21 January 2015
A 'Dream of Reconciliation,' -- emphasis on dream
In modern times The New Yorker, of all American magazines, has come the closest to the offensiveness of Charlie Hebdo, though in the New Yorker's case the covers usually draw out the prejudices of the offended rather than expressing prejudice themselves.This week's issue marks the Martin Luther King holiday with a cover by Barry Blitt portraying Dr. King at the head of a march of the dead. He marches with arms linked with, to the reader's right, Wenjian Liu, one of the two policemen assassinated by an anti-cop crackpot in Brooklyn last December, and to the reader's left with an eternally uncomfortable looking Eric Garner, the husky dealer in loose cigarettes who died after getting choked out by a policeman who has to date suffered no legal penalty for the deed. In the second rank of marchers are Michael Brown of Ferguson fame and Trayvon Martin, the 2013 poster child for violence against blacks. Blitt titled his cover "A Dream of Reconciliation." To judge by reader responses to an article about the cover in the Washington Post, reconciliation, on Blitt's terms at least, is a long way off. Many readers take offense at what they infer as Blitt's portrayal of "thugs" like Brown and Martin (if not Garner) as moral equivalents of King, much less Officer Liu. I was only surprised by no one thinking to ask for a representative white victim of black crime on the cover, but the respondents may have seen Liu as an honorary white man, not to mention "blue" rather than "yellow." In their obsession with hunting down "moral equivalence" arguments, critics of Blitt miss his more obvious, simpler point. In his dream of reconciliation, people would acknowledge that neither Liu nor Garner deserved to die, and neither King nor Martin nor even Brown (presuming the worst case scenario in which he tried to take a gun from a cop) deserved to be killed. If some Americans can't accept this premise, then Blitt's vision of reconciliation will remain only a dream for some time to come.