CLEVELAND––Usually, when cartoonist Vishavjit Singh stands in a public square wearing in his Sikh turban, most people walk right past him without saying hello. But midday Wednesday he was among the most sought after people in a space crowded with activists, delegates, partisans demonstrating for and against Donald Trump, and passersby who paused for a moment to take in the spectacle.
What Republican, after all, wouldn’t want a picture with Captain America?
“I’m a cartoonist from New York. I also happen to be a writer and a costume player. And I use my costume play to strike conversations and overcome people’s stereotypes about who I might be because people don’t know who Sikhs are,” Singh explained.
While preparing to travel to the Republican National Convention, he was reading Between the World and Me, my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates’s recently published bestseller.
A passage on page 60 struck him.
“It touched me when he talks about his own hate, not somebody else’s hate. To me that was powerful, because one of the main messages I have is that it’s easy to tell other people that they are hateful or racist, but we all are capable of hate,” he said. “I wanted to bring this message in uniform: that hate gives identity, because it does. It leads us down a horrible path that it takes a long time to come back from. So I want not just Republicans, but everybody to hear it. You can hate Republicans, you can hate black people, you can hate police officers, any of them can be a problem. We have to find ways to use compassion to build bridges despite our differences. Ta-Nehisi does it through writing. I do it through cartoons and costume play.”