Fragility and Disingenuity: Contemporary Racism Facilitation

Ugly, isn’t it?

I refer not to the aspect of the figure caricatured, but to the caricature itself; and I’m not talking about artistic merit.

The cartoonist in question, Mark Knight, of Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, offered this snapshot in response to multiple Grand Slam champion Serena Williams’ verbal altercation with the umpire, at the recent US Open. Unsurprisingly, the cartoon set the airwaves alight, with cries of “It’s racist!” and “It’s not racist!” ricocheting across the globe (or at least, the part of it occupied by people with nothing better to do).

Of course it’s racist. It’s considered racist because of the long history of precisely such caricatures–not caricatures of an individual, but caricatures of an ethnicity. As actor and activist Kelechi Okafor put it, it is racist because,

[It]plays on historically racist ways of drawing black people.

You find such images throughout the Jim Crow era; you see them in the trope of the “angry black woman“; in the trope of the “magical negro“; in the trope of Little Black Sambo; you see them in blackface, in minstrelsy; and on and on, and that’s only the US. Australia has its own troubled history on the subject. The depictions exaggerate, and thereby dehumanise, often portraying subjects animalistically. Bob Moran, the Telegraph newspaper’s cartoonist, and someone who is keenly aware of the pitfalls of such portrayals, lays out precisely why Knight’s cartoon is inappropriate, in a short video.

I actually have a harder time understanding how it could not be perceived as racist (but much ink has gone into shedding some light in that respect, in a fascinating study by sociologist Robin DiAngelo, for example, covered recently by The New Yorker). It’s not that I take offense personally; I don’t. I’m comparing this depiction against the backdrop of historically racist depictions.

What I find more offensive is the deluge of white commentary, deciding that this is not racist. That is not a decision that white people get to make, in the same way that I wouldn’t dream of deciding for a woman what’s misogynistic and what isn’t. It’s my place to listen and accept and learn; not to brandish my prejudices about. Nor does professing ignorance of racism absolve one of engaging in it. Aldous Huxley said “Facts don’t cease to exist simply because they are ignored.” The same could well be said of racism.


How To Avoid People Saying What Not To Say To People With Depression

Articles on what not to say to people suffering from depression abound online, and are fairly helpful. (Here’s an example.)

I usually agree with most, if not all points, having both suffered from depression myself, and having had people who cared, but who were wholly unqualified to weigh in, trying to offer helpful advice. Continue reading

Suffer The Little Homophobes


Photo credit: YouTube

The scene: a pre-Christmas dinner date, in a pleasant, local restaurant. The dramatis personae: Adam Fannin, pastor at the Stedfast Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida; his wife; and the waiting staff at said restaurant. In later remarks to his congregation, he bewails his evening, ruined on account of having to be served by waiters whom he presumes to be gay.

Here comes this flaming foo-foo fruit loop. I’m here to have date night, enjoy some time with my wife, and I can’t because of the lisps.

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Breaking of Silence


Credit: Alamy

Like many socioholics, I’ve been virtually glued to my social media feeds over the past few hours, both appalled at and unable to turn away from the steady drip of new #MeToo posts and comments, and behind them, sometimes the stories, told with admirable, no-frills candour, and sometimes the bare hashtag itself, speaking of lifetimes full of normalised, regular harassment and assault. Women I don’t know, and women I do: friends, girlfriends, school friends, colleagues, mothers, sisters.

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Jim Wright’s “Clockwork Patriots”

If [the illusion of respect] is what matters to you, then you’re not talking about freedom or liberty. You’re not talking about the United States of America. Instead, you’re talking about every dictatorship from the Nazis to North Korea, where people are lined up and MADE to salute with the muzzle of a gun pressed to the back of their necks. ~Jim Wright


Attribution: Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Whether by some contemporary magick (which I’m informed these days is called an “algorithm”) or by sheer serendipity, this piece on Colin Kaepernick and the idea of respect appeared in my social media feed.

The author, Jim Wright, is a freelance political essayist and retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer. As a veteran, his assessment of the reasons for his service is first-hand, and crystalline. Continue reading