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American Studies Discussion: Week 2

A recurrent issue this week dealt with a subtle emphasis of color, characterizing the tension of race in America. In Graphic Novels, both texts we have read depict simple narrative characters. Their plain, almost universal appearance allows readers to identify with and project upon the character, in accordance with the art of masking. However, a scene in New York: The Big City embraces caricature to depict a black female; her lips are comically large, her breasts pronounced, and her hair is curled. This is the first notable emphasis of race in a comic, and isn’t it ironic that in illustrations of black and white, the narrator has almost always been white? Again, in “Southern University” by Kevin Young, there is an inherent pronunciation of color; that of the buses, the friend named Greene, and the initiation of the protest with the change in color of the stoplight. In both cases, color becomes identity, again exemplified through its cultural significance in “Mohegan Painted Basket.” There is no distinction between color and character. This reveals an American, even human, tendency to characterize and categorize by race. This tendency neglects to acknowledge the common bond of our humanity. Young humanizes the oppressive whites in “Southern University” through the phrase “threw their tears.” He acknowledges that there are human beings on both sides of racial conflict; the reader is left to accept that both sides are human, despite their race.

nbritton1 • September 4, 2016

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