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This cartoon was inspired by a public argument in Congress back in February:
Cohen accused Trump of being “a racist” as a way to establish that Trump was a bad person. Meadows countered it by pointing out an individual black person close to Trump: former Trump Organization employee and current Housing and Urban Development official Lynne Patton.
This is not is a helpful way to talk about racism. But when Tlaib and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) pointed this out during their questioning, they were accused of violating congressional decorum.
Tlaib said Meadows’s use of Patton as a “prop” was a “racist act” — an accusation Meadows took as an allegation that he himself was a racist. Meadows’s ensuing effort to defend himself against the accusation Tlaib wasn’t making culminated with an awkward profession that he counts Committee Chair Elijah Cummings, who is black, as a friend.
So what should have been a discussion of racism turned into a discussion of how Representative Meadows is Definitely Not Black and he has Black friends and Black neices and it went on and on.
What was unusual about this exchange wasn’t that it turned into a white person demanding that people of color affirm that he’s not racist. That happens all the time. What’s unusual is that this time it happened on C-Span.
Around the time I was writing this cartoon, I also saw some White people getting defensive about the (often harsh) criticisms of the movie Green Book‘s racial politics (it was in the news because Green Book had just won the Oscar for best movie). I used that controversy, rather than the fight in D.C., as the “setting” for this cartoon, because this cartoon really is about everyday White defensiveness and fragility, not just about one argument in Congress.
(Plus, of course, I usually try to do my cartoons as “evergreens”; that is, to make the cartoons about lasting issues, even when they’re inspired by current events. I think this makes the cartoons less commercial, but I also think doing cartoons about these evergreen topics is worthwhile.)
I found this cartoon tough to draw; I always find it hard to draw people sitting at tables (and please don’t look too closely at how the chairs are constructed!). And there’s so much going on in this cartoon in the foreground, visually, that I felt I’d better leave the background blank, even though a scene-setting panel would have been nice.
The fun part to draw was the body language, especially in panel 3. People yelling and overreacting and flinching is always fun to draw.
Transcript of Cartoon
This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows the same three people – a Black man, a Black woman, and a white man – sitting around a round cafe table. They have coffee cups and a muffin on small plates in front of them.
On the left, the Black man is wearing glasses, and a green tee shirt with an exclamation point design. He has a van dyke beard and mustache, so we’ll call him “Beard.” In the middle, the Black woman is wearing black tights, a black tank top, and an orange hair band. We’ll call her “Hair Band.” On the right, the white man has blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail, and is wearing jeans and an orange striped tee shirt. We’ll call him “Pony Tail.”
Beard is talking intently, leaning forward a bit to make a point. Hair Band is about to bite into a muffin. Pony Tail is raising a hand to interrupt Beard, looking wide-eyed and a bit panicked.
BEARD: Awards aside, that movie was racist. Look at how the Black character was-
PONY TAIL: I liked that movie. Are you saying I’m racist?
Beard raises a hand, palm outward, in a “no, no, that’s not what I meant” gesture. Pony Tail is even more panicked, and is yanking his own hair a bit.
BEARD: Nah, not what I meant. Anyway-
PONY TAIL: I have Black friends. I have a Black niece. I can’t be racist!
PONY TAIL: You agree I’m not a racist, right? RIGHT?
Beard and Hair Band are both leaning way away from Pony Tail, who has stood up and grabbed the front of Beard’s tee shirt. Pony Tail is now screaming loudly, still looking panicked. The table is tipping over, coffee cups and muffin spilling.
PONY TAIL: SAY I’M NOT A RACIST! SAYITSAYIT SAAAAAY IIIT!
HAIR BAND: He’s gonna blow!
The table has been knocked over. Beard, looking annoyed, gestures at Pony Tail. Hair Band looks shocked, one hand held to her chest. Pony Tail’s corpse is now slumped back in his chair; he is missing all of his head above his chin. Little puffs of smoke are rising out of the hole where his head used to be.
BEARD: See, this is why I don’t usually hang out with white people.