[Marxism] McGruder Drops the N-word on the Nation

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Mon Apr 12 14:51:41 MDT 2004

Why do editors keep throwing "The Boondocks" off the funnies page?
Issue of 2004-04-19 and 26
Posted 2004-04-12

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, 
sounding thrilled.

"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?" . . .

<http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?040419fa_fact2>   *****

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