UT student Stephanie Eisner, a white Latina from Houston is the cartoonist behind a controversial political cartoon concerning Trayvon Martin. This is a description of the cartoon:
A woman sitting in a chair with “MEDIA” on the headrest is reading a book titled, Treyvon Martin and the Case of Yellow Journalism to a young child. Eisner reads the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case with this caption: “And then…the BIG BAD WHITE man killed the sweet, handsome, innocent COLORED boy.” The child’s mouth is wide open in shock at the portrayal of the characters in the media. (see here for cartoon).
Eisner’s use of “colored” and the fonts/capitals deployed by Eisner demonstrate her white racial framing of the Trayvon Martin case. Eisner perpetuates racism in the media and appears to assume Martin was at fault and Zimmerman not a serious suspect.
The white racial frame (WRF) is “an organized set of racialized ideas, stereotypes, emotions and inclinations to discriminate.” This white racist framing is normalized by systematized processes of racial oppression in various realms (economic, justice system, education, political, etc.) which artificially naturalizes white dominance in those sectors. The consequence is a material reality which justifies and synthesis the abstract WRF and ideology systemic racism to produce reality, white supremacy. White supremacy becomes “common sense” to whites due its cyclical occurrence in society which reproduces the dominance of whites not only in these life-determining sectors, but also the portrayal of whites and people of color in the media.
Mass media are a primary facilitator of this concept of synthesizing the WRF and racism perfecting white supremacy. Elite white men mostly own the media markets so they much of who people see themselves and the world. Media constitute a cultural object of human production which shapes our worldviews. W.E.B DuBois believes media shapes and reinforces the dichotomy of “Black” and “white”: “bad” and “good” respectively, which subconscious becomes subscribed in our daily thought “with a thoroughness that few realize.” Eisner’s cartoon also perpetuates this dichotomy with her racist language toward Trayvon Martin.
The text of the cartoon is important content for analysis of Eisner’s WRF for two reasons: differentiation of emphasis and exaggeration of the adjectives used to reference Martin and Zimmerman and the usage of “colored” to describe Martin’s race. Zimmerman’s adjectives were only bolded and in all capital letters in one font, while Martin’s were in different fonts in different sizes of varying degrees. This technique of “font play” between Zimmerman and Trayvon shows her likely racial bias toward Zimmerman instead of creating an “ambiguous cartoon,” her stated intended goal.
The use of “colored” to address Martin’s race is racist when used by whites. “Colored” is presented in all capitals and bold. Eisner, a “white Hispanic,” felt the need to use a racist term in her poorly executed tactic to make her case. Her biracial background does not give her a “I cannot be racist” pass, but only points to how “race” and “racism” are constructed within the WRF.
Eisner could not escape her WRF of the Trayvon Martin case. The synthesizing of the WRF and racism has resulted in a white-framed narrative of the Trayvon Martin case. I have demonstrated her “font play” of the text and use of “colored” both show WRF influence on her worldview. (See #IAMTRAYVONMARTIN)
Eisner, since the initial posting of her political cartoon, has apologized and been relieved of her position as a cartoonist from the Daily Texan. However, a petition at change.org is asking for the reinstatement of Eisner.
May I be honest?
I don’t see the efficacy of firing her. I imagine it’s causing more harm than good. Eisner probably feels as though her central analysis is being overlooked, that “yellow journalism” is in full effect to discredit her and legitimize itself. I can imagine her thoughts on race, her white racial framing, remains little changed. If anything, the whole brouhaha has maybe even strengthened her white racial framing.
That said, I have no intentions of signing that petition for her. While I don’t see what good firing her does, I also don’t see any good in using an anti-racist organization to condone her racialist analysis. After all, at the very least, she could’ve spelled his name correctly, and the way a lot of Americans mock ethnic names is racist, classist, and egregious.
As for her use of “colored,” perhaps she was aiming for “person of color”? Perhaps she’s even using it intentionally to mock the media as oppose to Trayvon? I don’t know. And I say that mostly because “colored” just isn’t something one hears very often if at all. I don’t hear it from blacks or whites except for maybe elderly white folks who call in to C-Span. So I can’t imagine that even being in her everyday vocabulary unless there’s even more to the white backstage than I realize. . . . Dang! What kinds of things are you people saying back there? Knock knock!
In the end, she’s a child. A baby. Can’t the school paper just assign her to some time with Robert Jensen to mentor her? Wouldn’t that be ultimately more productive?
I am with you 100%. I personally would not have fired Eisner more than the chief editor who actually thought it was okay for this political cartoon to be in the paper and not consciously think about consequences. Her use of “colored” at her age is quite shocking as you have stated elderly folks who grew up with the word as colloquial language. Her white racial framing may have been fortified with her termination but she has hopefully learned a valuable lesson: with words, come frames that may be counterproductive to task at hand. Unfortunately, she had to learn the hard way.
