Integration is a bitch!
August 27, 2017 7:31 PM   Subscribe

In 1969, Tom Floyd, an African-American editorial cartoonist who owned an advertising firm in Gary, Indiana, published Integration is a Bitch: An Assessment By a Black White Collar Worker, a 116-page set of cartoons about his experiences working at the Inland Steel Company and the experience of black college educated workers following the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The book has been scanned and posted to tumblr (annoyingly, in reverse order); it's worth starting from the very beginning (scrolling down to the bottom), because although the panels are all vingnettes there is an arc to the book. posted by dismas (21 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
 
this one is one of my favorites
posted by dismas at 7:36 PM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Progress!
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 8:01 PM on August 27, 2017


The book has been scanned and posted to tumblr (annoyingly, in reverse order)

It wouldn't be a Tumblr post if it were actually fucking readable.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:01 PM on August 27, 2017 [14 favorites]


It's not too long so scrolling all the way down is not too onerous, but yeah, annoying.
posted by dismas at 8:21 PM on August 27, 2017


Thanks for sharing this, and why haven't things changed
posted by reedcourtneyj at 8:43 PM on August 27, 2017


Wow. Not pleasant to see the rampant sexism. Women in his cartoons pretty much just exist as sex symbols he has to avoid looking at/touching/being accused of raping. No apparent consciousness of the prejudice women face or the idea that they could be other than assistants and file clerks.
posted by nirblegee at 9:02 PM on August 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


If it weren't for the 10¢ sign on the coffee machine, I might not have realized when these were written.
posted by TedW at 9:03 PM on August 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


Wow. Not pleasant to see the rampant sexism. Women in his cartoons pretty much just exist as sex symbols he has to avoid looking at/touching/being accused of raping. No apparent consciousness of the prejudice women face or the idea that they could be other than assistants and file clerks.

I’d like to say that those jokes are an interesting through line that situate the strip as an artifact of its time, like the dashikis and the pins for St. Patrick’s Day. Of course, those views of women also remain woefully current in men of all races, so perhaps this is just an unfiltered view of maleness. (Or the interplay of gender and race, since the artist himself is married and hasn’t given us a window into his house.)
posted by Going To Maine at 9:53 PM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


White women in these cartoons are women he has to avoid looking at/touching/being accused of raping, and he was absolutely correct. Remember that 14 year old Emmett Till was beaten to death in 1955 because a white woman falsely accused him of making advances to her; this book was published in 1969 and Floyd was born in 1929, so he was around 26 when that happened, and I bet it wasn't the only instance he knew of where being black around a white woman ended up being very detrimental. The experiences in the book were taking place around 1964, so about a decade in the shadow of Emmett Till and his open coffin.

You can see in these comics that the white men around him are sexualizing these women Mad Men style, but he knows that is a dangerous thing for somebody like him to do. And not all the women are functioning as sex symbols--there's the white wife holding back the dog trying to attack him, patronizing him as if he can't understand, assuming he's not equal to the rest of his coworkers, assuming he's stealing things, etc etc.

There's one cartoon where he's with a woman, probably his wife, who is not white; predictably his behavior is much different.

So yeah, black dudes can be sexist, but white women can be really, really racist, so even if this cartoon series has some of the former, I feel more inclined to pay attention to the latter.
posted by foxfirefey at 11:43 PM on August 27, 2017 [41 favorites]


> tumblr (annoyingly, in reverse order)

<geek>Unfortunately the Tumblr account is the worst case scenario. The poster used no tags and used a template that doesn't provide inter-page navigation. If all the posts had the same tag, the site could be navigable in chronological order (using the URL http://integrationisabitch.tumblr.com/tagged/[something]/chrono. If the template had inter-page navigation you could use http://integrationisabitch.tumblr.com/archive to go to the first post and then click next links to page through all the posts. Oh well. </geek>
posted by ardgedee at 3:23 AM on August 28, 2017 [3 favorites]


"We won't be needing this anymore", "We felt that you would like a window with a view", "You will be our second attempt", "Now he has the wrong attitude", "He is well liked here", and "If I told you a joke" particularly speak to me.

The last few cartoons, as the arc concludes, are so cathartic and joyous! (Well, with exceptions; the wry melancholy of setting back integration by decades...)
posted by brainwane at 6:08 AM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


Wow. Not pleasant to see the rampant sexism. Women in his cartoons pretty much just exist as sex symbols he has to avoid looking at/touching/being accused of raping. No apparent consciousness of the prejudice women face or the idea that they could be other than assistants and file clerks.

