Theory in a Digital Age: A Project of English 483 Students, Coastal Carolina University

Comics Matter: Using Comics to Create a Discussion About Race

With political cartoons, you have to read between the lines and realize that everything isn’t always black and white, even when talking about race. Comics are usually thought to be light hearted, entertaining, and fun, but sometimes it takes the medium of a cartoon to get a serious political message across. Since the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement, there have been a lot of political cartoons about the movement in general and the issues African Americans face in society. Comic strips are an approachable medium for many audiences, and a good way to simplify a political issue is to make a comic about it. Though it may not resolve the political issue, it is definitely a good way to break down a perspective for someone. I want to show how comics have brought cartoonists together to talk about important racial issues, and I particularly want to look at comics that have black illustrators to see a more authentic representation of race.

           Racial tensions in the United States are unfortunately nothing new, but with the large media influence of the time people are now being confronted with racial issues everywhere they go. Race is everywhere, people cannot divorce themselves from their own experiences, but society’s growing use of media allows people to witness race from a different perspective than their own. For example, when the black lives matter movement originated, many white people responded by saying “all lives matter” because they were misinterpreting the Black Lives Matter message. A comic by cartoonist Darrin Bell titled, “Remedial Reading Lesson Featuring ‘Black Lives Matter’”, explains that when many people who oppose the Black Lives matter movement hear “Black Lives Matter”, they think it means that BLM supporters are saying that only Black lives matter.


In an interview with the Washington Post, Bell said “The dynamic between police and the communities they serve is nuanced … [but] civilians don’t sign on to risk our lives whenever we go outside,” Bell has said. “I should feel safe when I’m alone on a sidewalk and see an officer strolling toward me. But I don’t. I feel fear. And the past 33 years of my 40 years on this Earth have given me countless reasons why that fear is rational”. Bell’s comics are politically charged and at times haunting, but one thing is for sure, they leave an impression. Unlike the comic above, some of Bell’s work does more than just try to explain a concept, it shows a devastating reality.


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