On -isms: Diversify Your Authors

By | Thursday, December 04, 2014 Leave a Comment
Last week, I was having a conversation with an old friend of mine regarding the fact that Darren Wilson wasn't indicted. It started because I had been posting a few news pieces on Facebook and, after the fourth or fifth one over the course of several days, he said something to the effect of, "Uh, so what's up with the whole Ferguson thing? You and my other friend seem to be posting a lot about it, and it seems kind of important, but I haven't heard much outside of those posts."

So I gave him the whole run-down of how Mike Brown was killed, and the subsequent protests, and everything. I tried to keep things very factual, with as little editorializing as possible. (Though I'm sure I did some.) He said he'd vaguely remembered something about the August protests, but that was about it. This led to a broader discussion of unarmed people of color getting killed by police officers who subsequently weren't punished in any way.

And to be absolutely clear, I am not painting all police officers with a racist brush. I'm not even saying that some of those killings weren't absolutely justified. What I am saying is that, while any single case might not be evidence of racial bias, the broad pattern of them does show exactly that.

And the reason I was pointing this out on Facebook was because I was pretty sure there were a contingent of people I know on Facebook that simply were not paying attention. In some of the discussions with others I had there, the last time they heard an unarmed person of color was killed was Trayvon Martin back in early 2012. This group of people were living pretty comfortably in their bubble of privilege, and could (and did!) easily justify why any given officer had to kill someone, regardless of the circumstances. And besides, they'd argue, that was just a single instance.

The reason why these people are able to remain ignorant of these killings is explained in some recent findings that say, essenitally, that most white people don't know more than a couple non-whites in the first place and those people, by and large, aren't friends. Which means that it's easy to dismiss Tamir Rice's death by saying, "That's tragic but that type of thing never happens to anyone I know." Because they don't really know any POC, that's likely true. So they assume (incorrectly) that everyone else's experiences are broadly pretty close to their own.

And that's why I suggest picking up comics that are by minorities and people unlike yourself. They will give you stories that can only come from people with their background. A background you absolutely do not share. And through that, you can gain a few insights into what it's like to be Black. Or Latino. Or gay. Or disabled. Or... And because they're different people writing and drawing these stories, you can see different points of view and perceptions of the same ideas.

Granted, reading a comic about growing up in a racist society is by no means comparable to knowing someone of color well enough to discuss racism with. But what reading does is A) provide an easy entry into learning the basics of those cultural issues for people who are living in their echo chamber of social privilege, and B) by reading multiple comics, you won't be relying on your one Black friend to represent all of the Black experience for everyone ever.

Comics have long been known for telling fantastic tales that you could only dream in your wildest imaginations. But they also do a damn fine job of telling fantastic tales that you refuse to dream about in your wildest imaginations.
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