Guest Blog: Black By Association
By Nino Malong, DHS Chief Artist Officer
It's taken me a minute to process everything that went on at Baltimore Comic Con 2015. Overall I had a great time. I had a chance to once again share a table with my fellow artists and to share my artwork with the public. During the three days of the Con, I also had the privilege to speak to legendary artists such as Bernie Wrightson, Stan Sakai, and Neal Adams. I even struck up the nerve (albeit with a little nudge from my friend Kevin Hunt) to show my work to Stan Sakai. I was hesitant at first because of a very bad experience I had years ago when I showed my work to an artist I respected and thought of very highly. That person ripped my work to shreds and it had taken years to build back my confidence. So fast forward to Baltimore, and I asked Mr. Sakai if he wouldn't mind taking a look at my work. He agreed and he began to look over the four prints I'd given him. I was looking at his portfolio, hoping he'd at least find one thing he liked. I wasn't prepared for the words that came out of his mouth.
"Oh my God, this is beautiful!"
My day was made. I thanked him profusely and walked back to my table in a daze. My friends asked me how it went. "Stan Sakai looked at my work. He said it was beautiful," I said as I had that thousand yard stare still etched on my face. I barely remember the high fives that were exchanged but I was floating on clouds.
Then it crashed. Hard.
BBA... Say What?
Near the end of the day, a young White woman in her late twenties comes up to our table. She is friends with one of the other artists and she says something to the effect of possibly having a job/commission for him. I wasn't really paying that much attention except when she said something about coming up to our table because it was a table full of Black artists and the commission would be perfect for Black artists. My friend asked her, "Well what about him?", pointing at me. Without even looking my way she says, "Oh he's BBA. Black by association," and continues to talk as if nothing happened. My three other friends were stunned. "WTF?!" was my response and my anger was rising. I figured the best thing to do was walk away.
Even that angered me. The act of walking away and letting her White privilege run free and unchecked pissed me off. I was off to another table trying to cool down when she walked by me and out of her mouth came this little nugget:
"It's alright dude, I'm BBA too."
Yelled it. She actually yelled it.
That was it. I stopped her and said, "WTF did you say?!" and proceeded to lay into her. I asked her how did she think that that was in any way acceptable? She didn't know me. Didn't even bother to look my way. What, because I'm Asian, I'm passive and would let that slide? Am I one of those Michelle Malkin Asians that worship everything about White Supremacy and hate everything about my own people?
My culture? I'm Filipino. I was brought up in DC where I was the only Filipino in a predominantly African American school. It was through the love and support I received from the Black community that I was able to forge my own identity as a Filipino and as a person of color. Being a person of color isn't a club you can join in just because you take up a cause as so many White hipsters so often do. It definitely does not give you license to disrespect any of us. She was surprised as hell that her words were even challenged and offered an empty apology. She extended her hand. I looked at that hand. I looked at her. "You apologized. I accept it, but you're not forgiven. Walk away."
The last image I have of her was of her hurriedly walking down the center aisle into the darkness. That was Baltimore for me. Floating on a cloud one minute, checking Hipster White privilege the next.
>> Interested in seeing Nino's beautiful work? We have a few of his pieces to share.