “fired/punished/excommunicated”?

    For that matter, I’ve called out many people for saying racist things. But I’ve rarely, and only with great hesitation, called for anyone to be fired; I’ve often argued the contrary, in fact.

    How does this fit in with your claim that “every time” the word “racist” is applied to someone, ” the resulting actions taken are consistent with the “racist” being seen as evil, abhorrent, monstrous, and possibly irredeemable”? It’s not like I’m uncommon – lots of people talk criticize racism without calling for firings in every instance. [*]

    Now, you might say I don’t count, as I’m not prominent. Okay, here’s former President Obama discussing his grandmother.

    …I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother—a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.”

    Where is he saying that his grandmother was a monster, or should have been ostracized or punished?

    Another Obama example: He was much-criticized for his criticism of the police officer who arrested Henry Gates. And you might argue that Obama’s entry into that issue was hamhanded or badly thought. But can you point out to me where Obama called for the officer to be fired, or to suffer any repercussions at all?

    “Every time” is simply untrue – but that you, and others, exaggerate so much is the problem referred to in panel 4. If folks hysterically scream “STOP CALLING ME A MONSTER!!!” every time someone says (for example) “I think that statement is a bit racist,” that makes discussion impossible. Which I suspect is, for some right-wingers, the goal. (I’m not saying that’s true of you.)

    [*] I assume we agree that there are SOME instances where a firing is an appropriate response.

  5. 5
    Gracchi says:

    The pejorative use of a word always seems to rub off on any use of the word, including the objectively descriptive meaning(s). For example, this is why people nowadays often get upset when low IQ people are referred to as being retarded. Technically, the word can merely be used as a descriptor of people with an IQ below 70, but its use as a pejorative means that people generally cannot see it as anything but pejorative. Social Justice people seem to typically side with those who believe we should not use such words in a non-pejorative way to label others, rather than argue that these people should grow a thicker skin.

    I assume that no one here disputes that ‘racist’ is regularly used pejoratively. So one should then logically abstain from using ‘racist’ to label individuals in a non-pejorative way, if one believes that the same should be done for other words of a similar nature, for sake of consistency & to reduce bias in the use of language.

    A second major issue with communication is that people tend to not be maximally kind when interpreting labels & that people have different definitions of labels. Person A may define ‘racist’ so broadly that it encompasses everyone and describes the most mild behavior, but person B may have their own definition, which only includes white supremacists. So then if person A describes Mary as a ‘racist,’ without further clarification, person B is then likely to conclude that Mary is a white supremacist.

    I think that a statement like “everyone’s a little bit racist” doesn’t have the pejorative sting that ‘Mary’s a little bit racist’ has. Strictly logically speaking, the first statement also calls Mary a little bit racist, but singling out a single person enables an Us vs Mary frame. It can thus be used as a weapon to bully/harass/etc. Any movement/group has (usually quite a few) people who will take advantage of such rhetorical weapons.

    Note that when Obama talked about his grandmother, he never actually called her a racist or said that she did racist things, but instead used a far more nuanced description of her actual behavior, to prevent the kind of miscommunication/framing that I discussed. If he had called his grandmother a racist or had said that she did racist things, I do believe that quite a few people would have concluded that his grandmother is a monster and/or deserves punishment.

    In general, one frequently sees that people are far more wary to label their ingroup/friends with labels that can be interpreted pejoratively, than their outgroup(s). Such behavior results in mutual antagonization between groups for various reasons that I won’t describe further to keep this comment sub-novel length. I would suggest that it’s more productive to not do so or even try to be more kind to the other, as the risk of misunderstandings is already larger than with those more similar to oneself.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Gracchi – I’m not going to give up on discussing racism, or stop using the word “racism,” because some people either disingenuously pretend, or are sincerely incapable, of parsing context even when the context is obvious.

    If Linus says “I think that’s a racist statement, Charlie Brown, because it’s grounded in the assumption that Black people are more dangerous and violent,” and Charlie Brown replies “how dare you call me a monster! The word “racism” has been used by some people as a pejorative, therefore it can never be anything but a pejorative!” then the breakdown in communications is entirely Charlie Brown’s fault. Charlie Brown was the one who escalated; Charlie Brown is the one who is disingenuously pretending to misunderstand what Linus meant; Charlie Brown is the one refusing to give Linus even the slightest benefit of the doubt.

    If he had called his grandmother a racist or had said that she did racist things, I do believe that quite a few people would have concluded that his grandmother is a monster and/or deserves punishment.

