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June 22, 2012
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Racial Activism and Me

Journal Entry: Fri Jun 22, 2012, 7:53 AM



Hey hey hey! Rob here with another "something-to-get-off-of-his-chest"! :)

Time and again, I'm approached by some of my audience asking "Rob, why don't you ever draw black people?" First off, they may have not even looked into my gallery for those people of color or what have you, because they're there, sure enough.

The long answer is:

Well... what gets me is that when they find out I'm black, they expect that I should hold some sort of allegiance to "my race" or "make a change" as a "popular" black artist who can, figuratively speaking, "put blacks on the map".

There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and there's nothing wrong with people whose main goal is doing that. It's their lives, they're free to believe in whatever they want to.

But to hold me to a certain level where people think I'm obligated to draw my race more often than others because of the "history", I don't agree with. I'm an African-American born in the 80s. I was not born during the times of the Civil Rights Movement and such, and though I HIGHLY respect that time period and the changes it made to American society (not just the African-American race), I can't honestly say that it affected me in a "special", direct way. People still treat people bad, all races, it's not just a "black" thing.

Someone once told me I'm "contributing to the demographic that people of color should be shunned" based on the (racial) content of my work. This is foolish.

First off, I see people as one big family. We're HUMANS. All different colors. We all have hearts, awesome brains, special traits and talents, etc. I don't exhibit partialness to anyone, or, I just don't think about it. I was raised (albeit not having a silver plate on the table every night at dinner) to not judge others from their race. (And though I hate to say it, sometimes my own race makes me sad, but I'm pretty sure any other race can say the same thing about theirs. It's all universal. Some groups of people make another group of people sad, s'just how it goes.) But overall, I was brought up never to judge even if others may judge me.

Secondly, if you haven't guessed by now, you prawwwwbabalee have struck me as an odd one, "this black guy". You know how I can tell an artist that is very prideful of their race? In their gallery, every drawing is of a black person with cultural thematics spread all around, hip-hop being seen the most. And again I disclaim: there's nothing wrong with that. I fuggin' LOVE the Hip-Hop genre and music, ask any of my close peeps. I was in a crew for years and we made a ton of Rap music and such. But as a boy who grew up in the predominantly black neighborhood and going to the predominantly black school, if I liked anything beyond Hip-Hop/R&B, be it Classical, Folk, you name it, I was a "rebel" of some sorts. And that has always annoyed me. People still question me today, asking "you listen to video game music? What the F, bro?" What, a "brutha" (I kinda despise that term...) can't listen to Uematsu? Shame on me, then.

People try to keep "tradition" going on in their families to this very day, pressuring others to stay within their race like it's the rule. Look, if that Asian girl is fine, that Asian girl is FOINE. If that Italian girl is fine, that Italian girl is FOINE. If that Black girl is fine, THAT BLACK GIRL IS FOINE. My parents always enforced that there aren't any boundaries and to see EVERYONE (even my potential partner) as a candidate, no racial chains binding.

As a kid, I loved anime, obscure video games that weren't the new-at-the-time Mortal Kombat, and other things that were not "racially correct". When fellow classmates would see my art, they would ask "why do you always draw white people?" (Obviously, if I drew in an Anime/Manga style growing up, they weren't necessarily "white" so a big SMH to you, fellow black classmates of the past...) Early on, they tried to tell me that basically I'm selling out "to my kind" since I don't always draw black characters and such. This is the most close-minded way of thinking. Pride just fuels differences and heats up disputes.

I can't be held accountable for that. I don't want to be. So it's why I don't "choose a side", I stay neutral to where the pride lies. So to this very day, I don't judge others even though they may judge me. It's just how I see things: EVERYONE'S AWESOME.

~

The short answer of the aforementioned question is basically: I DRAW WHAT THE F' I WANT TO DRAW. :lol:

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  • Listening to: SQ Remix Albums
  • Reading: Empowered 7
  • Watching: Doctor Who 10
  • Playing: Heavenly Sword/Tales of Graces f
  • Drinking: Lipton Half & Half
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:iconsheenaduquette:
sheenaduquette Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2012  Professional Filmographer
Preach.
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:iconluispuig:
LuisPuig Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2012  Professional General Artist
Right on brutha! LOL Just messin. Well said.
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:iconlordshmeckie:
LordShmeckie Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2012
Smartest god damn thing I've read all week.
Reply
:iconboykins:
BOYKINS Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
you man get the upmost respect from me dude... i have gone through this too both when i drawn anime ( dragon ball z was like crack to me when i was in high school) and now with the whole portrait work... i also gotten side comments because i often drawn men and people figured since you dont draw women with giant tits and bubble butts( mind you thats all that draw now!!lol) you were gay!!! hell i even got comments about me listening to rock music in particularly jrock!!

some times closeminded people can comprehend that people are different .. people thing because they look like you or may off grew up where you were from that you automatically is the same as them and that is never the case and it sucks cause in stead of letting the quality of you art speak for itself your race speaks for you!!!

this is the reason why my race/face is hidden on here..

keep doing your thing man... you is really making me go back to drawing anime!!lmao
Reply
:iconexevalon:
ExevaloN Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
+1 Rob.
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:iconbfetish:
Bfetish Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Revlake brings up some interesting points.I've read the majority of the comments and while I do agree but it is only to certain extent. As much as everyone wants to just support the "Human Race". Its not that cut and dry. You can choose not to pick a side but that doesn't change the fact you were already born into one. The side you were born into is based on your skin color, culture, and country of origin. You also choose sides based on what you draw, what you like, who you hang out with, and how you think. The world as whole from the animal kingdom,plant life, and even on the microscopic level are all diverse and DIFFERENT. Some animals,plants,ect dominate over other others. Humanity is an animal but yet we are considered to be on top of the food chain.

