Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Race relations

Much has been said about U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson's mid-September "You Lie!" screech directed at President Barack Obama, and many have implied that aside from being boorish and plain-old crazy, it was racist, something that I touched upon slightly in "Health Care, explained (poorly)."

It's a simplistic argument, I think, and belittles some who have valid criticisms.

Nobody called Kanye West racist, for instance, when he interrupted Obama:

Having said that, there is no denying that there's a good deal of people who are racist, and that when people call out racism sometimes, they are accused of playing the race card, a point cartoonist Keith Knight made clear recently, when he drew himself like this:

If the satire was clear to you, it was lost on the students of Slippery Rock University in western Pennsylvania:

It was also lost on WYTV, which ran the headline, "Students upset over racist cartoon."

And yes, students are protesting the cartoon by wearing nooses over their necks. Go figure.

Knight, whose syndicated "K Chronicles" ran at Ulster County Community College when I was editor of The Senator there, issued a statement:

In the first panel of this specific comic strip, white people accuse a black man, who is about to be lynched, of pulling the race card. This is an exaggerated, satirical version of what we often see and hear in mainstream media: the victim gets accused of pulling the race card, which is an easy way to dismiss the real issues involved.

Students talk about experiencing real-life incidents of racism on campus, yet it is my satirical comic strip they're protesting over. I'd like to hear what the students are going through. If this uproar causes the school to address those issues, then my comic has done its job.