    From the liberal perspective, uttering racial and ethnic stereotypes IS doing a racist thing (even if you don’t see it that way, most liberals do). And yet, I can’t find anyone suggesting that Obama’s grandmother was a monster or deserved punishment. Maybe “quite a few” did, if by that you mean a handful out of millions of people.

    I can guarantee that if I publish a cartoon like this one, I’ll have “quite a few” angry anti-SJWs insulting me personally, calling me a liar, calling me a hater, calling me a racist, etc etc. Indeed, all of that has happened just in the past day. But it would be ridiculous of me to claim that because “hater” has been used as a pejorative, it is therefore impossible for me to ever understand the word “hate” as meaning anything else, and therefore everyone should stop using the word “hate” forever. It would also be wrong for me to claim that I can’t tell the difference between someone saying “racist hater moron!” versus someone intelligently criticizing (what they believe to be) racism in one of my comic strips.

    Some words have great utility and cannot reasonably be given up; I’d argue that “racism” (and also “hate”) falls into that category, because being able to discuss racism is an important element of mitigating against and fighting racism. Other words – “negro,” for example – have very little utility in the present day, and the cost of not using it is low. Your simplistic analysis – that because some words are used pejoratively and given up on, then for the sake of consistency any word that’s ever been used as a pejorative should be given up on – completely ignores all nuance and context. You might as well say that since we’ve banned certain products because they can kill people, and automobiles are products which often kill people, then for the sake of consistency we should ban automobiles.

    Finally, I don’t buy that avoiding the words “racist” and “racism” would help at all. Because we’d need to use other words then, and whatever words we settle on, in no time at all anti-SJWs would be claiming that those words are pejorative and should never be used.

    An example: in U.S. vs Windsor (which overturned DOMA), the majority opinion (written by Kennedy) used impersonal or legalistic language; a word search shows zero uses of the words “bigot” and “homophobe,” for example. But they did say things like this:

    The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.

    Note that the terms used here – “disparage” “injure” “dignity” et al – are language which has been used in previous Supreme Court rulings. This is simply the language used in court decisions to discuss the harms caused by discrimination.

    Justice Scalia, in his furious dissent, chose to take that language as a personal attack.

    But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to con- demn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to “dis- parage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homo- sexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence — indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.

    Indeed, Scalia even implied that Kennedy was calling same-sex marriage opponents monsters:

    It is hard to admit that one’s political opponents are not monsters, especially in a struggle like this one, and the challenge in the end proves more than today’s Court can handle.

    It really doesn’t matter what language is used to oppose bigotry. No matter how mild and careful the language we use is, people like Scalia will choose to paint themselves as the victims of vicious personal attacks. The idea that we could avoid this by just never using words like “racism” or “homophobia” again ignores this reality.

  7. 7
    Ortvin Sarapuu says:

    “From the liberal perspective, uttering racial and ethnic stereotypes IS doing a racist thing (even if you don’t see it that way, most liberals do).”

    This is true, but nonetheless, I think that it is significant that Obama avoided actually using the word “racist” in this context, even though he effectively said it.

  8. 8
    Ben David says:

    The panels with the limo and golf club weaken the credibility of the cartoon by introducing a completely irrelevant factor. Unless your point is to emphasize that rich liberals also can be racist – in which case something like a successful rock musician would work better than these conventional “country-club Republican” straw men.

    The panel with the white blogger posing as black could be unpacked into an entire graphic novel about our society’s simultaneous racism and infatuation with ethnic chic.

  9. 9
    Gracchi says:

    @Ampersand

    You are objecting to several things that I have not said, which suggests that my comment failed to effectively build a bridge between our beliefs. I don’t know whether the limits to my communicative skills and the limits to your interpretative skills prohibit finding better common ground. In any case, I feel that I have made a large effort in my previous comment to be understandable and I am unwilling to make a similarly large effort to rephrase the entire argument, as I doubt that I can do much better.

    So I’ll just limit myself to pointing out that my argument was not so much against the use of ‘racism’ in general and certainly not against discussing racism as a social phenomenon, but rather to applying such a label to specific people or groups. I would suggest that a better outcome can generally be achieved by describing the actual behavior/beliefs you find objectionable, at which point, using an (inherently much more vague) label that encompasses that behavior/beliefs is generally superfluous.

    From the liberal perspective, uttering racial and ethnic stereotypes IS doing a racist thing (even if you don’t see it that way, most liberals do)

    That you got to decide that you found that label appropriate based on your beliefs, while Obama’s statement allowed a person with different beliefs to decide that they don’t find that label appropriate, is what made Obama’s statement into something that builds bridges to beliefs that are different from his own. People tend to be offended when they feel that people make a decision for them on how they should see something, when they (partially or entirely) disagree.