This is a fair point, and I wish I had framed the post to reflect this a little bit better. The intersection of sexual and racial politics in the book is obviously important to Floyd, and white women come off looking bad in a different way to white men that reflects his (understandable) concern about how to act around white women in this context. But that doesn't make his portrayal of women immune from criticism, obviously.
posted by dismas at 6:40 AM on August 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


The reaction to the cartoon panels is fascinating to me...and depressing. Some of them really make the most sense when you know about everything that was happening in the United States (politically, culturally) at the time. But too much of it needs no interpretation. Even in 2017 this stuff is pretty on point. That's depressing.

Some of the context most helpful to understanding a few of these cartoons (like where the poster has labeled a cartoon panel with "I don't know what this is about." (Listing these here for the non-US Mefites.)

-The passing of the Civil Rights Act and Public Law 88-352 (78 Stat. 241) in 1964. Suddenly, businesses were scrambling to prove that they were in compliance with new laws regarding racial/gender diversity (which was required to be reported via "codes")

-University of Alabama: George Wallace standing in front of the entrance of the University of Alabama in an attempt to stop the enrollment of black students.

-Having to avert eyes from "tempting white women": The lynching of Emmett Till for supposedly whistling suggestively at her in a store; the resurgence of the KKK, which was charged with defending the honor of white women from "sex crazed" black men; and the publication of "To Kill A Mockingbird" where a lawyer is defending a black man accused of raping a white woman.

-"Open Housing" is a reference to the "Fair Housing Act of 1963", which was passed to address the acute segregation in housing in the US.

-"Heart Donor"...the first heart transplant in apartheid South Africa occurred in 1967 and raised all sorts of issues regarding race and the transplantation of organs between black and white bodies. There was also the issue of a black professional, Hamilton Naki, claiming to be involved in the surgery but not acknowledged by the hospital or media. However, I don't know if that was in the press when this cartoon was drawn.

-BT Jones was an American choreographer who co-founded the American Dance Asylum in 1973...but I'm not sure why he is used here as a representation of "this is the kind of black guy we like". I know that his work was pretty controversial at the time. I'm not aware of his being viewed as a "clown" or "minstrel to white people" as this seems to imply.

-Ralph Bunche was was the first African American to win a Noble Peace Prize (for his mediation in Israel).

-Black Militants refers to members of the Black Power movement. There is a whole conversation to be had here of "do you see yourself as Malcolm or Martin (in protesting racism)?" Respectability politics, etc.

-Peanut brittle and ... (See racist nicknames for food and other things that were popular during this time.)

-Watermelon, and all of the other racist African American stereotypes.

-Image Department: Referring to the rise in branding activity in workplaces around Diversity in the 1960's (See: Xerox)

Wow. There is so much to unpack here. But I'll stop there. These cartoons are somewhat a reflection of that time and yet, they aren't. A lot of this is still with us. Tom Floyd's work is brilliant. Thank you for posting this!
posted by jeanmari at 10:53 AM on August 28, 2017 [10 favorites]




Just a note: the point about Ralph Bunche is that he was a left black intellectual who repeatedly agitated that we had to get past race and focus on class. That's what the white coworker is talking about when he says, why can't more black people be like Ralph Bunche.
posted by johnasdf at 12:56 PM on August 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


Great post. I've lived a bunch of those.
posted by cashman at 2:13 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


Those "S" ears...
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:45 PM on August 28, 2017


What a find, wow. Thank you for posting this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:17 PM on August 28, 2017


he was absolutely correct.

He was entirely correct to be concerned about being perceived to be sexualizing white women. The sexist aspect is that the strip seems to also only consider white women to be sex objects. That the author can perceive black women more normally doesn't actually fix the problem - it simply adds a racial dynamic.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:23 PM on August 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


But the point of the strip isn't to produce a well-rounded picture of white women. It's to show his interactions at work, and how those were distorted and constrained, sometimes by his coworkers' overt and covert racism and sometimes by his own necessary caution.

I know it's well-intended, this criticism seems like criticizing the guy for being ...like any comics artist working in the 1960s. Which, fair enough, but focusing on "the tropes of a sexist time were sexist" misses the point of what's distinctive and interesting here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:35 PM on August 28, 2017 [6 favorites]


I know it's well-intended, this criticism seems like criticizing the guy for being …like any comics artist working in the 1960s.

Which, fair enough, but focusing on “the tropes of a sexist time were sexist” misses the point of what's distinctive and interesting here.

I mean, I think all of these things are worth remarking. The race aspect is obviously the heart of the work, and is the reason why it was lauded; the number of strips that seem to have women as white women in them is quite small (contra those with women as white employees), so the ways that those portrayals occur is noteworthy, especially in contrast to white men. And that, I suppose, is why they stick out to me. Less because they were the principal point, but because they highlight the idea that one kind of awareness on the part of the author hasn’t led to a different kind of awareness.) He might not have meant for that to be the lesson, and it certainly isn’t the lead story, but -to me- it’s a compelling footnote.
posted by Going To Maine at 11:45 PM on August 28, 2017


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