Looney Toon

I want to talk about this:

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This cartoon, created by conservative cartoonist Glenn McCoy… rendered me truly speechless early Wednesday morning.  I have considered how I want to tackle it here and, honestly, I am still figuring that out as I type this.  There are simply so MANY things wrong that I am not sure where to start.

If you’re confused about where the outrage is stemming from, take a look at another famous cartoon of Ruby Bridges:

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If you don’t know who Ruby Bridges is, do better.  SERIOUSLY… do better.

Anyway… I am going to work my way through this atrocious comparison left to right before I tackle something a little deeper that has been bugging me over the last few (read: 8) weeks.

First: the KKK to NEA comparison. I have seen white people compare Black Lives Matter to the KKK multiple times and I’ve had this argument every time, but UNLESS the group to which you are comparing the KKK engaged in the systematic murder and torture of LITERALLY countless individuals based on skin color alone, I do not want to hear it.  I am really done with conservative “alt-right” whites (read: white nationalists) drawing a comparison between the KKK and any group that stands in the way of their white privilege-promoting agenda. The National Education Association (NEA) hasn’t murdered nary a soul… so please miss me with this bullshit.

Second: Did they really try to make this woman look like a child?  Are they really trying to compare this old, billionaire white lady to a young, black girl? Betsy DeVos is grown.  Betsy DeVos paid a lot of money to get her position with full awareness of what she was getting herself into.  Ruby Bridges was a CHILD standing on the precipice of public school integration.  She was a little girl being harassed and taunted by hateful WHITE adults simply because she was an African American child.

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“All I want for Christmas is a clean white school.”

Yes, a group of protesters blocked Betsy DeVos from entering a public school in DC, but if conservatives really think there is a comparison between this and what Bridges endured on her walk into school each day then they really are trying to whitewash history into a reflection that hides their ugliness.  As a matter of FACT, people were ARRESTED for YELLING at DeVos. Do you think anyone was arrested for hurling racial slurs at Bridges?  For threatening her? Please.

This brings me to my third point: the comparison between the racial slur “ni*ger” and the word “conservative”.  The fact that McCoy can even make this comparison is insane to me.  The linguistic history of “ni*ger” is deep and it’s painful… and ANY person of color will tell you that.  To assert that calling someone a conservative is the same thing, or that it is being used in the same way, just exposes a level of ignorance that I might actually be surprised by.

I want to say that this whole thing surprises me, but it doesn’t.  Trump’s victory didn’t surprise me either.  What is happening in this nation was best described by Van Jones: this is “whitelash“. A faction of white republicans have decided that this country belongs to them, that its history belongs to them, that its future belongs to them, and that they have been wronged in some deep and meaningful way by the system.  They assert that they have it just as bad as any person of color, if not worse. In 2015, 64% of white republicans said they felt that whites faced just as much racism as people of color.  They have decided they are going to “take their country back” and that the rest of us are just going to have to figure it out.

I have even had multiple people mention to me that we need to be more sensitive to the needs of the white working class… that they’re experiencing things that are so horrible, they saw no other way out BUT to elect DT.  I reject that.

The general response to Trump’s victory has been to try to be more aware and sensitive to the needs of white, working class, middle America. But I have to ask: what is this “marginalized” group experiencing that’s so unique? Poverty? Drug addiction? Invisibility? Limited access to vital resources?

History + contemporary truth have shown us that communities of color all across the nation have been enduring these same “horrific” conditions for CENTURIES. And what has been the pervasive public response? Well, let’s just say it wasn’t a call to be “more understanding.”

Instead, what happened was mandatory sentencing, welfare reform, increased drug laws targeted SPECIFICALLY to impact these communities, militarized police forces, stop and frisk, redlining, and the school to prison pipeline. Instead, what happened was the development and perpetuation of systemic and institutionalized racism on the WHOLE.

And so… I’m not interested in trying  to “understand” the “marginalized”, middle American white worker as if they’re enduring some unique circumstance that has rendered it excusable for them to endorse oppression and hate. Because clearly, no one allowed these excuses to exist for people of color.

It is for this reason that I’m not interested in spending more time on the narrative of white people and their perspective on why Trump happened and the state of race relations today. They’ve dominated the narrative since the birth of this nation and we have gotten nowhere. I don’t need to read anything that helps them “explain why this is happening.” Because that explanation will be (and has been) almost exclusively self-serving and neglectful of the truth, which is that this land was stolen from and built by people of color… and that these same people have been systemically beaten and tortured by its systems ever since.
I don’t need Vance or Hochschild to understand this.  Instead, I’m here to read the narratives of the people who will suffer and have suffered for generations. Give me Baldwin, and Coates, and Adichie, and other voices of color because THAT’S where the truth is. THOSE are the voices that matter right now. THEY are going to give us the real picture of why this is happening and what we need to do to resist and fight it. And while it might be ugly and uncomfortable to read, especially if you’re a white person, you need to read it. Even as a mixed person, I need to check myself.  I live with white privilege because I look white.  And if I don’t stop and listen and learn from the people of color around me, how am I going to use my privilege to adequately stand against oppression?
So please, white family and friends … just listen. Arm yourself with knowledge and listen to the voices of people of color. Call your white friends out for making ignorant comparisons like the one made with these cartoons, or for saying BLM is the new KKK, or for saying white privilege doesn’t exist.  At BLM rallies, look to the people of color around you and follow their lead.  If it’s a silent protest, don’t start a chant.  If there’s chanting, don’t censor the chants of the people around you.  Don’t try to control the narrative. Just be there and be a support. That’s how you can show up.
And remember, you’re not vying for best activist here. Instead, look to be the best SUPPORTING activist.  Because this is not your moment to shine and be the hero of the story. It is, instead, a time for you to engage in direct acts of resistance against the forced narrative that taught you that the only person who could be the hero was you.

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