    Of course, it’s not offensive to the ingroup to use labels in a way that they agree with and the use of such labels can make writing more appealing to the ingroup because it tends to trigger ingroup vs outgroup biases. So it may serve the cause of those who merely want to ‘preach to the converted.’ However, I would argue that those benefits come at the expense of being less appealing to, or even merely understood by, those whose beliefs are substantially different.

    In an age of polarization and antagonization, I believe that it would be good if people would more often communicate in an inclusive way. My belief is that many people do want that, but are not sufficiently aware of what kinds of communication fail at this and what alternatives there are to do better. This is why I tried to point out how one could make the same points differently. Again, this is not an argument that controversial topics should not be discussed.

  10. 10
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    So we have Obama talking about his Grandmother. That’s not a very central example. When people talk like the woman in panel four, they are talking about the way Ben Affleck went after Sam Harris on the Bill Maher show. They are talking about social media pile-ons. Most people probably saw video of this, but for those who didn’t, Sam was accused of being racist and “gross” after calling Islam “the motherload of bad ideas.” Those who haven’t watched that should do so and ask themselves, is Ben accusing Sam of being a monster? I would say yes. I would also say that the whole point of making Sam out to be a monster is to get him to shut up or getting people to stop listening to him at the risk of being associated with a monster (which is what most people mean when they sound like the guy in the last panel.) When that happened, I saw about a 50-50 split of pro Ben and pro Sam commentary on my social media which admittedly is almost entirely left-of-center.

  11. 11
    Elusis says:

    It really doesn’t matter what language is used to oppose bigotry. No matter how mild and careful the language we use is, people like Scalia will choose to paint themselves as the victims of vicious personal attacks. The idea that we could avoid this by just never using words like “racism” or “homophobia” again ignores this reality.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again: The “tone argument” is a red herring. There is no tone in which it is “acceptable” to talk about racism (or sexism, or transphobia, etc.) to some people. The very fact of evoking unearned advantage (aka “privilege”) or bias and oppression is unacceptable. Trying to find the right language or tone or approach is a moving goalpost that will never be reached with some folks because what’s really at issue is that they want the entire topic to be verboten, because it upsets them.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    I certainly did intend the golfer to come off as a liberal-ish person. Not so much the guy with the limo. I hadn’t known that golfing was a stereotypically Republican activity – look at how much Obama was criticized for being a golfer, for example. But with that in mind, if I were to do this strip over, I probably would choose some other thing for the golf panel.

    If I’m being totally honest, I have to admit that I did the golf thing partly because it was so easy to draw. :-p (UNLIKE the limo.)

    I don’t think the rock star would work – people might assume I’m attacking Ted Nugent.

  13. 13
    Sebastian H says:

    Elusis “I said it before and I’ll say it again: The “tone argument” is a red herring. There is no tone in which it is “acceptable” to talk about racism (or sexism, or transphobia, etc.) to some people. ”

    This is certainly true for ‘some’ people. But that isn’t at all the same as saying that tone isn’t a relevant issue lots and lots of the time. The fact that the very most irredeemable people can’t be reached by maintaining a good tone in the discussion doesn’t mean that a vicious and nasty tone can’t turn off scads of other people who would have listened to you otherwise. Dismissal of the tone part of discussions is often a way that activists try to evade responsibility for their unnecessary actions.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    I agree that tone matters (to some people).

    But I would point out that

    “The words “racist” and “racism,” as applied to people, are always unacceptable in any discussion in which we hope to communicate,”

    and

    “Tone matters, and people are capable of understanding and responding to tone.”

    Seem to me to be contrary claims.

    I’m not sure that anyone here IS making both claims, and I’m too busy with work right now to go through this thread and sort that out. So perhaps no one is making both claims. But I still thought it was worth pointing out that the two claims don’t go well together.

