[Marxism] McGruder Drops the N-word on the Nation
furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Mon Apr 12 14:51:41 MDT 2004
***** THE RADICAL
by BEN McGRATH
Why do editors keep throwing "The Boondocks" off the funnies page?
Issue of 2004-04-19 and 26
On the day of Saddam Hussein's capture, last December, the
left-leaning political weekly The Nation celebrated its
hundred-and-thirty-eighth birthday. It was a Sunday night, and the
weather was dreadful-forbiddingly cold and wet, heavy snow giving way
to sleet-but three hundred people could not be deterred from dropping
five hundred dollars a plate for roast chicken amid the
marble-and-velvet splendor of the Metropolitan Club, on Fifth Avenue.
Jean Stein, a veteran of the liberal party circuit and the mother of
Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation's editor, was there, as were E. L.
Doctorow, John Waters, Charlie Rose, and even John McEnroe. Robert
Byrd, the senior senator from West Virginia, was an honored guest. .
. . Joseph Wilson, the former Ambassador to Gabon, riding a wave of
liberal good will since the politically motivated outing of his wife,
the C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame, attended as well, by special
invitation. . . .
Toward the dessert (chocolate torte) portion of the evening, Uma
Thurman rose to introduce a special guest: Aaron McGruder, the
creator of the popular and subversive comic strip "The Boondocks,"
who, as it happens, had travelled farther than anyone else to be
there, all the way from Los Angeles. McGruder, one of only a few
prominent African-American cartoonists, had been making waves in all
the right ways, poking conspicuous fun at Trent Lott, the N.R.A., the
war effort. An exhibition of his comic strips-characters with Afros
and dreadlocks drawn in a style borrowing heavily from Japanese
manga,with accentuatedforeheads and eyes-was on display in the
Metropolitan Club's Great Hall. It seemed to be, as a Nation
contributor said later, "his coronation as our kind of guy."
But what McGruder saw when he looked around at his approving audience
was this: a lot of old, white faces. What followed was not quite a
coronation. . . . [T]he last straw came when he "dropped the N-word,"
as one amused observer recalled. He said-bragged, even-that he'd
voted for Nader in 2000. At that point, according to Hamilton Fish,
the host of the party, "it got interactive."
Eric Alterman, a columnist for The Nation, was sitting in the back of
the room, next to Joe Wilson, the Ambassador. He shouted out, "Thanks
for Bush!" Exactly what happened next is unclear. Alterman recalls
that McGruder responded by grabbing his crotch and saying, "Try these
nuts." Jack Newfield, the longtime Village Voice writer, says that
McGruder simply dared Alterman to remove him from the podium. When
asked about this incident later, McGruder said, "I ain't no punk. I
ain't gonna let someone shout and not go back at him."
Alterman walked out. "I turned to Joe and said, 'I can't listen to
this crap anymore,'" he remembers. "I went out into the Metropolitan
Club lobby-it's a nice lobby-and I worked on my manuscript."
Newfield joined in the heckling, as did Stephen Cohen, a historian
and the husband of Katrina vanden Heuvel. "It was like watching LeRoi
Jones try to Mau-Mau a guilty white liberal in the sixties," Newfield
says. "It was out of a time warp. Who is he to insult people who have
been putting their careers and lives on the line for equal rights
since before he was born?"
By the time McGruder had finished, and a tipsy Joe Wilson took the
microphone to deliver his New Year's Resolutions, perhaps half the
guests had excused themselves to join Alterman in the lobby. A Nation
contributor estimated that McGruder had offended eighty per cent of
the audience. "Some people still haven't recovered," he said,
"At a certain point, I just got the uncomfortable feeling that this
was a bunch of people who were feeling a little too good about
themselves," McGruder said afterward. "These are the big, rich white
leftists who are going to carry the fight to George Bush, and the
best they can do is blame Nader?" . . .
* Bring Them Home Now! <http://www.bringthemhomenow.org/>
* Calendars of Events in Columbus:
<http://www.freepress.org/calendar.php>, & <http://www.cpanews.org/>
* Student International Forum: <http://sif.org.ohio-state.edu/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/>
* Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio>
* Solidarity: <http://www.solidarity-us.org/>
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