Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > Letters to CR

Darryl Ayo Braithwaite On Jason Karns’ Comics
posted September 2, 2013

There is no need to read a lot of someone's work to determine if a particular project is racist. As a culture, we are past the era of equating "racism" with a boogeyman, an allegiance to a specific codified group that exists simply to hate people based on race.

Racism is a system. It is a system that we are all part of because it is part of the makeup of our society. When a work of art leans heavily on racial bias, stereotype or racial dehumanization, that work is called "racist." That's because the specific work upholds the society's inherent values of racial injustice and imbalance. Works can be overtly racist (like this Jason Karns) or they can be subtly, unconsciously racist (like the tone-deaf racial metaphor that Rick Remender wrote in "Uncanny Avengers"). Either overt or unconscious, racism in the arts needs to be examined and taken to task.

Now Mr. Karns helps the discussion very much by commenting to that blog post and removing any credible sense of benefit of the doubt that his views aren't overtly bigoted. But in many cases, an artist will not *feel* that he or she is making racist work and those discussions are more difficult to navigate.

But honestly, this case should be open and shut.

Anyway, it's not about condemning Karns or his entire body of work. The discussion was simply raising issues of what we, the readers of Santoro's post, were seeing presented. Once hearing word from the artist himself, the discussion naturally took a more pointed tone as we discussed why this type of work isn't all in good fun for everyone.

Contrary to Karns' protestations, there was no censorship. Nobody lobbied Congress to strip away Karns' right to draw whatever he wanted. However: nobody can put work like that up in public and feel exempt from the backlash. He wanted to offend people and he won.

Jason Karns got exactly what he wanted. He got to be the renegade bad boy for a day, beholden to nobody's wishes, offending without a care toward the offended. All in all, it was a good day for Mr. Karns. The rest of us were treated to yet another reminder of how Middle Eastern people can be casually dehumanized and how much of society's dreams and fantasies involve brown people being reduced to mindless beasts, fit for slaughter. Good times.