Printing Brent Brown was socially irresponsible

While searching the March 5 Xpress for an ad announcing the grand opening of my business, Devotion Organics, I was shocked to see a large “KKK” in the cartoon on same the page [“Brent Brown”]. I was saddened and offended by this damaging image, and believed it would overshadow my ad with its negative impact. My own agenda notwithstanding, the very presence of this image begs consideration of larger and less personal issues.

First, there were only three other depictions of African-Americans in the paper, suggesting an isolated demographic and a tendency toward insensitivity. Second, the cartoon’s message was borderline racist and ambiguous at best. When confronted, the cartoonist appeared unapologetic, smug, and his apathetic appeal for impunity was nothing short of an overprivileged afterthought.

The real issue at hand, however, is the psychology and power of symbols. This is what causes businesses to spend a fortune on branding their logo, as I did in Xpress. The intended beauty of the imagery I chose to print was usurped and circumvented by the letters “KKK.” This terrible image — along with the swastika — is deeply embedded in the collective unconscious and incites fear, hatred, violence, anger and sadness. There is no excuse for its invocation.

Printing this was socially irresponsible, and the only recourse Xpress might fall back on is a belated attempt at First Amendment rhetoric.

Brown's self-comparison to Seinfeld is a symptom of a bloated ego, and he should be reminded of his position as a cartoonist for a small-town alt-weekly [“Brent Brown Responds,” March 12]. Can we safely assume that he has never been faced with racism, religious intolerance, classism, sexism, or any other form of hate-based transgression? From the content of this cartoon it would appear not, and Xpress would be well served to find a satirist with more relevant musings.

— Joshua Lawton


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Webmaster
Mountain Xpress Webmaster Follow me @MXWebTeam

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

7 thoughts on “Printing Brent Brown was socially irresponsible

  1. Joshua Lawton

    Hey Brent, it’s true I was vocal about the lex ave article, but of course I wasn’t alone there. I think it’s our obligation to speak out against issues we deem important. Don’t you?
    A far as the comment saying I plugged my business in the first line, that ‘plug’ wasn’t actually in the letter I wrote. I purposefully left it out, but somehow it worked its way in. The fact is the imagery did eclipse my expensive ad, but as I said, the symbol you used spoke to a larger issue than my personal agenda.
    I’m surprised at being called delusional for speaking out against racism and images of hate. It amazes me that people aren’t more sensitive to this. If this is delusional, than so be it, but I would do it again if need be. I have personally been subjected to discrimination due to my Jewish heritage, and though my spiritual beliefs differ from my lineage, these things sting nonetheless. I think if you, Brent, or those of you who responded so negatively to my letter- had experienced this kind of hate you might feel a bit different.

    • brebro

      Responded negatively? As if your letter calling someone a smug, egotistical, apathetic and unapologetic promoter of insensitivity (and worse) who needs to be reminded of his lowly place in our society, for not being as contrite as you would demand he would be in response to the hyperbolic accusations leveled at him (which were in no way accurate) was some paragon of positivity??

  2. Margaret Williams

    While we appreciate the impassioned responses about the original cartoon and various letters and comments about the cartoon, many of the comments here veer towards attacking individuals. Please respect the spirit of comment on, and stick to criticizing the ideas, not the people.

  3. boatrocker

    Enter the Pollyanna. Heaven forbid a PC Ashevillian get their yoga mat in a wad.

    KKK. Swastika. Confederate flag. Westboro Baptist Church. Profit over people.

    Just seeing if this post will appear for mentioning (obviously) offensive ideas.

    This is a test, this is only a test. If he actually espoused these hateful ideas, your facetwittertextsocialmediacrack would alert you by the sound of the following tone- wait, I don’t hear anything but the sound of humor.

  4. Big Al

    Ditto, BreBro!

    “Brown’s…bloated ego,…he should be reminded of his position as a cartoonist for a small-town alt-weekly…”

    If THAT wasn’t designed to be condescending and superior (the defining characteristics of racism minus the actual reference to race) then I don’t know what is.

    Mr. Lawton, howse about we stop the personal attacks, and judge the content, like Dr. King espoused that we should with people? Someone who was “subjected to discrimination due to my Jewish heritage” should know better.

    Personally, even when I disagree with you, Mr. Brown, I recognize your talent both as a graphic artist and an astute social commentator. This combination, as I have remarked in past comments, is often brilliant.

    To MoutainX: I wish I could say the same for Mr. Molton. While I have no inclination to comment on his character, he has nothing to say and draws badly while saying it.

    As for decrying personal attacks, what was the original letter, if not such an attack? I would suggest you read these things again before deciding to print them, OR before you hypocritcially hold the responses to a higher standard.

  5. Randy

    Well, thank you for not commenting on my character, Big Al. And I am still proud of the fact that for 31 years as a published cartoonist, I have been drawing badly with nothing to say.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.