Cartoon: White People (But With Subtitles)


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I started work on this cartoon on November 28, 2006. (Or at least, that’s when my computer tells me this file was created). I had the idea and wrote a bunch of panels, but I wasn’t happy with them, so I left it in my folder of unfinished cartoons. And every year or two, I’d take a look at it and rewrite some panels, and write in some new ones, and then put it away undrawn.

I wrote fifteen panels in all before I had eight I liked.

Then I started drawing it in my usual “bighead” style before I realized I wasn’t happy with it and put it aside for another year or so.

Then I did some more rewrites (including moving the title lettering to the center panel, rather than having it in panel 1) and finally actually completed it. I used somewhat more realistic human proportions just for a change of pace, since the last several strips I’ve drawn have all used bighead proportions.

Fifteen years from start to completion might be the longest I’ve ever taken to do a cartoon. If not it’s sure up there.


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has nine panels, arranged in a 3×3 grid. The central panel has no images other than large title lettering, which says “White People, But With Subtitles.”

Each of the other panels has an image of a single white person talking directly to the reader. All of the panels have yellow printed subtitles, “translating” what the person is saying.

PANEL 1

A cheerful looking white man stands in front of flowering bushes. He’s holding out one hand towards us, shaking it in a “no no no” gesture. He’s wearing a tee-shirt that says “Close The Border” with an illustration of the border wall (although the illustration is kind of unclear and I suspect a lot of readers won’t get that, but that’s okay).

MAN: It’s not about race!

SUBTITLE: It’s completely about race.

PANEL 2

A light-haired white woman leans casually against a stone wall as she talks to the reader, smiling.

WOMAN: Of course I have Black friends!

SUBTITLE: I ask my Black doorman about his kids if I’m not in a hurry.

PANEL 3

A white man with glasses, a mustache, and a necktie sits at a desk, a laptop open in front of him. He has one hand raised, palm up, in a sort of half-a-shrug gesture.

MAN: They’d feel better if they talked less about racism.

SUBTITLE: I’d feel better if they talked less about racism.

PANEL 4

A white woman stands on a city street; we can see bits of two buildings, and an alleyway, behind her. She has glasses and her red hair is in a bun. She’s smiling, and holding one hand to her chest (just below her collarbone) in a somewhat surprised manner.

WOMAN: You’re so articulate!!!

SUBTITLE: I’m surprised that Latinos are intelligent.

PANEL 5

This panel has nothing but large lettering, which says “White People, But With Subtitles.”

PANEL 6

A white man with a van dyke beard and a full-of-himself expression is at some sort of party (we can see a few other partiers in silhouette in the background) and holding a wine glass.

MAN: I’m one-twentieth Indian myself, so I know all about reservations.

SUBTITLE: Your culture, my party chatter.

PANEL 7

A white woman with a checkered shirt is behind the wheel of a car, speaking out the window to us with a somewhat grumpy expression.

WOMAN: I’m not against assistance to hardworking families.

SUBTITLE: I’m against assistance to brown families.

PANEL 8

A redheaded white man clasping his hands in front of him and standing on a grassy hillside smiles wide and speaks directly to the viewer. His tee shirt has a manga drawing of a pretty woman.

MAN: Asian women are so beautiful and quiet!

SUBTITLE: Let me tell you what kind of porn I enjoy.

PANEL 9

A light-haired white woman holding a book (possibly a bible) open, as if she was just reading it, speaks to us. She has a pleasant smile, and is standing in front of a small but nice church building, which features a bell tower with a large clock on it.

WOMAN: Judeo Christian values built this country!

SUBTITLE: If I put “Judeo” at the start of sentences, I sound less like a Christian theocrat.


This cartoon on Patreon.

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

22 Responses to Cartoon: White People (But With Subtitles)

  1. 1
    Elkins says:

    “Your culture, my party chatter” is sharp as can be, B.

  2. 2
    JaneDoh says:

    100% on the Judeo-Christian. Very few actual Jewish values are reflected in what commonly comes next. And various Islamic values are at least as close to commonly invoked Christian values as Judaism is.

  3. 3
    Görkem says:

    Even if the Judeo-Christian is meant genuinely, it’s still not much of an improvement over bare Christian values (or for that matter, bare Jewish values, although the latter is not a realistic prospect outside of Israel).

    In Europe the “Judeo-Christian” bell gets rung a lot so that advocates of Judeo-Christian values can maximise their outrage about antisemitism originating from Muslims, but wave off anti-Muslim sentiment.