  15. 15
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#4- ““Every time” is simply untrue – but that you, and others, exaggerate so much is the problem referred to in panel 4. If folks hysterically scream “STOP CALLING ME A MONSTER!!!” every time someone says (for example) “I think that statement is a bit racist,” that makes discussion impossible. Which I suspect is, for some right-wingers, the goal. (I’m not saying that’s true of you.)”
    “If Linus says “I think that’s a racist statement, Charlie Brown, because it’s grounded in the assumption that Black people are more dangerous and violent,” and Charlie Brown replies “how dare you call me a monster! The word “racism” has been used by some people as a pejorative, therefore it can never be anything but a pejorative!” then the breakdown in communications is entirely Charlie Brown’s fault. Charlie Brown was the one who escalated; Charlie Brown is the one who is disingenuously pretending to misunderstand what Linus meant; Charlie Brown is the one refusing to give Linus even the slightest benefit of the doubt.”
    I agree that right-wingers do that but don’t forget that it works both ways. Feminists really DO try to shut down conversations they don’t want to have. Take for example the article you linked to in #4 of the Creepy Face Swap. That’s saying that if you say you’re afraid of being accused of sexual harassment, you’re a sexual predator. Feminists are the ones who escalated, feminists are the ones are disingenuously pretending to understand what these men meant, feminists are the ones refusing to give these men even the slightest benefit of the doubt. It’s impossible to have a discussion if people accuse you of being a sexual predator right off the bat. And that’s the goal.

  16. 16
    desipis says:

    Ampersand,

    No matter how mild and careful the language we use is, people like Scalia will choose to paint themselves as the victims of vicious personal attacks.

    I find this position quite ironic. I don’t see Scalia as painting himself as a “victim of a vicious personal attack”. Scalia’s criticism was that the other opinions frame conservative political views as viscous personal attacks (on certain people / groups). He felt that such a framing was so profoundly flawed that it undermined the court’s reputation as an institution of reason, not that they were a “personal attack”. I support same-sex marriage, but I do tend to agree with him on this point.

  17. 17
    Gracchi says:

    @Ampersand

    But I would point out that

    “The words “racist” and “racism,” as applied to people, are always unacceptable in any discussion in which we hope to communicate,”

    and

    “Tone matters, and people are capable of understanding and responding to tone.”

    Seem to me to be contrary claims.

    Is this first statement meant to reflect my argument? If so, then this an incorrect summary of what I argued.

    I never said that such language is unacceptable, nor that it precludes communication in general. I argued that it tends to make communication with those who have (significantly) different beliefs harder, but I also argued that it actually may work better in some ways when communicating with those with more similar beliefs.

    It’s actually this dichotomy that may play a role into excessive polarization in society, because most people probably tune their arguments to what is persuasive to themselves and people like them, but this may actually make their arguments less persuasive to people with different backgrounds/beliefs/etc. So counter-intuitively, an argument that is less persuasive to oneself may actually be more persuasive to the ‘other side’ or the average person.

    Anyway, I don’t see how my position is inconsistent with “tone matters, and people are capable of understanding and responding to tone.” One argument I made is that people understandably tend to dislike being described with labels that cause many people to draw much more extreme conclusions than they would if the beliefs/actions of the person was described more accurately, rather than with a broad label. Social creatures enforce social norms by punishment and reward, so being offended at behavior that causes many people to see a person as more evil than they feel is justified, is not just a matter of ego.

    I’m sure you are familiar with how some groups and some individuals have been or are right now being dehumanized and how that resulted in other people feeling justified to harm these people.

    So some language causes people to fear harm. Of course one can argue whether some of those feelings are legitimate or whether they fear harm that is not actually meted out. But I hope that we can agree that when another person feels that you are calling for ‘the mob’ to harm them, that this will greatly decrease their willingness to believe that you are making an argument in good faith.

  18. 18
    Jeffrey Gandee says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t see #4 as a tone argument, but rather a dispute over the definition of the word racism? I’m pretty sure that 90% of the time someone equates racism with monsters it’s because they are going by the dictionary definition of “racism.”

  19. 19
    Ampersand says:

    From Oxford dictionary:

    1. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
    ‘a programme to combat racism’

    1.1 The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

    Neither of those definitions say “monster.”

  20. 20
    irisclara says:

    There’s a difference between doing a bad thing and being a bad person.
    When you do a bad thing you go “Oh Shit! That was bad. I’m so sorry. I’ll try really hard not to do it again. Will you please call me out if I do and and don’t notice?”
    When you are a bad person you try to change the subject.

  21. 21
    Cerastes says:

    Amp: “Neither of those definitions say “monster.””

    Neither does the dictionary definition of Nazi. You’re being disingenuous. Seriously, look at any of a million movies or books. Need a cheap way to make the Evil Empire obviously bad, just make them racist and the audience won’t bat an eye when the Designated Heroes mow hundreds of them down in a hail of bullets. Yeah, maybe there’s a redemption story of racist characters once in a while, but so are there for characters which are mass murderers, war criminals, literally inhuman insect-monsters, and actual f-ing demons.

