On -isms: Where To Look

By | Thursday, August 13, 2015 Leave a Comment
So you've been reading my "On -isms" pieces for a while now, and you're saying to yourself, "Wow, Sean's right. I had never realized how much I'd been missing out on by not paying attention to voices different than my own. But... how do I find these other voices, as I sit here within my white, able-bodied, cis-hetero privilege bubble?"

If you're like most Caucasians in America, you don't have any friends that aren't also Caucasian. 75% of white Americans have social networks that are entirely white. They simply just don't know any Black people. Or Latinos. Or Asians. (I don't have statistics for other issues besides race, but I suspect they're similar.) So if you're stuck inside this privilege bubble where minorities effectively don't exist, how do you break out of that to pick up some comics by them?

The first time I took my wife to a comic convention, I was struck by how different are approaches were to going through Artists' Alley. I walked methodically, trying to look at what each creator was doing and paying particular attention for names of creators I specifically wanted to meet. She, on the other hand, had little time for that. (She actually had little time for comics at all back then. She originally came along to see why I would make such a fuss over the medium.) She kind of zig-zagged across the aisles, blithly ignoring large swaths of creators and focusing in on a small handful of them that seemed to catch her attention. What I soon realized is that she was specifically looking for minorities. She zoned in on the creators who visibly stood out from everyone else by virtue of their appearance because she wanted to see/hear what people who were on the very fringes of the comic industry were doing.

Not everyone's work interested her, certainly. But she made a point of finding out what they were doing. Regardless of where your interests normally are, that might be an approach you consider. After you've gone through Artists' Alley to hit the creators you're already interested in, go back a second time to find all the minority representation that you may well have overlooked earlier.

Cartoonists of Color Database
Of course, you might not be able to get to a convention for whatever reason(s). Or the ones you can get to don't have any minority representation at all. For you people, you can find names of people to check out online. If you don't want to ask around via social media, Mari Naomi has an fantastic "Cartoonists of Color Database" which lists hundreds of creators with links over to the respective websites. And while she doesn't have samples of their work on her own site, they're just a click away. That does require a little effort, but just a little.

Regardless of how you were raised or what you think you should happen, this will require a little effort on your part. No one is going to just walk up to you while you're in your local comic shop, hand you a stack of POC-created books, and say, "Here you go!" Especially if you're one of those 75% who doesn't even have "my one Black friend", it's going to need you to do some legwork on your own. Sure, you can keep doing what you've been doing and ignoring all sorts of -isms issue. But bear in mind that fewer than half of American children ages 5 and under were white as of 2012. If you keep refusing to adapt with the times, they're going to change around you and you'll "suddenly" find yourself as the minority and not know what to do.
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