On -isms: This Is How You Do It

By | Thursday, January 18, 2018 Leave a Comment
Johanna Draper Carlson pointed me to these two posts by artist Lea Seidman Hernandez in which she apologizes for the racism in Mangaverse Punisher. I've excerpted a chunk of it here...
It’s racist, and I was uncomfortable when I drew it, but it had been written by Peter [David], a friend, and approved by an editor.

The main characters, Japanese-Caucasian sisters, were named Hashi Brown and Sosumi Brown. (Update: there’s also a female villain named “Skan Kee Ho.”) There was exotification of Asians. I depicted Sosumi, the Punisher, in a sexy kimono alá manga art of “bad” women even as I was careful to dress Hashi in a “schoolgirl” uniform that was mid-thigh length shorts and a jacket, alá Utena. Because I was sick of the sexualization of children, but didn’t grasp that exotification needed to be off the table, too...

I needed the money, we were constantly over a barrel when my kids were little. Punisher paid me $6000. This says a lot about how shitty comics pay most of the time, about how tough it is to keep one’s head above water when there are disabled kids in a family and an inflexible schedule doesn’t allow for crises or disasters.
This isn’t an excuse. This is to show how economic disparity, minimal aid for disability, and wage stagnation forces people to take questionable jobs.

If I’d said, “The names are too much, let’s change them.” I’m not sure how that would’ve gone. I could’ve drawn the Punisher in any number of ways, but I went straight to a kimono. How stupid. I didn’t address all of the things completely in my control.

I can’t walk back what I did almost 20 years ago. It was wrong, I knew it, and I was afraid of career sabotage, and needed the money desperately.

I’m sorry that I had a part in it. I always will be...
She later added...
To anyone who was hurt by the racism in Marvel Mangaverse Punisher, of which I was the artist, I offer my deepest apologies.
I can’t change the circumstances that led me to be afraid of pushing back, but I am changing how I conduct myself going forward.
I also apologize for taking 17 years to fully comprehend an apology and being accountable for the work was in order.
I've quoted nearly all of it because it's worth repeating. She details what she could have pushed back on, what she had express control over, and where her failings were. She owns her mistakes here, and apologizes for them -- unprompted -- twice.

And to cap it all off, she added a third post asking Marvel to stop reprinting it because it's racist, putting her principles now before her bank account since that would forgo her ever earning royalties from the work.

That is how you apologize when you inadvertently make a racist (or sexist or able-ist or homophobic or...) comic. Own your mistake, learn from it, make a sincere apology, and then try find a way to keep those racist images/stories from gaining a wider audience. In Hernandez's cases, she'd like to see them never reprinted; if the offense were a lesser one, however, perhaps correcting the art or the lettering might be sufficient. The point is she fully admits that she put money before her principles before, and is actively choosing do the opposite now.

Many people could stand to take some lessons from Hernandez.
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