    Literally 99% of people believe racist = monster, including the f-ing racists themselves; why do you think they deny being racist, to the point where “I’m not racist but” is a trope? Because even the actual racists (at least those who are anything short of overt Nazis) believe that racists are monstrous, so since they’re not monsters, they can’t possibly be racist.

    There is literally no possible way someone can be in such a bubble that they don’t recognize that, for the vast majority of people, being called a racist is equivalent to being called a monster. To expect people to be OK with that becausea small minority uses a different framework for the term is asinine.

  22. 22
    Cerastes says:

    Irisclara: “There’s a difference between doing a bad thing and being a bad person.

    No, there isn’t. Actions and consequences define your ethical status, not whatever delusions people tell themselves about their intentions.

    Besides, where do you think actions come from? It’s not like dropping your fork in a restaurant; if you did something genuinely racist, then it must have come from internal racism, making you a racist. Unless we follow the SJW trend of defining racism so incredibly broadly that literally everyone is racist and the term loses all value and meaning.

  23. 23
    Sebastian H says:

    i don’t really think you can escape the emotional valence of common understandings by hiding behind a hyper technical academic definition. Especially when the nastier valence came first, and the academic version is normally denoted with adjectives—I.e. institutional racism. If you always say that you mean institutional racism, you can plausibly cling to the academic version, but if you aren’t super clear about that every single time you have to accept that the common understanding is as a slur with approximately the same nasty level of vehemence as ‘Nigger’. You don’t get to say “I didn’t mean ‘Nigger’ in a bad way just because the power of academic stipulation allegedly takes the sting out of it. It doesn’t.

    Now it turns out that are actually racist (fully monstrous connotations explicitly there) elements of our society that we need to call out. But we shouldn’t pretend that isn’t what we are doing. For those people we are saying—they are beyond the pale and should be ostracized enough that they can’t hurt people.

    There are also institutionally Racist structures that have to be talked about. We should be super clear what we mean by them when talking about them. Every single time. Because if we aren’t SUPER CLEAR EVERY TIME, we’ve thrown a very nasty slur around and shouldn’t be shocked when people react strongly to it.

    Now will some people more in the first group tactically pretend we are using the first definition when we are really using the second? Yes, and that should be resisted.

    But do some on our side like to inappropriately mix the two uses because they like the emotional shock value of getting to shut someone up and leave them sputtering on the defensive? Also yes, and that should be strongly resisted because they are playing right into the hands of those actual (all implications intended) racists by muddying the waters and getting shock value attacks against people who don’t need it.

  24. 24
    Charles says:

    The idea that there are two kinds of white people, non-racists and monsters, is ridiculous. It is a great strategy for making it impossible to talk about, say, aversive racism or implicit racial bias (does implicit racial bias not exist, or is everyone who scores non-zero in implicit racial bias a monster?). A great way of making it impossible to talk about microaggressions or the way someone in hiring in a predominantly white organization might decide that a certain job candidate just won’t fit in with the group culture.

    Oh, we can talk about institutional racism, so long as we never talk about the way that individual racist actions and beliefs interplay with institutional racism, so long as we pretend that somehow the police force as an institution is racist, but that that has no relationship in either direction to the personal beliefs of individual officers, because of course no one except KKK members have any individual racist beliefs or ever accidentally or intentionally engage in any racist actions. Nope, never. If you’re white and you’ve never participated in a lynching, you are off the hook and don’t need to think about personal racism ever again!

    There are tons of ways that individual people are individually racist, NOT just participating in institutional racism, that are common as hell and don’t make them monsters. Even most committed ideological racists, people who believe that white people are better than black people, aren’t actually monsters. Is every white person who decides to move to the overwhelmingly white suburbs because the schools are “better” (by which they mean whiter) a monster, to be gunned down by the heroes? Is racist asshole Charles Murray a monster to be no-platformed (some people would say he should be no-platformed, but I hadn’t thought, Sebastian, that you were one of them)?

    For every movie in which the bad guys are marked as racist (planning to enslave a racial group or commit genocide against them or something else that marks them as racist monsters) and therefore it is okay to kill them, I bet we can name a movie that depicts white people who are a little racist and either learn and grow or who are a little racist and they stay that way and that sucks, but it doesn’t mark them as monsters. For every movie in which the bad guys are marked as racist (by showing implicit racial bias or aversive racism or holding an individual stupid racist belief or actively participating in modern American institutional racism) and therefore it is okay for the good guys to kill them… Okay, name three movies that meet that criteria and I’ll be impressed. Name three that aren’t satires and I’ll be even more impressed.