I felt as she was critiquing the “yellow journalism” of media coverage she was also an active participant due to her sarcastic narrative of the Zimmerman/Martin case where there is no even portrayal of the individuals involved. Eisner’s intention misspelling of “Trayvon” as “Treyvon” is problematic for the reason you have laid out, but given her sarcasm and critique of yellow journalism, could we also argue she did this to further her position to suggest: the media is so outrageous they cannot even get the names right?
I believe the paper will hire her back as things “cool down,” but Eisner has to think about the consequences of her actions just like the next person. I don’t know who she hangs out with in the backstage, but they did not help her in the frontstage. I just cannot image her sharing this political cartoon with “black” friends and they not say anything critical about it.
The political cartoon while controversial does provide dialogue on the “presentation and narrative” of news stories. We have to be critically aware of what is “news of facts” versus “propaganda” which was Eisner’s intentions in my view, but her lack of tact takes away her whole message.
I absolutely agree. And you reminded me of what it is I find offensive about the cartoon – she seems to be working with the meme that the “lamestream” media doesn’t cover other crimes, ie black on black, black on white, with the same zealousness as white on black crime. That’s just not true. In fact, crimes with black perpetrators and crimes with white victims are over-covered in proportion to their actual occurrence. She’s just perpetuating the same conservative complaints aired on Fox. They’re untrue and only serve to distract from the real issue.
Of course, included in my critique is the font-play you mention. Artistic laziness aside, is she suggesting that Trayvon isn’t sweet, handsome, or, more importantly, innocent? In that vain, she seems to be referencing the stereotype of the criminal black male.
This type of narrative has flood the mainstream and social media! Actually here today at A&M there is a white “nationalist” on campus trying to “flip the scricpt” with a presentation titled “The Undeclared War on Whites.” I saw this from facebook and made a comment of the photo of this foolishness to the effect of: Until people of color systematically kill Europeans on a worldwide level to create an empire where lands, peoples, and resources are stolen without regard to European civilization and culture, your campaign is nothing but white supremacist propaganda.” But it is nonsense as this which leads to the overpolicing of people of color and UNDERPOLICING OF WHITES (this is never discussed).
In response to Eisner’s, I am sure she is out of the right wing and her political picture only reifies the conservative’s agenda to justify Zimmerman’s actions. Regardless, if the photos used to depict Trayvon, does that take away from the fact that he had no criminal record? The photos used by both sides tell different narratives but what you get from the right wing is “dangerous Black male” narrative with the pictures of him with a “grill”, “middle fingers up” and other things teenagers do. This is did not make him a criminal, but to whites and people of color who are enslaved by the white racial frame, also have this perception of Blacks as “threats” and we see the consequences.
This idea of being a “threat” is nothing new! Started in slavery, blew up during Reconstruction with the exponential increase of prisons which sought to make Blacks slaves of the state, instead of the individual (See DuBois Black Reconstruction, 1935). The KKK rises during this same time in the South because of race hatred and lack of economic opportunity only instigated by capitalists who worked both sides to get what they wanted (industrialization of the South-accomplished with Tilden-Hayes Compromise of 1876). With that done, KKK was the white community unoffical police, stirring up lynching mobs and terrorizing Black communities. So the policing of Black life has always been a “duty of whites” which we never gave them permission to do. Not only the police, but any person who is white had the ability to take the life of any Black person if they were a threat to whites or whiteness. That is the truth, historically found and still in full excercise.
You know, another thought just occurred to me. I really got tired of the 9/11 coverage. I’m not really sure anything new was learned between the initial 24hr coverage that day and the continuing 24hr coverage on 9/18 or 9/19 or 9/22 or practically that entire month. 11 Saudis, 1 Yemeni, 4 planes, 3 buildings, 1 hostage-takeover crash. And you’d think that with all the coverage, Americans would know Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with it. No such luck.
And black Americans were a little dismayed that wider America didn’t see something like that coming and even more dismayed that wider America was so dismayed! That wider America feels innocent of any atrocities, worldwide or at home. “They hate us for our freedoms!” People really believe that nonsense? No one hates another person for their “freedom.”
But I digress. Point is, a lot of black folks thought white folks just took that whole thing too far. As though something like that could happen anywhere and everybody was in danger because “America” was attacked.
So here’s the thing, white America and conservatives in general should think of this as our 9/11. It was one thing when cops could kill us with impunity. But you mean to tell me that now not only can cops kill us, but even other civilians can kill us and not even be arrested?! Are you kidding me?
Rather than the less than veiled threats about blood being on the hands of the NAACP, the CBC, et all if anything should happen, Zimmerman’s newest lawyer and the rest of his defenders should be glad nothing’s happened already.
Though, and this is sort of off topic, but for all his seeming racism, this 2nd lawyer is much better than the first dude.