I found some of the artist's work, ah, slightly offensive, to put it mildly, but there's a line in the film to the effect that only white people ever complained about it. So, clearly, I couldn't possibly be offended, and had only imagined that reaction. Silly me.
The Comics Journal interviewed Art Spiegelman, and Mr. Crumb was one of the topics discussed:
GROTH: What did you think of Crumb's last comic?
SPIEGELMAN: Self-Loathing I thought was brilliant. I thought it was really brilliant. Crumb is great. I really love what he does. I'm repulsed by some of it, but not by the Self-Loathing comic at all. What repulsed me was what he thought was an outrageous racist comic in the last Weirdo.
GROTH: What he thought was satirical?
SPIEGELMAN: What he thought was satirical and outrageous.
GROTH: I interviewed him for the Journal last week and he told me that you gave him a dressing down over that.
SPIEGELMAN: Yeah, well, this is like Rashomon. I didn't see it as a dressing down. That implies a condescension that has nothing to do with how I perceive Crumb. I saw it as an expression of my own disgust. I thought he received my response with his usual "Yuk yuk, that Artie Spiegelman -- isn't it amazing that he's able to work up some moral indignation?" I think I was just seen as rising to the bait as given. My problem with the strip was that it wasn't virulent enough. And the proof of that is that it was able to be co-opted and reprinted in a neo-Nazi magazine with no problem. If he had done his job as a satirist well, it would not have been able to be looked at without anger by the presumed target -- the presumed target being the racist, rather than the blacks and Jews.
GROTH: On the other hand though, that brand of racist is particularly stupid. I wonder if it's possible to do a satire that they themselves would have recognized as being satirical about them?
SPIEGELMAN: I believe it's possible. I think if it had really done its job, they inevitably would have been unable to embrace it, it would have made them uncomfortable. As it stands it really is no more than a fairly anemic catalog of racist cliches. The last page ostensibly satirizes White Men, but actually just functions the same way the last two panels of an old pre-code crime comic book functions. "Commit a crime and the world made of glass, crime doesn't pay." A glib moral after 15 pages of lurid mayhem. Similarly Crumb's strip has a coda that is simply the super-ego falling back into place to try and rationalize and justify the pleasures of what came before.
GROTH: I'm not sure how relevant this is, but, did you think the failure for that comes out of racist impulses on the part of Crumb?
SPIEGELMAN: I think it comes from a repetition compulsion on Crumb's part that sometimes passes, in his mind, for introspection. Something similar to the way Crumb reported my responses to you happened with Terry Zwigoff; I think there's some misunderstanding of my response to his film. I called him up to rave about it and he walks around saying, "Boy, that Spiegelman sure hated my film."
Apologies for the length on that. The interview is referenced in the footnotes to New Racist Forms: Jim Crow in the 21st Century at the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University:
Books with racist jokes remain popular. Blanche Knott's Truly Tasteless Jokes series and Maude Thickett's Outrageously Offensive Jokes series were bestsellers.27 The jokes are similar to the ones found on the webpages of White supremacy groups.28 R. Crumb's comics29 include many racially stereotypical characters, including "Salty Dog Sam," a Coon caricature, "Angelfood McSpade," an Amazon-Savage hybrid who talks like a Mammy, and "Jockey boy," a dwarf Coon caricature dressed like the lawn ornament.30 Crumb's supporters claim that he is a satirist.31 Crumb's writings, many originally published in the 1960s and 1970s, are being reproduced. His story, "When The Niggers Take Over America," is reminiscent of The Birth of a Nation. In both, Blacks are portrayed as thugs, rapists, murderers desiring to enslave Whites.32 For an excellent history of racism in comic books, see Ethnic Images in the Comics.
The Museum was also the source of the image and text in the previous entry. Think Lisa sent me the link to it ages ago, but, y'know, mind like a sieve. Thanks and apologies if I got that wrong.
Reasonable people can disagree about whether a particular image (or statement, or opinion) is racist, of course, and there's always context to consider. I think some people's positions are intrinsically more valuable due to personal experience, but I'm racist, so ignore me.