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    With regards to panel 9, I do think that the principles shared by Christianity and Judaism had a great influence on how the founders of the U.S. shaped their opinions and actions on how government should be structured and run. But it would be a big mistake to think that they held that citizenship, holding public office or otherwise participating in civic life was to be limited to Christians and Jews. Indeed, while the last few minutes I have spent conducting a search on the matter has been fruitless, I distinctly remember seeing an essay that included a statement that the word “Creator” rather than “God” was used in the Declaration of Independence to ensure that it was understood that “Musselmen” as well as Christians and Jews would enjoy equal rights in the newly-independent nations of America.

  5. 5
    RonF says:

    As far as #1 goes, I disagree that it’s “completely about race”. Opening the border leads to a huge uptick in sex trafficking, illegal importation of drugs, firearms, etc. and illegal crossings of criminals of all nations. I don’t doubt that there are many people who have racist reasons for opposing an open border, but that does not mean that vigorously enforcing our immigration and border laws is racist or “completely about race”.

    And for the executive to arbitrarily refuse to enforce laws passed by Congress (in the case of immigration law generally in a bi-partisan mode), duly signed by the President and upheld by the courts is fundamentally damaging to democracy.

  6. 6
    Görkem says:

    #4: It’s uncontroversial to knowledge that the political principles of christian philosophy were an influence on the writing of the US Constitution, although not necessarily the decisive influence or even chief influence.

    But I think there is a bit of a motte-and-bailey dynamic going on. When christian conservatives repeatedly emphasise this philosophical tradition, to the neglect or even denial of secular/humanist traditions, they are not actually lying, and will often claim they are simply stating a fact. But there’s a reason that certain speakers – including many powerful elected officials – emphasis this particular branch of the intellectual family tree of the various foundational documents of American law and political.

    Even within the American conservative intellectual ecosystem the assertion that citizenship, or the enjoyment of various rights in the American system, would be considered pretty marginal. But what we hear more often is the idea that laws or regulations or administrative decisions that do not abide by Judeo-Christian principles (usually specifically traditionalist/conservative principles), are wrong-headed, if not actually illegitimate.

  7. 7
    Fibi says:

    Amp – I wonder if you would be willing to share how long ago each panel was first drawn? Some of them feel current, while others feel like commentary from 10-15 years ago. If I had to guess, I would say #2, #4, #7, and #9 are also older than the scotch I’m drinking right now (which is ten years old).

    Please don’t take that as a knock on the cartoon! I think melding newer and older scenes works.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    All of the panels were drawn quite recently. I drew all the panels the same week.

    But the writing is another matter. Panels 1, 3, 6, and 9 were all written many years ago. The others are more recent.

    But all of these are issues that have been going on for decades, I think.

  9. 9
    Chris says:

    RonF:

    As far as #1 goes, I disagree that it’s “completely about race”. Opening the border leads to a huge uptick in sex trafficking, illegal importation of drugs, firearms, etc. and illegal crossings of criminals of all nations. I don’t doubt that there are many people who have racist reasons for opposing an open border, but that does not mean that vigorously enforcing our immigration and border laws is racist or “completely about race”.

    I was going to ask for a source for the bolded claim, but then I realized I’m not even sure what it means. How could there be “illegal crossings” of any kind with a completely open border? Wouldn’t that mean all crossings would be considered legal?

    And of course, the shirt of the man in panel #1 doesn’t say “Don’t open the border,” it says “Close the border.” Certainly you realize there is a lot of middle ground between those two extremes–almost every country in the world has immigration policies that live between those two extremes. So yes, there are non-racist reasons to not favor a completely open border–but I can’t think of any non-racist reasons to favor a completely closed border, nor do I know of any one other than devout racists who favor a completely closed border. Do you?

  10. 10
    Dreidel says:

    Don’t you get tired of drawing the same idea — “White people are clueless crypto-bigots…” — over and over and OVER for years? You’ve run that single point into the ground in a thousand cartoons by now, nothing different but the specific panels.

    At least you’re consistent!

    (I keep clicking on your website because I like your cartoony drawing style.)

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Glad you like the drawings! I think your description of my cartoons is exaggerated and vaguely insulting, but insulting (not always vaguely) is what I’ve come to expect of you. Don’t you get tired of repeating yourself like that? :-p

    I really doubt I’ve done a thousand poli cartoons altogether, let alone a thousand anti-racist cartoons. (My guess is I’ve done about 400 policartoons altogether.)

    And no, not really. I think most political cartoonists have particular issues they return to again and again over the years.

    And not just political cartoonists, actually. Strip cartoonists, superhero cartoonists, TV show writers, pop stars, etc..

  12. 12
    Dreidel says:

    > “Don’t you get tired of repeating yourself like that? :-p”

    I KNEW you were going to say that! (See how predictable you are.)

    But the answer is nope, I can be as endlessly repetitive in my comments as your cartoons are — you should appreciate my loyalty!

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    Chris:

    How could there be “illegal crossings” of any kind with a completely open border?

