Dr. Juniper Ellis
April 4, 2015
“Art Spiegelman’s MAUS II and EEK’s Prejudice not Discrimination”
Maus contains an ironic scene of neo-racism with the narrator’s father discriminating against an African American hitchhiker. The Jewish rat character Father sees the African American canine character and reacts negatively. The Father says, “A Hitch-hiker? And-oy-It’s a colored guy, a SHVARTSER! PUSH QUICK ON THE GAS!” (Spiegelman 98). The fact that he is a Holocaust survivor of very racist Nazi genocide and does not see himself as racist is awfully humorous. In the same car with the narrator’s wife, narrator, and himself, he says in Polish negative comments. He says, “I just can’t believe it! There’s a SHVARTSER sitting in here!” Considering Jews were banned from riding in the same cars, trains, pools, and school trolleys, it is even stranger that he would treat someone else in the same nasty manner and even go as far to accuse an individual of stealing due to his or her ethnicity (Para 99). Francoise, the narrator’s wife, echoes the modern audience’s reaction to this hypocrisy. She tells him, “That’s outrageous! How can you, of all people be such a racist! You talk about blacks the way the Nazis talked about the Jews” (99). However, the father who does not see the parallel of discrimination counters her argument. He responds, “I thought really, you are more smart than this, Francoise…It’s not even to compare, the Shvartsers and the Jews!” (99). The modern notions of every minority groups being unified against a singular, dominant majority is very misleading. Although the father’s attitude is unjust, his commentary that societal prejudice as well as discrimination is totally different things is unfortunately true because of human bias.
When I return to school, I encounter an old friend of mine. We were friends since freshmen year and spent the past two years full of happy moments and academic, political rallies. I thought we had a lot in common because we both felt strongly about defending and empathizing with people marginalized by society. As a member of a group now federally defined as Persons with Emotional Disturbance, I passionately advocate at every rally and boycott businesses that did not serve the LGBT community. I wrote poetry about the humanity of my anxiety and depression filled population. We attended every CCSJ event and community partnerships workshops. I honestly thought we were making a difference and the world would come to see people like us as not as lesser beings but functioning individuals. But I was wrong.
After my undiagnosed genetic anxiety came to re-surface, she comforted me. Then two weeks passed. I didn’t realize at the time that empathy has a timeline. She became verbally abusive towards me and was apathy towards my wailing and sleepless night. She told me to “Shut up cuz she was working on a paper”…and even when I fell over and could not get up, she walked around me and went to watch movies with her two other friends in the same room. “I liked it better when you were not retarded…cannot you just stop…. you’re making everyone sick…. No wonder your boyfriend broke up with you…. people die all the time you’re overacting…there are real people who suffer in the world, so quit exaggerating…. you’re born in the middle-class society and attending college how come you’re complaining about your circumstance” Needless to say, when I left for medical leave, we both were relieved to rid of each other. I saw her again for multiple times on campus and she was handing out pamphlet for the CCSJ’s be aware of homelessness and LGBT community, and walking on the Quad “Hands up, Don’t Shoot!”. With my health returned I was unrecognizable, she smiled at me and handed me something for CCSJ’s social justice something or other not realizing I was a member of group she discriminated against hiding in plain view.
The father shows that not all minority groups are united fronts. He shows that every individual is comparable of prejudice, which is judging a person’s character based on their appearance or ethnicity; however, he also evidences that not all people who are prejudice discriminate, which means to take deliberate action based on one’s belief against another group. In other words, all people are somewhat prejudice based on their diverse backgrounds, but not all people discriminate and commit acts of violence against people whom they fear or mistrust. The father responds, “I thought really, you are more smart than this, Francoise…It’s not even to compare, the Shvartsers and the Jews!” (99). The attitude he shows towards, “The Shvartsers” was prejudice, but he did not action beyond verbal which no active discrimination took place in the narrator’s car. Francoise believes prejudice and discrimination that took place in the Holocaust were interchangeable. In reality that is not accurate, rather it is the post-war view of idealizing the survivors as perfect moral persons instead of regular humans with the normal prejudices. It is true that the prejudice and fear of the Jews became the foundation of Hitler’s final solution, which became the active act of violent discrimination against the Jews. The attitude that the Nazis showed towards the “Jews” was active discrimination. The father may be political incorrect in 21st century’s context; however, he is political correct in the 20thcentury’s World War II context. Similarly, my old friend is now politically correct defending certain groups based on her experiences. She has positive experiences with other demographics and can carry that prejudice towards my demographic of emotional disturbance as long as she does not actively discriminate against others or me with my difference. To have her actively assault me would be discrimination, but for her to omit me is simply prejudice. Like Francoise, I recognize I cannot change others’ minds but I can live mine with less judgment and live of a life in spite of my prejudice and choose not to discriminate.
Spiegelman, Art. "And Here My Troubles Began..." MAUS II: A Survivor's Tale. New York: Pantheon, 1992. Print.