Humanity just like the rest of the planet, yes we are all connected but we are all different based on the things listed above. Only difference is that some ethnic and race groups have dominance over others. Whether it be by force or establishing ones culture as a pillar for others. To ignore these facts by being color blind and naive is just as detrimental as being one sided when it comes to race.

There are numerous beautiful cultures and the world and many beautiful things about each and every ethnic group. Yet even though you, I, and many here draw what we like we are also selfish and one sided in what we are representing on a small scale. Appealing to the status quo grants you more acceptance as a whole by your peers in chosen art style, more job opportunities, and less stress because its more comfortable. Sadly not many are open to other cultures that are not the status quo or meet the standards placed by the dominant race or ethnic group.

I just choose to accept humanity as a whole but I know enough to realize that we are all different and things have been set in place that none of us can completely devolve from.

I'm sure you mean well and I know you do. But your journal to some people(like REVLAKE) can come off as an excuse for "selling out". "Selling out" doesn't just mean you turn your back on your people. It also means you have that you have choose to not always acknowledge your culture for whatever reasons.

For example I have quite a few black OC's but I have yet to put them in my gallery.Because I'm trying to gain "street cred" among the fan artist community and comic community as a whole. I'm suppressing aspects of my culture in hopes that I get noticed in a community that doesn't draw a lot of black characters. So in a sense I am "selling out". The truth is that the rules of "game"( pertaining to art standards in a chosen genres) have already been established for the last 20 yrs. So the old adage of " Don't hate the player, hate the game" also applies. The country is built upon the principles of the "American Dream". The fact is that many other cultures and ethnic groups had to suppress parts of their culture(ie "sell out") in order to adapt and get ahead in American society.

In order to get noticed in the fanart community I got to draw characters that are recognizable by the fan base.Sadly most of those characters are white or asian. And they are drawn by mostly white or asian people in this industry.


I guess all I'm saying is keep doing what you do.Just keep in mind that because of who you are and the color of your skin does come some form of representation.Whether you want it to or not.
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:iconrobaato:
Robaato Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2012  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks man. And of course it does, my skin color will always shoot off either a negative stereotype or positive representation. I'm just explaining that I have a neutral stance towards it all, s'all. They can call it selling out, I call it not getting involved in it. :nod:
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:iconbfetish:
Bfetish Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
I feel you bro. Its all good ^_^.
Reply
:icontokenabc:
TokenABC Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thx for posting this
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:iconbfetish:
Bfetish Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
Amen Bro.

I'm kinda in the same boat.But at the same time I was born in the late 70's.And both sides of my family are from the south. So I know a lot of the racial injustices that have happened against our people. I was also growing up in a time where I still have experienced some forms of racial discrimination. During my high school yrs I was more of an activist even though at the same time, like you I was viewed differently and even ostracized by my own people who had a "hood rat mentality". Because I was bullied and messed with by my own people who wanted to act like thugs and gangstas I came to disassociate with them.

When I decided to get into art my influences was mainly american comic book artists.Sadly even though I was( and still am) an X-men fan, other than this series there wasn't much diversity racially when it came to characters and the actual artists that drew them. Its also the same when it comes to video games,manga,and anime which are also my other influences.

So the lack of black characters in my gallery is not really a surprise. Like you I draw what I like and feel pleasure in drawing. I am also a perv who likes asian women or women with jet black hair lol.

I feel that as black artists especially the talented ones we should have some sense of giving back and some responsibility of representing our culture in a positive way. You can't go through life on this planet completely color blind. Because you would be ignorant of the many different cultures that other races and ethnic groups embody. When I was a young artist seeing or recognizing professional black comic book artists or writers inspired me. Sadly there are not many of us in the industry. Half of the reason is not many of us don't choose comic book style art as a profession and the other half is partly due to discrimination. The fact is many of the pros and those in this profession are white and asian. And I'm not hating on that. But because these two ethnic groups dominate the landscape it leads to preferential bias in the hiring process.But that's just how the world works. Most people are most comfortable hiring and working with their own people.

Things these days are slowly changing though.If your good, your good and people will take notice and give you an opportunity. But you have to do things that they do.If your gallery was full of black characters and afro-centric art would Udon have invited you to join their crew? Even though you are really good probably not,because that is not what they do as a group/studio.

At the end of the day you and I are still african american in this country and that's the way it is.As much as we as human beings hate to be defined by the color of our skin and our culture, we are. As african american artists we should celebrate and represent our culture in a positive light. I find it slightly disturbing that most character representations of black people in comics,manga, video games, and anime are created by non black people. We as african american artists are behind when it comes to representing ourselves in the "geek entertainment" industries. Sadly since there are so few of us we do end up representing our people as a whole.Whether we want that responsibility or not.

When I first saw your art was like cool this person is pretty good. But when I saw your picture on your page and noticed that you were black like me I was overly impressed and was like wow! Whether you wanted it to happen or not you inspired me to raise my game. Just because you are black like me and drawing a style of art that I like to draw. You have become a role model and you didn't want to. That's the price for being good and being the best a what you do.You represent a change in the status quo and hope for other black artists.

Pro black art may not be what your into. But I feel you,me, and other black artists do need to offer and provide more positive representations of our culture by drawing more characters of our people. I'm tired of the many black geeks in general who cry and moan about the lack of black characters in american forms of comics,animation, and video games. So we need to do something about it. You will see more black characters in my gallery soon.

I find it funny that I have never got hated on for not drawing enough black characters. People criticize me for how big I draw my female characters breasts ^_^.

Mack
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