Colorization | comics, morrie turner

This is one of several posts where I share quotes and food-for-thought from Chang’s book – Who We Be: The Colorization of America.*
(earlier post: on Introduction)


morrie turner_All-the-kids-were

From San Francisco Chronicle article, Wee Pals retrospective at S.F. Library

There are five chapters in Part One, A New Culture, 1963-1979, of Jeff Chang’s Who We Be 

  • CHAPTER 1, Rainbow Power: Morrie Turner and the Kids
  • CHAPTER 2, After Jericho: The Struggle Against Invisibility
  • CHAPTER 3, “The Real Thing”: Lifestyling and Its Discontents
  • CHAPTER 4, Every Man an Artist, Every artist a Priest: The Invention of Multiculturalism
  • CHAPTER 5, Color Theory: Race Trouble in the Avant-Garde

As someone born in 1963, who enjoyed the comic strip Wee Pals and its Kid Power cartoon, I greatly appreciate Chang’s first chapter. I certainly did not know of (or understand) the meaningfulness of Wee Pals. I was a kid who read the comics and watched television with my little brother.

From a quick web search, here are a few other tidbits about Turner –

About this post. I share some excerpts (of which makes me ponder) from Chang’s work from Chapter 1 – Rainbow Power: Morrie Turner and the Kids. The subsections of Chapter 1 are titled as follows –

– The Animals and The Kids
– Confederate Flags and Rainbows
– The Value of Humor
– How It Feels to Be American
– The Kids Get Colorized
– The Price of Crossing Over

One of the joys of reading the Chang’s book is the occasional Wee Pals comic strip sprinkled throughout the book. In Chapter 1, there are two pages with 11 characters from the comic strip, as well as a few comic strips and one panels. Chapter 1 provides the historical backdrop while sharing Turner’s journey, experiences, and perspectives, as well referencing a few other cartoonists.

:: Richard Outcault’s Yellow Kid became the first broadly popular cartoon character. … The Ting-Lings were “Chinese” only in the way blackface minstrelsy was “Negro.” … Cartoon Blacks and Chinese were not representations of blackness and yellowness. They were representations of whiteness – the laughs were found in what whites were not. … Outcault drew his boy with huge ears, buck teeth, and a big yellow nightie. ::

:: But in Wee Pals, Turner’s vision of multiculturalism aspired to be patient, innocent, unhardened. He knew that casting kids allowed him some freedom. If a Black kid was saying it, it was funny,” Turner said. “But if a Black man was saying it, it would be fighting time.”::

:: Most of Wee Pals‘s punch lines hinged on cultural misunderstandings and mistranslations. But conflict could be defused by common sense and collective action. ::

:: During the eighties, with the rise of multiculturalism, Black cartoonists made breakthroughs, including Ray Billingsley (Curtis), Robb Armstrong (Jump Start), and Barbara Brandon-Croft (Where I’m Coming From). All three had substantial success by Wee Pals Standards. ::

:: In April 1999, Aaron McGruder, a prodigy from Maryland’s Black suburbs, launched The Boondocks. In that uniquely hip-hop-generation kind of way, he seemed to want to impress people and piss the off at the same time. The Boondocks had one of the most successful syndicated comic strip launches ever, opening in 160 newspapers. But soon enough, some readers began complaining the strip was “racist,” “angry,” “gangsta-ariented garbage.” ::

:: In a time of turmoil, Turner’s kids had been earnest and lighthearted. Their message was that everyone wanted equality, they could work it out, and no one need be uncivil in the process. McGruder’s Kids were products of the hypocrisies of a post-civil rights America, armed and armored with irony and attitude. Toward the failed promises of the civil rights generation and multiculturalism, the shuck-n-jive of hip-hop capitalists, the fake racial innocence of the nation, they declared their right to be hostile. ::

* This is sparking ideas in me for colorized improv, environmental communications, and knowledge/ignorance discussions.

** Listen to Code Switch, Morrie Turner, 1923-2014: Drawing Gentle Lessons In Tolerance (2014)

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2 thoughts on “Colorization | comics, morrie turner

  1. Pingback: Colorization | lifestyling, social and capital realism | an improvised life (dot) me

  2. Pingback: Colorization | black artists, politics, museums | an improvised life (dot) me

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