Are these cartoons racist? I have little doubt they are. They’re also cartoons that take a stand against violence against women. I guess they’re racist (in a bad way – or in the way that we generally take to be a bad way) because they present people in a very unattractive light in a way that is intrinsically tied to their race. Specifically the cartoon asserts a stereotype that aboriginal men are violent against their women.
When I saw them tweeted to this commentary “A quick reminder that Bill Leak was drawing racist cartoons long before his head injury”, I began tweeting back – to @johnnicolay and his retweeter @bernardkeane
1/2 “How do you draw a cartoon relating to this: ?
2/2 ‘How violent were Australian men towards their women. The answer has to be “very”.’
Inga Clendinnen on 1788, Dances with Strangers.
I then thought better of pressing the tweet button, as it’s a very difficult subject. To say that it would be ill-suited to the twitter-sphere would surely be an understatement.
My initial reaction was a visceral hostility to the political correctness that’s springing up everywhere. Indeed, you may soon see me outside Parliament House with a sandwich board and megaphone campaigning for trigger warnings whenever political correctness rears its ugly head. But then that’s just me jumping onto one side of a culture war. Getting my rocks off the way we’ve been training ourselves to do ever since we were told on the side of busses that Mike Willesee from A Current Affair was on our side. I also have to ask the question from Paul Keating’s Redfern Speech of how would I like it if I was the subject of the abuse. I’m such a privileged little pistachio that it’s hard for me to imagine how I could be implicated in a direct way. But if I were an aboriginal man who wasn’t violent I’d feel pretty hurt, upset and angry. I think I’d have a right to feel that way.
So that leaves me sympathising with a fairly unsatisfactory position, which is that there should be self-censorship on matters of considerable public importance.
But as ever, I would appreciate any commenters’ Troppodiliquance on the issue.