Racism, James Victore, MoMA
Racism – James Victore, 1993

I saw this piece at MoMA in New York City in 2009 – long before I understood the value of good photo composition.

Victore is a graphic designer who dropped out of art school. He works for non-profit organizations devoted to the history and welfare of Native Americans, AIDS awareness and race issues. He is more interested in what images and words say than how they look.

Racism says a lot with one cohesive image .

The piece is blunt and terse, emphasizing the self-consuming and destructive nature of racism by depicting “RACISM” eating itself. It’s poignancy, along with Hangman, hit me immediately and I remember this rush of emotion – anger, maybe.

Victore’s poster is a response to the riots between Hasidic Jews and African Americans in Brooklyn 20 years ago. I thought of  both pieces after the George Zimmerman trial and how it shone a light on Marrissa Alexander. Alexander was sentenced to 20 years after firing a warning shot at her abusive husband – the Stand Your Ground law did not apply to her.

Hangman, Double Justice, James Victore
Double Justice – James Victore
Highlights the racial bias in applying the death penalty

I was recently on road trip on a truck and was listening to the CB radio at a truck stop. Other drivers were talking about the Zimmerman trial and the riots that broke out after. They said that black people were using this as an excuse to make trouble; that because Trayvon Martin was black and Zimmerman white it got all the media coverage, but when a white girl was killed by three black men’s stray bullet, no one cared; and that because of affirmative action, more black people can get jobs so it’s racist against white people which eventually turned to talk about Mexicans…

And then the ever-absolving:

“I’m not racist. I have black friends. But they don’t act like anyone owes them anything,” a driver said with his southern drawl.

Yes, because you don’t wear a white hood and have black friends means that you’re not racist or have prejudices. Whoa, dream big!

Eventually, I turned off the radio. I feel for that girl and her family, just as I do Martin’s. It has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with humanity. Afterwards, I couldn’t help but wonder if they realized they were perpetuating the exact thing they said doesn’t exist: racism and discrimination.

It bothers me that because racism is so nuanced people think it’s not there. It’s – for lack of a better word – bullshit that people believe that because  segregation (for the most part), lynching, and slavery are a thing of the past there is no more work to be done.

Casual racism is still racism. Casual sexism is still sexism. And yes, there is racism in Canada. Believe me, I am not innocent in the casual discrimination game. As I get older, however, I am becoming more aware that my “innocent jokes/comments” are a microcosm of a greater issue and have no place in the post-racism society that many aspire to.

Racism says it loud and clear: it’s out there and it needs to stop before it destroys us all.

 

2 thoughts on “Racism”

  1. This is a really great article, Alyssa, and a really important one for people to read. I encounter casual racism and sexism every day, and it’s really difficult for me to not interject. I’ve had a lot of people say, “You’re TOO politically correct”…is that even possible? I’m just so tired of the categorization of people based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

    I hate to admit it, but in the past I may have chuckled at an insensitive comment or joke, purely because I felt uncomfortable or I didn’t know what to do. Now I’m actively either speaking my mind, not laughing, or walking away. Victoire’s work is really powerful, and I thank you for highlighting it and writing about it.

    1. Thanks, Brenna. I think that people often get defensive when they’re faced with their prejudices, especially when they don’t think they have any or that it’s justified, so they try to make it seem like the problem is with you.

      I’m always trying to find less confrontational ways of showing people that what they’re saying is wrong…but sometimes it really just needs to be ‘in your face’, which is why this I thought this was a good piece to illustrate my point.

      Good for you for not being part of the problem!

      Yours in Travel,

      Alyssa

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