Today I received an e-mail from a reader about my blog post on Eyeshield 21. I appreciate the fact that he sent the e-mail because it really made me think about the right an artist should have to creative freedom. I’m not going to post his private comments to me, but I will post a portion of my response.
Intent to harm. Do I think the artist of Eyeshield 21 maliciously intended to reinforce negative stereotypes about black people and attempt to cause them harm? I don’t believe that is the case. However, does it matter what the intentions of the artist are if the results are the same? Even if I don’t intend to step on an individual’s foot, the pain that I might cause that person by accidentally stepping on him is still very real. Though the artist may not have intended to offend, the image still hurt me just as much as the old hateful propaganda against black people the art work was derived from.
African operations. If Viz plans to sell manga containing racist depictions of black people to black people, then I hope they will at least be honest with consumers so that individuals can make educated decisions about the books they purchase. No one wants to plunk down their hard-earned money for a book only to discover images that depict them as beasts and clowns beneath the cover. Perhaps a solution would be to place warnings on the back covers of certain books explaining to consumers that derogatory images of black people are included within the manga. Then people who aren’t disturbed by racist images of black people can continue to enjoy the work in its original unedited format and those who would be upset by it don’t have to suffer the pain of seeing it. I think this is a good solution since censorship or forcing an artist to edit his work doesn’t sit well with me the more I contemplate it.