I ran across a mention of Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks (first a comic strip, now a syndicated television show) in a conversation about South Park (which, as its creators warn at the beginning of each show, “should not be watched by ANYONE”) and was taken aback by the assertion that McGruder’s work is racist. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote in response:
I have to admit that I am a bit shocked to hear the anti-Boondocks/anti-McGruder talk. Granted, I am a white woman, but (not sure how to say this without sounding hokey/ignorant, but here goes) I feel like I have really learned a lot/been made aware of stuff via the Boondocks cartoons. Do I think the TV show is far less funny and pushes things in the wrong direction? Absolutely, but sadly, I still watch it.
As long as Cosby has been mentioned, I will say that I struggled with the same thing with the whole “Fat Albert” issue. When a professor told my class that Fat Albert was embraced by the black community when it first came out, I was shocked, because in my family, Fat Albert was used to mock black folks and to reinforce the stereotypes. It’s part of how we learned these horrible stereotypes. Even as an adult, I heard her say this and couldn’t get my mind around the fact that anybody would see Fat Albert as a positive thing.
I’ve never (before today) had these questions about Boondocks–okay, scratch that. I HAVE had these questions about the TV show, because as one person mentioned above, it’s going out to a wider audience and is going to be misinterpreted by the folks in Iowa (and yes, in Staten Island, where I grew up) in the same way. But the comic strip is, to me, a totally different animal, and I feel like I was repeatedly given a glimpse into the struggles that the black community faces by reading it. (I still read the comic daily–it’s in “reruns”/syndication–and it’s funny because right now it’s dealing with the 2000 (or maybe 2004?) elections, and it still speaks perfectly well to the current presidential race . . .)
Finally, I think I learn about myself as a “trying to be the cool white woman” person–I see way too much of myself in the eager, trying to be “hip-hop” (to quote Brenda Salter-McNeil’s use of the term) white girl who wants to be “down with the people”. I see myself and wince, and isn’t that what good satire should cause us to do?
At any rate, I read some more, and thought more about the TV show, and how I just never loved the TV show the way that I loved (and still love) the comic strip, and I guess I am ready to concede that the show has taken a wrong turn. Now, though, I find myself questioning my previous analysis of the comic strip . . . and I just don’t know where to go with that. I truly have seen Huey as a prophet, and have prescribed words like, “important” and “profound” to the comic strip, and now I’m not sure where to go with all of this.