Tag Archives: racial insensitivity

Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The ‘Racist, Sexist’ Cartoon”

Occasionally I request a comment from a regular reader who has special expertise; for example, I have asked “Curmie,” a drama teacher, director and superb blogger when he has the time, to weigh in on theater and casting ethics controversies. (And I just remembered that the last time he commented, he submitted a Comment of the Day that I neglected to post! Arghhh! I’m sorry, Curmie…it will be up today.) This time, the surprisingly lively debate over the allegedly racist Serena Williams cartoon prompted me to send out a Bat Signal for the reactions of King Kool, aka Jeff H., who is a long-time reader and a cartoonist himself. (His submission for “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” periodically appears in the Ethics Alarms header.) He answered the call, and did so superbly.

There have been some new developments. The cartoonist, Mark Knight, has suspended his Twitter account because of all the hate coming his way.  Knight said he was amazed at the reaction to his drawing. “I drew this cartoon Sunday night after seeing the US Open final, and seeing the world’s best tennis player have a tantrum and thought that was interesting,” he said. “The cartoon about Serena is about her poor behavior on the day, not about race.”

Popular Australian Broadcaster Neil Mitchell, among others, defended Knight, saying, “This shows an awful misunderstanding of Mark Knight and this country. I looked at that cartoon and it didn’t even cross my mind it was about race. It was a sports bully, a petulant child throwing a tantrum about losing…I drew her as an African-American woman. She’s powerfully built. She wears these outrageous costumes when she plays tennis. She’s interesting to draw. I drew her as she is, as an African-American woman.”

As I have explained elsewhere on the Ethics Quiz thread, the reason I made the issue a quiz rather than an ethics  position post is that Knight’s  cartoon struck me as racially provocative.

I believe it is racially insensitive, but I am not certain that in the field of opinion cartooning racial sensitivities should be ignored. If a white, male player who behaved like Williams—it is astounding that so many pundits are defending her—a mocking, tough cartoon, showing ugly conduct  by portraying its perpetrator as symbolically ugly would be appropriate. I do  not think it is fair or healthy for special immunity to be granted to a similarly misbehaving player, especially a repeat offender like Williams, because of her race and gender. This why my vote in the poll accompanying the quiz was the somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “Whatever it was, she deserved it.” 

That response has gleaned 13% of the votes, with over 72% voting for the position that it’s just a cartoon. Against the 85% that are inclined to support Knight (all old white men who are constitutionally unable to recognize sexism and racism, according to one unbiased, unbigoted commenter), 14% agree that the cartoons is “racist.”

To its credit, Knight’s paper, the Herald Sun, took the remarkable step of devoting its entire front page to Knight’s defense, which you see above.

Here is Jeff H.’s Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Quiz: The “Racist, Sexist” Cartoon:

One of the reasons I didn’t pursue doing political cartoons is because… no matter how much I practiced at it, I am absolutely awful at caricature. I tried drawing John Kerry dozens of times, and could never get it down. (Not that it ended up mattering.)

The image of Serena Williams has been called ‘something out of 1910,’ which I think it an exaggeration. However, the large lips, even the ponytail pointed straight up… to me, it does invoke some insensitive imagery of old caricatures and similar things. Maybe even the pose itself, her being completely in the air, maybe that is bothering some people for possibly comparing her motion to that of primitive man, or even that particular animal that racist jerks compare persons of color to. But that might be a stretch.

Again, that’s just my interpretation. I am not ascribing blame or intention. All I’m saying is… if the cartoon looked indubitably like Serena Williams, people would have a lot less to complain about, even if you could focus on part of it and say it parallels older racist art.

If it were me drawing this cartoon, I would have had Serena facing away from the ‘camera’ if I couldn’t make it look like her. The whiny facial expression isn’t important visually. We see her stomping the racket to pieces and the pacifier. The intention is clear. And thus, now that face is all we’re talking about. Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Professions, Race, Social Media, Sports

The Sessions Nomination: President Elect Trump Flunks A Responsibility Test

Oh, yeah, this is JUST what we need...

Oh, yeah…this is JUST what we need…

Is Senator Jeff Sessions, now definitely Donald Trump’s choice to be his Attorney General, a bigot? I have no idea, but it doesn’t matter. Nor does it matter that the blaring “Trump is a racist” narrative relentlessly repeated by the left is unsubstantiated and based on innuendo and distortion.

Racial tensions in our nation are unacceptably high, and not even primarily because of the election. It is irresponsible for Trump, at this crucial juncture, to do anything at all that will add to those tensions, or exacerbate African-American fears, however unjustified, that he will not be a President of all citizens, regardless of creed or color. His nomination of Senator Sessions does exactly that, and he must know it.

In 1986, a much younger Sessions was nominated by President Reagan for a federal judgeship. At sensational Congressional hearings, Justice Department prosecutor J. Gerald Hebert testified that in  1981, he had met with Sessions, then the United States attorney in Mobile, Alabama. Hebert told Sessions that a federal judge had called a prominent white lawyer “a disgrace to his race” for representing black clients.

“Well,” Hebert testified Jeff  Sessions replied,  “maybe he is.”

Hebert also testified that  Sessions had referred to the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP as “un-American” for “trying to force civil rights down the throats of people.” Then an African-American prosecutor testified that  Sessions had referred to him as “boy” and  that he had joked that he thought that the Ku Klux Klan “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot.” Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, U.S. Society

The Gap Kids Ad

gapkids

The photo above was part of a recent ad campaign for Gap Kids. The campaign, which launched last week, is in collaboration with Ellen DeGeneres’ lifestyle brand ED. Gap is donating $250,000 to the charity Girls Inc. to support its economic literacy program.

Criticism erupted on social media and elsewhere that the ad gave a message of “passive racism.”

Nathalie Yves Gaulthier, founder of Le Petit Cirque, the youth performance group whose members are seen in the ad, tried to explain, saying in part:

“The child in the ad is not an ‘armrest,’ she’s the other girl’s little sister. They are a very close family. The child is a very young (junior) member with Le Petit Cirque, a humanitarian cirque company, and therefore a wee shyer than the more seasoned older outgoing girls. Our company is deeply saddened by some people misconstruing this as racist, and are keeping the children out if this at the moment to protect their beautiful feelings , but we are extremely supportive of dialogue in our country to move past any racial barriers…”

Gap decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and replaced the image in the campaign. It apologized to critics last week, saying:

“As a brand with a proud 46-year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended. This GapKids campaign highlights true stories of talented girls who are celebrating creative self-expression and sharing their messages of empowerment. We are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls (and boys) everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique.”

It’s a non-apology apology, of course, a clear #8 on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale:

“A forced apology for a rightful or legitimate act, in capitulation to bullying, fear, threats, desperation or other coercion.”

Corporations are more or less forced to capitulate to “gotcha!” accusations like this, because there is no up-side in fighting them, and the companies’ job is to make money while alienating as few people as possible. If Social Justice Warriors and aggressive race-baiters are determined to claim that an ad intentionally denigrates a black child as subordinate to white children, then that message will overwhelm the ad no matter what is said or seen. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Marketing and Advertising, Race, U.S. Society