An African-American cartoonist reacts to being pulled by the Post
Darrin Bell’s comic strip Candorville runs in approximately 70 newspapers. Only one of these, the Washington Post, opted not to run the strip on January 19, when Bell referenced fears for Barack Obama’s safety. Bell shared his thoughts with the Phoenix via e-mail; excerpts follow.
“The strip wasn’t making light of assassination — the strip ridiculed those who would consider assassinating a public official. More importantly, it voiced a concern much of the nation has already been talking about. Sadly, our nation’s history of assassinating figures of hope, and targets of bigotry, suggests to me the cartoon made a legitimate point.
“Unlike most of the response I get to strips, there was no range of reaction — there was polarization. One camp thought the notion that anyone would be bigoted enough to want to kill a black man was outdated. I reminded them that James Byrd was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Texas in the NINETIES. I reminded them they were talking to a cartoonist who receives occasional death threats merely for publishing a cartoon featuring black characters in newspapers. The other camp said it was a sad reality, that the strip raised a legitimate point, dealt with it in a humorous way, and that they hoped it would make Obama’s security a little more vigilant. Surprisingly, not a single reader suggested that the strip would give bigots the idea. I think most people who admit bigots still exist seem to know what the crazies among them are capable of doing.
“I don’t raise issues in Candorville just for the sake of talking about them — I raise them because I hope they’ll make people think about the world around them and act on what they decide. I hoped, like the latter group, that bringing this discussion — which has been simmering across the country since Obama announced he was running — to the surface, could do no harm and could potentially lead to increased security around Obama.
“Most reader reaction to the Post’s decision was in Candorville’s favor. Most readers I’ve heard from did not think it was tasteless and thought it was useful commentary.”
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