I am presently in the midst of a transition from a regular working-stiff job to freelance, and in that time I’ve relied on a few different websites for advice, job leads, and other resources. One of best sites for this (usually) is FreelanceSwitch. FS has a lot of great, practical advice on finding work, building blogs, and living frugally. As a former cartoonist, I also enjoy their regular comic, Freelance Freedom.
But this morning, I was disappointed by the comic and N.C. Winters' framing of freelancing as slavery:
To recap: The white freelance designer is behind on his work. This is somehow analogous to being a slave - complete with the shackles and physical abuse. Hilarious!
Using slavery as a visual metaphor for hardworking white people is an expression of the systematic minimization of the pain and ongoing legacy of slavery. Just because the point of reference is several hundred years old does not mean that the racism inherent and essential to the reference has faded into nothing.
Slavery is not over. It is not a joke, or a punchline. It's not at all similar to an independent contractor's work ethic and implied inability to plan ahead. Using slavery to humorously illustrate a comparably trivial point - the occasional hardship of freelancing as a career - marginalizes and dismisses the serious hardships suffered by enslaved Americans and its present effect on the black community in America today.
Even more problematic is the whiteness of the "enslaved" character (and the comic is written by a white man). The white man's burden is not that heavy. A white man freelancing is not analogous to a black man stolen from his home country and forced into slavery. White American men do not bear the ongoing brunt of slavery, and have absolutely no right to imply that they suffer anything similar to slavery - even if "it's just a joke". It's privileged folks wielding their privilege to dismiss the roots and thus the present fact of racism.
The most callous construction in the comic above is the physical violence implied by the crack of the whip and the lashes on the character's back. Being tied to a deadline so that you can continue to work and support yourself and your family is not similar to the degradation and humiliation of flagellation.
The cartoon above is callous, degrading, and racist. N.C. Winters needs to think and consider very carefully before publishing lighthearted cartoons that capitalize on America's history of racial inequality.