  25. 25
    Ampersand says:

    Jeffrey:

    I’m pretty sure that 90% of the time someone equates racism with monsters it’s because they are going by the dictionary definition of “racism.”

    Me: Points out that the dictionary definition of racism is not “monster.”

    Cerastes:

    Neither does the dictionary definition of Nazi. You’re being disingenuous.

    I was not being disingenuous; I was pointing out that a claim made by Jeffrey was false. Jeffrey was the one who brought up “the dictionary definition,” not me. But oddly enough, you leave me in the position of 1) I can either agree with Jeffrey’s obviously false claim, which would be a lie, or 2) I can point out that Jeffrey’s claim was false, at which point you call me a liar.

  26. 26
    Charles says:

    (having just written a comment that mentions implicit bias tests, I coincidentally read an article about how the implicit bias test is basically useless, with very poor test-retest consistency and more or less no correlation to any measurable action. While that does mean that we can’t really say anything consistent about people who score high on implicit bias tests, I don’t think it means that people don’t have implicit biases, or that we shouldn’t talk about the concept of implicit racial bias as a form of racism.)

  27. 27
    Harlequin says:

    There was an interesting Hidden Brain podcast last summer on individual behavior vs cultural racism. One interesting finding they discuss (by Eric Hehman, if you want to search the transcript) is that the average IAT results of a community correlate well with increased risks of police shooting black people; the full paper is here. So there is probably some signal in the IAT that can be seen in aggregate, even if the noise is high enough that its usefulness as an individual measure is small. The podcast has some other interesting stuff in it, too, although apply the usual caveats about sociological/psychological research and popular reporting on science.

  28. 28
    Cerastes says:

    Charles: “Okay, name three movies that meet that criteria and I’ll be impressed. Name three that aren’t satires and I’ll be even more impressed.”

    Including obvious allegories (“fantastic racism”): the entire Harry Potter series, everything to do with Hydra in the Marvel cinematic, TV and comic universes, the government in V for Vendetta, the Empire in the Star Wars expanded universe (there are hints of this even in cannon), Magneto, the Night Watch in Babylon 5, and the Romulans in Star Trek, and those are just the ones I’ve personally seen (the list is biased toward SFF simply because that’s what I watch and read).

    Yes, there are racists who get “redeemed”. There’s also a major storyline in the Starcraft video game series in which Sarah Kerrigan was redeemed after turning into an insect-monster (twice, once willingly) and *repeatedly* slaughtering literally billions and annihilating entire worlds (three times, twice of her own free will). There’s literally an entire TVtropes page on “ascended demon” in which literal demons are redeemed (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AscendedDemon). Redemption doesn’t mean “not a monster”, clearly. In fact, quite the opposite: consider how many redemption stories there are for petty thieves? Tresspassers? Jaywalkers? Nobody writes a redemption story when the flaw is trivial crap, they write it for major character flaws, and the existence of racist redemption stories proves it is seen as a major flaw at the very least.

    Regardless of the “monster” terminology, or any status of being fundamentally or irredeemably flawed, it’s absolutely undeniable that, for the vast, VAST majority of US society, “racist” is an extremely negative trait and calling someone’s actions/words racist is equated in their mind with being called racist (whether correctly or not). Pretending to be shocked by this reaction and consequent backlash is disingenuous, as is pretending that this reaction is unreasonable, deceitful, or anything other than a genuine reaction to what is seen near-universally a grievous personal insult.

  29. 29
    irisclara says:

    Driving Miss Daisy…

    next derail?

  30. 30
    Charles says:

    Cerastes,

    I asked you to give me three examples of a movie in which characters are marked as evil killable monsters “by showing implicit racial bias or aversive racism or holding an individual stupid racist belief or actively participating in modern American institutional racism” and you responded with a bunch of examples of characters/groups who are marked as killable monsters because they are genocidaires, slavers, and tyrants. So, no, none of your examples meet my challenge at all.

    Also, the movie Crash.

    From your jump to descriptions of redemption arcs for literal demons, I’m not sure if you understand that non-sci-fi/fantasy/action-adventure dramas exist. Yes, redemption arcs for literal monsters exist. Also, movies in which people are imperfect in interpersonal relationships and then either learn and grow or don’t also exist. That literal demons get redemption arcs sometimes does not mean that there aren’t also movies in which grouchy or selfish or racist people learn and grow and get redeemed.

