On -isms: Cafe con Leche Ends

By | Thursday, November 20, 2014 1 comment
I don't think I've seen this come up in the regular comics press circles, and I'm a little irked that I missed it myself, but November 2 saw the last of Charlos Gary's newspaper strip, Cafe con Leche.
The strip followed the domestic adventures of Trey and Maria, a mixed race couple who navigated the traditional male/female stereotypes in comics as well as some of the complexities of coming from very different cultural backgrounds.

That was one of the last syndicated newspaper strips that featured a mixed race couple. Doonesbury (which I believe had a Caucasian/Asian couple) has been in reruns for over a year. Cory Thomas pulled Watch Your Head (which included a Black/Caucasian couple) from syndication to restart it as a webcomic a couple months ago. Boondocks has been gone nearly a decade now. Norm Feuti's Retail is the only noteable one left, I believe. There are some minor characters in Jump Start that are a mixed couple, but that's all I can think of/find. Other strips like Wee Pals do feature a diverse cast, but none of them are shown to be in a mixed race relationship. And certainly none of these strips highlighted it as well as Cafe con Leche.

Why is that significant?

According to the 2010 census, over 15% of all new marriages in the United States are of mixed race couples. A 2008 Pew Research survey suggested fully one third of Americans claimed to have a family member in an interracial marriage. And yet the representation of that in newspaper strips is virtually non-existent.

This is the age-old racial discussion of wanting to see people like me. Black people don't want to see a newspaper page full of comic strips about white folks without recognizing themselves anywhere. Same with Asians, Latinos, etc. You've heard this before. Seeing fictional characters that represent them allows people to consider possibilities that they might not be seeing in their immediate and current life.

The same idea holds for interracial relationships. How many people simply don't even consider dating (much less marrying) someone of a different race just because it never occurred to them that it was an option? How many people think that they have to get married to someone who looks like them because that's what their parents did? It's about opening up people to possibilities beyond what they're presented everywhere else.

There's a motivational quote from Henry Ford that goes, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." And maybe that's a little overly optimistic (you can't breathe in a vaccum no matter how much you believe in your ability to do so) but people often accept what's presented to them as their only options, instead of asking if there's something else they hadn't considered. And it's people asking those kinds of questions that leads to progress.

I'll admit Cafe con Leche wasn't my favorite comic, but it was enjoyable. And while I don't personally know any Black men in a relationship with a Latina, I had a lot of respect for Gary for showing that as a possibility to so many people on a daily basis.
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Mike said...

Stone Soup has had a mixed race couple for several years and the current story arc is about her wondering if they should finally get married.