    There’s two ways that people tend to use the term “open borders”. One would be the concept of the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal government changing immigration law so that there were few to no restrictions on crossing them. The other, a more anti-democratic process, is for the Executive branch to simply reduce effective enforcement of existing law. In the existing situation, where no one (that I know of) has proposed bills changing current law, the latter is the operative usage.

  14. 14
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    In the existing situation, where no one (that I know of) has proposed bills changing current law, the latter is the operative usage.

    So you’re saying that they happen in the dreams of conservatives’ imagined version of the definition of “completely open border”? That’s not even in the top 7 million of my concerns.

  15. 15
    RonF says:

    And of course, the shirt of the man in panel #1 doesn’t say “Don’t open the border,” it says “Close the border.”

    Ah! Fair enough. I guess what I saw was not what was there. Let’s just say my own position is a) enforce the existing law to at least the extent that the Trump administration did so that illegal crossings decrease to at least the level that was achieved then and then b) those legislators who think our laws are too restrictive should propose legislation that would lead to an increase in immigration and advocate for it.

    I can’t think of any good reason to completely close the border. I agree with you there. But xenophobia does not necessarily equal racism. Someone who would close the border against all people – including people of Caucasian heritage – would clearly NOT be doing so on the basis of race since they would be excluding people of all races.

  16. 16
    Jacqueline Onassis Squid says:

    …enforce the existing law to at least the extent that the Trump administration did…

    You’re pro child theft and pro concentration camp and pro breaking international law on asylum seekers? I wouldn’t admit that in public if that were my opinion.

  17. 17
    Mandolin says:

    I don’t know if anyone else would have this reaction, but before reading the text, I read the woman in the lower left corner as having locs and being black.

  18. 18
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t know either, but just in case, I changed her hair and lightened her skin a tad.

  19. 19
    nobody.really says:

    I don’t see that anyone’s mentioned this just yet
    –and yes, I know that we’ve got an surge of anti-Asian sentiment just now,
    –and yes, we continue to read about anti-fat sentiment.

    Nevertheless, that one panel that Amp rejected including what looks like a big-headed, fat, bald Chinese (?) character bellowing while holding a “Close the Border” sign is FRIGGIN’ ADORABLE. Amp, you should make plush toys of that one. Or at least find an excuse to insert him into a different cartoon.

  20. 20
    Ampersand says:

    Glad you liked the drawing.

    However, the character is intended to be white, not Asian. (Which, you know, makes sense in a cartoon that’s explicitly about “white people”). I think that would have been clearer if the art had been finished and colored.

  21. 21
    nobody.really says:

    Still cute, either way.

  22. 22
    Chris says:

    There’s two ways that people tend to use the term “open borders”. One would be the concept of the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal government changing immigration law so that there were few to no restrictions on crossing them. The other, a more anti-democratic process, is for the Executive branch to simply reduce effective enforcement of existing law. In the existing situation, where no one (that I know of) has proposed bills changing current law, the latter is the operative usage.

    Ah. Well, I assumed you couldn’t be using the latter definition because it’s objectively ridiculous. By that definition, not only would any reduction in immigration enforcement be considered “open borders,” it would mean that our country has always had open borders until the very last immigration restriction was passed. That is not a useful definition unless your goal is to uses loaded language against literally any reduction in immigration restrictions.

    You’re right that it is the definition used by many on the right, because that is their goal, because they are racists, but it’s not one I would have expected from you.

    Ah! Fair enough. I guess what I saw was not what was there. Let’s just say my own position is a) enforce the existing law to at least the extent that the Trump administration did so that illegal crossings decrease to at least the level that was achieved then and then b) those legislators who think our laws are too restrictive should propose legislation that would lead to an increase in immigration and advocate for it.

    The phrase “at least” makes Trump’s enforcement of immigration law seem moderate and reasonable. But as Jacqueline points out, said enforcement resulted in horrible human rights abuses. Your position requires cruelty.

    Furthermore, there isn’t even evidence that it would produce your desired result–illegal border crossings reached an 11-year high in 2o19. Given that the cruel policies of the Trump administration did not actually achieve their stated goal of reducing illegal border crossings, what should we conclude of those who want to bring those policies back, other than that the cruelty is the point?

    I can’t think of any good reason to completely close the border. I agree with you there. But xenophobia does not necessarily equal racism. Someone who would close the border against all people – including people of Caucasian heritage – would clearly NOT be doing so on the basis of race since they would be excluding people of all races.

    This may be true, but I personally think Barry should continue basing his cartoons on actual people, rather than hypothetical people. There is no group of Americans desperate to close the border in order to protect us from all non-Americans, white or otherwise. There is a growing group of Americans desperate to close the border to non-white people, for the specific purpose of keeping America a majority-white nation. Their leader has the highest-rated cable news show in American history.

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