Saturday, January 19, 2008

Letter to Editor: Candorville's mockery of bigots offends me!

A reader was kind enough to send me a copy of his letter to the editor about today's Candorville:

Copy of Letter to the Editor-Austin American Statesman

Dear Editor:

As a white, Independent voter, I am appaled at the tastelessness of the “comic strip”, Candorville, that appeared in the Saturday Jan. 19, 2008 Austin Statesman.

This has a non-white male character talking to a non-white female character and I will quote the dialogue in it’s entirety for those who missed it.

He says, “I figured out what Obama needs to do if he wins the nomination. If he wins, you just know thousands of bigots are going bullet shopping. So he’s gotta pick a vice president that bigots’ll hate worse- Someone the bigots wouldn’t want to risk becoming president. Obviously, his running mate should be an illegal immigrant,”

To me this is patently offensive and the Statesman should not have run it. As I wrote earlier, “I’m a white, Independent voter and this appears to me to be race baiting of the worst kind.

I apologize to all my non-white friends for this bad taste on the part of the cartoonist, and the Statesman as well.

Rev. James A. Andrews D.D.

AKA Zpadre

Always nice to hear from a white person who takes it upon himself to be offended on behalf of minorities. I hear from such angels occasionally. Oddly enough, the minorities in question never seem to tell me themselves that those particular strips offend them. Thank God for the Reverend Andrews's of the world, otherwise I'd never know that I've done wrong.

My response:

I often hear from readers who tell me they're white, and that they're offended on behalf of minorities about something I said. When, in fact, I hear almost nothing but praise for those same comics by the supposedly-aggrieved minority readers themselves. I don't understand this phenomenon. I'm not sure I understand why you're apologizing on my behalf. Why would you, a white person, apologize to "all your non-white friends" for something another non-white person said? Why don't you ask THEM if they're offended? If THEY would like an apology, by all means, direct them my way so I can correct whatever misinterpretation they're laboring under. If you can find a single non-white friend of yours who hasn't already thought about the danger Obama faces, I'd be surprised.

I'm also unclear on why you feel it's race-baiting.

From the Encyclopedia Britannica online:

"Race baiting is the act of using racially derisive language, actions or other forms of communication, to anger, intimidate or incite a person or groups of people, or to make those persons behave in ways that are inimical to their personal or group interests."

Who exactly do you think today's cartoon was "DERISIVE" of? It wasn't derisive of black people. It wasn't derisive of illegal immigrants. If anyone, it was derisive of "bigots." Now, if you're saying today's Candorville was trying to anger or intimidate bigots, or trying to get them to behave in a way that's inimical to their personal or group interest (namely, trying to get them to stop being bigots), then you've got a point. I fail to see what's offensive about someone deriding bigots.

Also part of the definition of "race-baiting":

"This can also be accomplished by implying that there is an underlying race based motive in the actions of others towards the group baited, where none in fact exists."

Are you honestly - with a straight face - going to tell me there aren't bigots in this country who'd sooner see a black man dead than in the White House? Are you going to tell me there was no reason for Barack Obama to ask for and receive an uncommonly large contingent of secret service agents as protection? Are you going to tell me - an African American cartoonist who receives occasional death threats simply for publishing a cartoon with black characters in newspapers - that a black man running for PRESIDENT has nothing to fear?


Ken said...

The complaint seems to be the ramblings of a confused old reader who doesn't seem to understand humor. Pity him for missing out on a good laugh.

It's always interesting to hear from someone that defines the world as "white" and "non-white." That richly informed world view must have been carefully nurtured over the years.

Paul said...

If I may offer a different perspective - I was quite confused when I got to his statement "I apologize to all my non-white friends for this bad taste on the part of the cartoonist..." The only way it made sense to me was he was telling his nonwhite friends "if this strip has reinforced the impression that whites are a bunch of racists who would rather kill a person than have him take his lawful place as President, and if this misimpression has caused you anxiety about whites, I am sorry."

(Of course, he could have included people from other minority groups who wouldn't be happy about a Pres Obama, but that's another story).

It's rather in the sense that an apology does not have to be an admission of wrong or personal responsibility. It can be an expression of understanding.

That's the only thing that remotely made sense to me (and not much, at that), assuming a literal reading accurately reflects what he meant. The other possibility I saw was that he assumed the cartoonist is white and is stoking the fires of prejudice (and completely missing the point about bigots). It's only a possibility. And highly unlikely, at that. Then again, we have in this country educated people who believe public servants engaged in a massive conspiracy to murder thousands of their countrymen so we could launch a war against a country and get oil and give contracts to business associates...

Then I read your response, Mr. Bell. It did not occur to me he was saying he was offended on behalf of minorities. Then again, that's why I read cartoons like this, read op-ed pieces and such - to hear different views based upon different life experiences and perceptions. And to learn something.