February 21, 2009

Memo to Cartoonists: Please, No Whining

No kidding: Cartoonists worried about being called racist for Obama drawings

Apparently, editorial and conservative cartoonists are having a devil of at time figuring out how to handle President Obama. They want to be edgy and provocative, satirical and hard hitting, but feel inhibited by the potential to be criticized as racist if they portray Obama with large lips or draw him with "simian" features.


Grow up folks. Its a fact of life that your cartoons are received by broad audiences, one of which are black americans. Some complaining cartoonists and indeed some people in general like to whine that they can't figure out how to communicate ideas in a way thats not offensive, that we black folk are just too darn touchy. Now, in fairness, the term racist and racism have been applied first by blacks and then whites in such an indiscriminate and reckless fashion to every kind of situation under the sun that the terms have become meaningless in our discourse. They are now simply verbal grenades to be hurled into the public debate, sometimes killing and maiming, other times a dud with no effect.

That said, there are some bright lines that any decent, semi-culturally competent person ought to be able to observe. Cartoonists, let me help you out with two really easy ones. If you draw a cartoon that appears to portray President Obama or any other black person as a monkey, you are gonna catch some heck. If you draw a cartoon depicting a black person with grotesquely large lips, it might land you in trouble, you may want to treat it carefully. Those are some easy gimmes okay? This is not rocket science. I'm willing to bet that they are a variety of things that your average cartoonist would never touch as being a bridge too far. You have some bright lines you observe in general. Don't act like you can't figure out what those should be when it comes to black folk.

You're cartoonists, so earn your keep. Lets be honest; if you can't draw your satirical and editorial cartoons of Obama without using chimp imagery or blowing his lips up to triple or quadruple Sambo levels, you're just not that creative or capable a cartoonist.