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Back To The Future (Of Racism)

There's an adage I've seen around; I've seen it put various ways, but always from Black writers. I don't know who said it first, but Aditi Juneja put it especially well in a deservedly viral tweet:

"If you've wondered what you would've done during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights movement... you're doing it now."

I've seen the same sentiment, in similar words, expressed by Kamala Harris and Shaun King. It really resonates with me - especially when thinking about voting rights, an issue that should be decades behind us. 

This cartoon, obviously, owes a debt of inspiration to Juneja and Harris and King, and possibly others as well. 

Doing the 1950s in art was hard, because - especially given the simplicity and lack of detail of my drawing style - it was hard to figure out how to indicate the 1950s visually. Many of the buildings around today were there in the 1950s, after all. I ended up leaning hard on 1950s cars and suits (and of course of course the hats).  Jen Sorenson suggested I lean hard on color palette differences, and I tried to take her suggestion. 

The gentleman in the last panel is my best attempt at doing a caricature of MLK in this style (and my best attempt, frankly, was not that great). Fortunately, the gag really doesn't depend on readers recognizing MLK, or I'd be in trouble!

This cartoon will be run by Splinter, probably sometime tomorrow. (I hope.) But you guys get to see it a bit early, as a thank you for your support. It really means so much to me that people like my work enough to support it.

I'll be back with a cartoon about climate change on Saturday. Also, I'll be appearing at Geek Girl Con in Seattle this weekend; if you're there, I hope you'll come and say hi!

P.S.  After I posted this, my mom pointed out to me that the freedom marches didn't begin until the 1960s. So I changed the word "march" to "protest" in panel 2 to make the timeline work. Thanks mom!

* * *

Transcript of cartoon:

Panel 1
The image shows a white man with glasses and a polo shirt – let’s call  him “BOB” – talking at a young woman with brown skin and short spiky  hair. Bob is carrying a protest sign that says “ILLEGALS GO AWAY!”

BOB: Voter ID laws aren’t racist! They just make sure that voting  isn’t controlled by illegals! No one’s more against racism than ME!

Panel 2
Bob continues to cheerfully talk, waving an arm. Behind Bob, a magic  fairy, with blue butterfly wings and purple hair, has appeared with a  big “POOF” sound effect and touches their glowing magic wand to Bob’s  waving arm.
BOB: In fact, I wish I was back in the 1950s – I’d protest with Martin Luther King Jr!
FAIRY: Wish granted!

Panel 3
Bob is now in the 1950s. We can tell it’s the 1950s because the color  scheme has changed, and also, there are a lot of 1950s cars parked on  the street in the background.
BOB: Whoa! I’m in the 1950s! It looks just like “Back To The Future!” Bob is listening thoughtfully, one hand on his chin.

Panel 4
A white man in a suit, tie and hat (all 1950s style), and smoking a pipe, is talking to Bob.
MAN: “Literacy tests” aren’t about race! They just make sure that voting isn’t controlled by ignorant people!
BOB: That makes sense.

Panel 5
The man is continuing to talk to Bob, now making an emphatic gesture with his pipe. Bob snaps his fingers in agreement.
MAN: No one was angry until Martin Luther King started agitating! He’s actually making racial strife worse!
BOB: Like “Black Lives Matter” in my time!
MAN: Black lives what?

Panel 6
Bob is talking cheerfully to a black man, who has a thin mustache and  wears a dark suit. The man could be MLK Jr. Bob is holding a protest  sign that says “MLK GO AWAY!”
CAPTION: And so…
BOB: No one’s more against racism than ME!

“Kicker” panel (a small “extra” image below the last panel)
Bob is talking happily at the Fairy, while pridefully pointing to himself with his thumb. The Fairy facepalms.
BOB: If I lived in the 1800s, I’d definitely be an abolitionist!


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