This article first appeared as a Chick on the Draw column Nov 7, 2014 at Luna Station Quarterly
I am white. I make drawings and stories. I get some of these published. I take up bandwidth. So I try to make those drawings and stories reflect the people who are stuck looking at them. Continually I discover the areas in which I could be better at this, particularly when it comes to representing people of color.
Drawing a person of color is one thing. If a character doesn’t have solid anatomy, expression, and appeal, it’s a failure of skill, not empathy. Plus, in the cartoony style I tend toward, disbelief is suspended, character conflicts are simplified, and if my comic strip characters express no diversity in their food choices, observed holidays, language, or beliefs, I have a handy “it’s just a cartoon” blanket to hide under (despite all I’ve said about why cartoons matter.)
But in writing every word matters. Every omission matters. Each character makes decisions informed by their experience, or they don’t. There are no big eyes or Dreamworks smiles to smooth rough edges. There’s no blanket.