In response to: Juvenile Politics Under a Cute Afro

Dear Mr. McWhorter,

Regarding your piece: Juvenile Politics Under a Cute Afro in the New York Sun

You couldn’t be more wrong about Aaron McGruder, The Boondocks, and race relations in America. In light of your body of work, this doesn’t surprise me. But then, there are lots of little Thomases like you running around, aren’t there?

I realize that, since you’re writing for The Sun, your audience is a shade and a half lighter than most Norwegians. But was the wink-wink-nudge-nudge tone really necessary?

“The show and the strip center around two little brothas (who are, indeed, siblings)…”

Come on, baby boy. Get a grip.

As you may have guessed, I have some problems with your piece. Let’s take them one by one, shall we?

“…the characters serve as mouthpieces for Mr. McGruder’s professionally alienated politics, with insights such as: America is as bigoted today as it was in 1965, Condoleezza Rice is a dateless, warmongering sellout, and so on.”

If I were to guess, I would say that you live in a very different reality than most of America. McGruder’s politics are only alienated in a world full of rich white men. Perhaps you exist in this world. Recognize that many more of us do not.

You may not notice, since your head is so far up someone’s ass (don’t know who just yet), but America is just as bigoted. All that has changed is the nature of the bigotry.

“Certainly race still matters. But has Mr. McGruder, who as late as 1990 was only 15, really experienced a nation of white people who think of black people as talking monkeys, or does he just enjoy the self-righteous thrill of pretending they do? Mr. McGruder knows that white America has evolved beyond the era of ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?’ But he can’t admit it, because then he wouldn’t be interesting. “

Again, what America are you living in, son? Maybe because you make it your business to pretend the world is a happy, shiny place for the sake of the white man, you don’t notice that your pretension is way more than just a gloss. It’s a lie. I’m a little younger than McGruder, and it’s certainly been my experience that we are still living in a world where white people see us as the “Other”. There will always be a sub-section that truly sees us as talking monkeys, but the more progressive whites have upped their opinion to merely sub-human. White America has not evolved past Guess Who, just gotten stealthier about covering it up. If you don’t recognize this, then they’ve succeeded in fooling you. Good on them.

“That is a little childish, which ties into an overall tension on the show between the heaviness of the racial politics and the eternal lightness of animated cartoons.

Of course ‘The Boondocks’ is a cartoon, so we expect adolescent stuff. “

You obviously do not watch cartoons than aren’t on Nickelodeon, else you would not have made these ignorant-ass statements.

“…in 1963, the march on Washington demanded desegregation and voting rights. What exactly would the people at the gates be asking for today? If most Great Society programs did not work, what magic cure is white America holding back today?”

Oh, I don’t know. Equality. True Equality, I should say. Social, economic, political. All that silly stuff MLK went on and on about. Hon, there is one (one) black person in the U.S. Senate. I don’t even want to think about how few ethnic minorities there are in the House. Black children are still getting a crappy-ass education as compared to white children (in general, of course). Still more black men in prison than white. A white person is still more likely to get into college, get a well-paying job, and be able to have an actual retirement. We can’t blame all of our problems on the white man, of course. But they are doing far more hindering than helping.

“I get especially itchy when Mr. Mc-Gruder takes the us-versus-them pose into the dangerous idea that until that ‘revolution’ comes, it is simply self-preservation to sidestep the norms of the oppressor.”

You would get itchy. Cuz when the revolution does come, you’re going to be among the first to be tossed out the airlock.

“…in interviews and public addresses, Mr. McGruder presents himself as telling us (mostly the whites among us) something important. But in the end, the political substrate of the show is undemanding, comforting its adherents while making no difference in the lives of people who really need help. Sure, one could say the same of ‘Doonesbury.’ But in broaching the Race Thing, Mr. McGruder bears a responsibility that Garry Trudeau does not.”

Aaron is indeed telling us something important. If you can’t see that, you need to listen better. Right now I think your head is too far up to hear properly.

What I love best about this statement is the paternalistic attitude and the crazy assertion that McGruder has more ‘responsibility’ than Gary Trudeau. Why? Why is it that black people have more responsibility in the area of race politics than white people? After all, black people aren’t the problem. Black people don’t have the kind of power to affect change that white people do. So why is it always on us?

Also, what the hell is a damn cartoon supposed to do to help people, exactly? It’s a cartoon on television. You sound like Tucker Carlson telling Jon Stewart that The Daily Show should be more hard-hitting. It’s comedy. It’s television. It’s not meant to be the main vehicle for social change. That’s what real people are for, you idiot.

Stop blaming The Boondocks for not being what it’s not supposed to be.

Sincerely,

The Angry Black Woman

5 Responses

  1. Couldn’t have said it better, infact reading this has given me a thing or two to think about that I may have been somewhat ignorant of.

    I do hope you send this to him : ).

    PS I located this post through Blackfolk just incase you were wondering

  2. Wow. Never read that particular “critic” before, but: wow. What a pompous deludanoid asshat.

    not like they aren’t thick on the ground, of course, but…yeah. Asshat.

  3. [...] Hey kids, remember John McWhorter, the shufflingest shuffler that ever shuffled? He’s still shuffling. [...]

  4. While I disagree with his assessment of the series in general, I find myself disagreeing more with your criticism of his assessment.

    For example, I find it intriguing that you first criticize him for saying that juvenile theme and interpretation is something to be expected from a cartoon…then criticize him for saying that it should be more than what it is in its interpretation by stating that it’s *just* a cartoon.

    Anywho, I enjoy reading works by both of them. Both have valid ways of seeing things, and I see them both as influential and important to Black American culture today.

  5. Nicholas I don’t think that was what ABW was saying.

    A show can be both mature and offer adult themes and look at the complexities of an issue such as race (thus not what we would associate with adolescent themes of a Nickolodeon cartoon like Rugrats) without being able to actually change society. It might be best defined as the difference between “social change” and “social awareness”.

    If you actually look at what she says I think that’s what comes across, or at least, how I interpreted her words:

    Of course ‘The Boondocks’ is a cartoon, so we expect adolescent stuff. “

    You obviously do not watch cartoons than aren’t on Nickelodeon, else you would not have made these ignorant-ass statements.

    Also, what the hell is a damn cartoon supposed to do to help people, exactly? It’s a cartoon on television. You sound like Tucker Carlson telling Jon Stewart that The Daily Show should be more hard-hitting. It’s comedy. It’s television. It’s not meant to be the main vehicle for social change. That’s what real people are for, you idiot.

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