So take a look at this:
This is a big, not-very-good drawing of a knot I did a decade or so ago and for the past few years, it's been hanging in a local restaurant. It's not a great drawing - I have no particular love for it - but it's big and this restaurant needed big art so I let them have it and it's been profitable to do so, as people have contacted me about other work. So win-win, right?
Until. Last week, three African-American ladies - who are regular customers and have been for years and have always been perfectly charming - called the manager-on-duty over to the table to complain that they were highly upset about the racist artwork hanging in the restaurant. Befuddled, the manager asked, "huh?" and then one of them went on a bit about how the big drawing of the "noose" was racist and made her uncomfortable and they were all offended.
Now, I'll give you a second to go back and look at the drawing. Do you see a noose? Yeah, I didn't think so. It really has me befuddled, as if she had said "this painting of a duck offends me!"
I'm not bothered if the restaurateurs decide to remove the piece; it's theirs to do with as they please. And to their credit, it's still up and they seem as amazed by the whole thing as I am. But I am bothered in a larger way, a more political one. Has the social climate become so charged that even someone who is walking around not bothering to pay attention to reality - remember, not a noose in sight - can invent outrage out of thin air and prevail? It's not like it's a matter of opinion - again, no noose in sight - it's an argument against actual fact. I can't figure out a way to be on the winning side of this argument - either I say "no, madam, you obviously don't know what a noose looks like" and piss them off or I say "oh, gee, I see your point!" and take it down which I of course won't... because it's not a noose.
(Just thinking about it, though....I think those book pages that the drawing is on are from Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities...in which case a noose would have been entirely appropriate! I must check the next time I'm in there; I can't remember what book I used for it.)
Anyway, at least they didn't comp her food. While she seemed incapable of choking down her "outrage," she had no trouble with the crab cakes, apparently.