Adela Wilcox: Cartoonist needs to understand social repercussions
February 1, 2019
I am writing as a public response to a social media post on Jan. 24 by The Union's editorial cartoonist RL Crabb that is detrimental to the mental health of many members of our community, including our youth.
Crabb posted a meme that made fun of gender-fluid/transgender people. While I am not one to promote censorship of any kind, I feel a duty to point out the social consequences of such ideas, especially when they are promoted by public figures. When a meme, cartoon, article or other form of media makes fun of a group of people for their identity, it is a form of discrimination.
In this case, the social consequences are exceptionally high, as transgender people suffer disproportionately high rates of depression and anxiety (nearly 50 percent), violence (25 percent) and suicide attempts (41 percent) because of the lack of acceptance they experience in our society. These rates are even higher in rural communities such as Nevada County. The meme that Crabb posted today was doubly detrimental to the transgender community due to the trigger presented by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold Trump's reversal of a civil rights law allowing transgender people to serve in the military.
Crabb's post, although likely unintentionally, has crossed the line of responsible free speech to socially irresponsible diatribe, and the comments on his post show that our community and his followers do not understand the social consequences and repercussions of such humor. While this post was on his own social media page, as a public figure, his opinions and posts have a higher impact on the members of our community.
We live in society that values personal freedom and liberty, and I subscribe to free speech as being vital to the health of our nation and integrity of these values. However, this presents a personal responsibility for public figures to present their ideas, observations, and opinions from an informed position that does not contribute to the disenfranchisement of entire groups of people. It is one thing to make fun of the actions of an individual; it is entirely another to make fun of the identity of a minority and disenfranchised group of people, especially in today's political climate. We need to ask ourselves if we want to encourage the social foundations of bigotry and violence toward people in our community?
I encourage Mr. Crabb to spend some time getting to know understand the groups of people whom he pokes fun at in his cartoons and social media posts. I encourage The Union (and all local media outlets) to remind all of its regular editorial contributors to practice responsible research and dissemination of both informative and entertaining information. I encourage our community to think critically about how their own social media habits and discourse, both private and public, affect the people in our community, especially our youth.
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LGBTQ+ people exist in every community and society. We are your children, friends, parents and extended family, co-workers and neighbors. We are a small percentage of the population whose numbers have not changed … the only difference is that we are more visible than before, and that visibility is helping to create a safer and more connected society for all.
Adela Wilcox lives in Chicago Park.
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