  31. 31
    Charles says:

    Harelequin,

    I agree about the IAT having some potential value, but the specific use of it that I mentioned is definitely not supportable. One of the interesting things that the article I linked to objects to in how the main proponents handled the IAT that I think is actually supported by the research into the IAT is that they focused on the correlation of IAT score with the absolute value of biased responses in other metrics rather than correlating IAT with anti-black biased responses. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me since other research shows that the IAT correlates positively with both implicit bias and with awareness of implicit bias and of anti-black stereotypes, which is a mess at the individual level but more valuable at a community level, where the presence of anti-black bias probably produces both implicit bias and awareness of anti-black bias.

  32. 32
    desipis says:

    Harlequin, the study you linked isn’t that great. In particular table 1 makes it look like just an exercise in p-hacking. They’ve done 15 tests and in 1 of those tests the results are such that they will happen randomly 1 in ~32 times. Once you adjust the p values for the number of tests, you get about a 38% (p=0.38) this occurring if the null-hypothesis is true (i.e. if there is no actual correlation).

    The Black-weapon association result is more significant as the unadjusted p value of 0.001 remains significant. However, a quick look at the graphs in figures 2 & 3 makes it clear a simple linear model isn’t the way to go here, and that a few outliers may be driving the results.

    There’s also the question of causation: do the implicit associations cause shootings, or does the news coverage and political discussion around shootings cause responses to the implicit association tests?

  33. 33
    Cerastes says:

    Charles, your ridiculously narrow criteria were ignored because they were both irrelevant and a transparently obvious attempt to “stack the deck” by narrowing the sample pool to ridiculous levels. I may as well ask you to show me counter-examples, but only ones from a two month span of the year 1995, then act smug when you can’t.

    Your specifications are ridiculous because they do not pertain to the central hypothesis – that the general public views racism as a deep and serious character flaw. The general public is not “up to date” on the subtlest forms of racism, so “edge cases” like you describe have no value. That’s why I selected the examples given – their racism is clear, obvious, and presented in a way that even the dimmest member of the public can detect. And in every case, it’s presented as at best a major character flaw and at worst a mark of actual evil.

    That there are more subtle portrayals of racists and racism in overwrought, cinematically masturbatory indie films or overproduced Oscar-bait is irrelevant. The central contention what most people think, which I was inferring from what is common in major media. Given that Crash had a box office gross 1/10th of the first Harry potter movie and almost 1/100th that of the entire series which do think is more in touch with mindset of most people. This has nothing to do with cinematic merit (you want to be depressed about that, go look up how much the Transformers series has made), but rather the fact that, if you’re going to use movie tropes as a proxy for social views, you can’t rely on niche example with minimal viewership and limited releases, you need to look at what huge numbers of people have seen.

    Show me a movie with a more than 200 million box office take which shows what you describe. Otherwise, you’re generalizing from a very small population. And that’s not a high bar, lots of stuff makes that cut. Maybe lower it to 100 million before 1990 to account for differences, but you get the drift – movies or shows lots of people have seen.

    Sadly, I can’t find a simple survey of “are racists bad people”, so such indirect methods must suffice. But there are others – consider the outcry when some celebrity uses a racial slur while drunk.

    The problem is that what actually IS racist, versus what people THINK is racist, is very different, and the latter tend towards the “overt Nazi/KKK” side. Most people aren’t used to the new definition, so they assume you’re using the definition that 90%+ of the population uses.

    Let’s try an analogy: when folks come over to my place, they often want to meet various members of my menagerie, and a popular choice is a small Western Hognose snake. On occasion, with a few people of suitably open minds to education and who trust me, after handling him I inform them they have just held a venomous snake. This provokes surprise, shock, and alarm (enough that I don’t make this reveal for most people) because their conception of a venomous snake is extremely lethal, dangerous, and aggressive (often a cobra or rattlesnake), and they were unaware that venom comes in many strengths and specificities, with many species having extremely weak venom which is specific to only one type of prey (in this case, toads). However, their alarm is understandable, because they have never learned different and are operating from a very different and much more severe perspective, which is why I don’t tell everyone, and am careful about where and when.

    My central point, across all of this is this:

    The VAST majority of the public does NOT understand racism the way folks on the progressive left do, just as they also have wildly inaccurate information about snakes. All humans react based on what they know, correct or not, so you cannot blame them for reacting based on that information when you use a term which has a different meaning to the specialist vs general audience (i.e. “racist”, “venomous”). Don’t act surprised when people react negatively to something which, from their perspective and based on their knowledge, is highly negative. I’m not commenting on what that means or how to respond to it, only asserting that this disconnect exists, like it or not. Pretending that it doesn’t exist is disingenuous, and accusing those who wind up on the wrong side of it of deception is just plain dishonest.

  34. 34
    Dreidel says:

    Ah, Ampersand —

    Look at all those long, well-thought-out comments on your post!

    Does it really take several hundred words per comment to point out the vicious stereotyping of white people and Republicans in your simplistic cartoons?

    Go ahead and ban me permanently. The hatred in your more-or-less competently drawn political cartoons toward my skin color and my political views tells me that we have nothing to “discuss about racism,” or any other subject.

    I’ll continue to lurk your blog to judge the widely varying graphic quality of your artwork, but I won’t comment further. Farewell.

  35. 35
    Ampersand says:

    Cerastes, please try to dial it down a couple of notches. Nothing you’ve said is over the line, so I’m not criticizing you. I’m just worried about this turning into a flamewar if the level of anger continues to escalate, and in my judgement your most recent comment was an escalation. Thanks.

  36. 36
    Ampersand says:

    Driedel: Why would I ban someone who’s never going to comment here again? That would be pointless.

    Anyway, farewell, and best wishes to you.

  37. 37
    Charles says:

    Therefore, we should never use the word “snakes” when talking about how snakes are not actually particularly dangerous, nor should we ever talk about how they are ecologically important, because nobody cares about that academic stuff. I mean, look at how snakes are evil in both the Harry Potter movies and Snakes on a Plane!

    Sorry, Cerastes, this has been pointless and tedious, so I’m done talking to you.

  38. Why do I feel like we have this argument every time Amp does a cartoon about race?

    Of course tone matters, of course word-choice matters, of course the feelings of people who feel that being told they’ve said or done something racist is akin to being equated with Hitler matter—all of that matters, but it matters in context; and just because it matters doesn’t mean the right decision is to accommodate those feelings. More to the point, the context here is a political cartoon, not a face-to-face conversation, or even an invitation to a conversation, between or among people of good will.

    I know, I know, people will say that the cartoon makes those conversations less likely to happen, but I don’t think that’s true—at least not among people of good will. If someone who has their foot on my neck consistently denies it, there comes a point where it is pointless to be polite in asking them to recognize that reality, much less asking them to move. This cartoon, it seems to me, embodies and talks about that point.

  39. 39
    desipis says:

    RJN:

    … all of that matters, but it matters in context… More to the point, the context here is a political cartoon…

    Which leads to the question of what is the purpose of Amp’s cartoons? Is simply to act as a mechanism of confirmation bias, to reinforce views of those who already have a negative view of conservatives? Is there any desire to reach a wider audience?

  40. Desipis:

    Why ask your question only about Amp’s cartoons? What is the purpose of any political cartoon? I have not see a one, whether from the right, left, or middle, that does not in some way reduce the political phenomenon that is its subject to its lowest common denominator, rely in some way on caricature, etc.

    More pointedly, though, you wrote:

    Is simply to act as a mechanism of confirmation bias, to reinforce views of those who already have a negative view of conservatives?

    Why do you suppose that Amp’s cartoon was a critique directed at conservatives, as opposed to white people—who fall, obviously, all along the political spectrum? I have heard white people who are not conservative say at least some of the things Amp’s cartoon is intended to call out.

  41. 41
    Ampersand says:

    Why do you suppose that Amp’s cartoon was a critique directed at conservatives, as opposed to white people—who fall, obviously, all along the political spectrum?

    This was my conscious intention – several of these characters were liberals in my mind when I drew them. For instance, the woman with long hippie-hair in the coffee shop was definitely intended to read as “liberal.” (Of course, just because I intend something doesn’t mean it’ll come across that way.) If you look at the earlier cartoon that this is a sequel to, I think there’s even a couple directly saying that they can’t possibly be racist because they’re liberals.

    In hindsight, I wished I had included a “I can’t be racist! I voted for Obama!” panel as a counterpoint to the Trump panel. I could still do that, but I’d have to figure out which of the existing panels I should drop.

  42. 42
    Ampersand says:

    I guess I’d vote for the Limo Guy panel as the weakest of these panels.

  43. 43
    Eytan Zweig says:

    In hindsight, I wished I had included a “I can’t be racist! I voted for Obama!” panel as a counterpoint to the Trump panel. I could still do that, but I’d have to figure out which of the existing panels I should drop.

    If you’re seriously considering it, I’d get rid of the limo guy panel. That’s not really a lie people tell to deny being racist, but rather something overt racists say (actually, keeping the art but changing the statement to “I voted Obama” would work quite well).

  44. 44
    Ampersand says:

    That kind of cross-posting always amuses me. :-p

    I think I will do that.

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