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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 01/21/2009

Aaron McGruder Hardly Hopeful About 'Non-Black' Obama

By Michael Cavna

Obama fever may have spread across much of the land, but Aaron McGruder isn't prone to such feel-good political contagion.


Aaron McGruderEnlarge Comic

On the day before the Inauguration, "The Boondocks" creator gave a Martin Luther King speech at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., reports the town's Palladium-Item newspaper (and soon flagged by !Journalista!). And naturally, the subject of an Obama administration arose.

Now, Comic Riffs knows from our interview with McGruder last year that he's hardly Obama's biggest backer. The cartoonist characterized himself as too "radical" to really get behind the "Yes, We Can" movement. McGruder's sentiment seemed to be more along the lines of "Yes, We Need" -- as in, we need to overhaul a sham of a political system.

So it's no surprise to 'Riffs that McGruder is "cautiously pessimistic" about Obama and his ability to reform Washington. What was surprising, though, was his response to a question about race. To McGruder's way of thinking, Obama is not black.

Being black, to McGruder, requires being descended from slaves. "The person who is one of us in the White House is Michelle Obama and her momma," the cartoonist said.

Some attendees found McGruder outrageous, the newspaper reported. Others were disappointed. And still others were thrilled by the talk.

In other words, he was fully, thoroughly McGruder.

UPDATE: A note to clarify McGruder's statements has been posted in the comments section as "from the office of Aaron McGruder."

By Michael Cavna  | January 21, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  General  
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Comments

He's ignorant when it comes to the race. There are people who'd say the same thing about him based on his blended features and his hair texture (more visible on other photos of him). It's not the tightest of curl.

People mistakenly equate being Black with having some high degree of sub-Saharan African bloodline. McGruder is obviously not totally of sub-Saharan African descent. The definitions of Black seem to fluctuate per person.

Many don't realize that Black as social race, a label and identity - of choice for many. Actually, we all have the prerogative to choose our identity.

And if he sees issue with Obama's white/Caucasian ancestry, perhaps, he should put a microscope to Michelle's Bloodline - surely something other than sub-Saharan ancestry will come up. He should also shake up his own family tree.

He also disregards that face that slavery existed all over Africa for eons, and still does. As a matter of fact, slavery still exists all over the world.

he's pretty ignorant.

Posted by: anonomia | January 21, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I guess I'm also "'cautiously pessimistic' about Obama and his ability to reform Washington." So Mr. McGruder and I agree on something!

But alas, I am just a typical white guy. All the fractious stuff about "What is black?" is kinda lost on me. My own bloodline would describe me as a "mutt", so I kinda identify with Obama. Perhaps Mr. McGruder thinks he's a pure-bred Black? Revolting!

Posted by: MSchafer | January 21, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

McGruder is a moron. Obama's family can be traced back to Kenya...which I believe is in Africa. "Black" people come in all shades of brown...not just the pretty (albeit airbrushed) shade of mocha that McGruder shows in the picture above.

Posted by: hpDC | January 21, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

McGruder can put a sock in it.

I'm sick of brands and labels like "Black" and "White" and "Liberal" and "Conservative" and I'm sick of people arrogating unto themselves the right to decide who should or shouldn't wear them. We've just been through eight years of bitter divisiveness. I want one nation, not these mutually exclusive tribes.

Posted by: Attucks | January 21, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

McGruder, more than anything else, is a bad joke. The idea of him giving a "Martin Luther King" speech is outrageous. Was it not King who said that he hoped that people would be judged by the content of their heart, not the color of their skin? Since when does being descended from slaves have ANYTHING to do with either? The world will never be a perfect place, but it is a lot better than people like McGruder want to pretend it is.

Posted by: jusher | January 21, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Good cartoonist but a first class punk. Not qualified to hold Obama's suit coat.

Posted by: RobRoy1 | January 21, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

FYI, hpDC and everyone else:
Black people come in all shades of "white," or better yet, "pale" as well as all shades of brown as you noted.

Posted by: dude_too | January 21, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

This message is from the office of Aaron McGurder in response to the recent article about comments made during his recent visit to Earlham College in Richmond, IN.

Please see statement below from Aaron McGruder re: your article on his appearance at Earlham College:

For a long time now, I have tried to keep my opinions on the election and Barack Obama to myself. I occasionally do speaking engagements, which are not open to the press, and unfortunately some of my comments have been twisted around in a silly manner. The claim that I asserted our new President was not Black is categorically false.

I have seen an endless stream of Black pundits on TV pontificating about the significance of President Obama's election - many of them making reference to the 3/5th's clause in the constitution regarding slaves. The point I was making is that this is not an accurate comparison. Barack is the son of an immigrant, not the descendant of slaves. It's like comparing a half-Japanese man to the oppressed Chinese who built the American railroads. Yes, they are both Asian, but it is not an honest or accurate comparison. We all share the common experiences of being Black in America today - we do not all share a common history. A history that in part makes us who we are - and in some cases (as with the psychological damage that still lingers from slavery) holds us back. These are not, I believe, insignificant distinctions.

I did say I was cautiously pessimistic about Obama's Presidency - but this is simply acknowledging the reality of an American Empire that is out of control and on the verge of collapse. Let us not forget that on the eve of the election, we witnessed a near trillion dollar robbery of the US treasury. That robbery is still taking place. I do not blame President Obama, but I do not believe the financial and corporate interests that own and control this country will fold so easily. I do not question the integrity of the man as much as the power of his office - which I believe has greatly diminished over the years. I believe the Federal Reserve Bank, the Military Industrial Complex, and the massive corporate interests that run this country have more power than our new President. I hope I am wrong.

After 9/11, I witnessed most of this country become obsessed with squashing dissent and silencing critics. I hope this election does not turn Black America towards this same, fascist mind state; but already I am starting to see it, and it saddens me greatly. I absolutely wish our new President and his family success and safety. But after all I have witnessed in my lifetime, and especially in the last eight years, I am not ready to lay down my skepticism or my outrage for this government. To do so would be unwise and, ironically enough, anti-American.

Aaron McGruder

January 21, 2009

--
Regards,
Richard M. Foster
fosterpcs@gmail.com

Posted by: fosterpcsgmailcom | January 21, 2009 7:29 PM | Report abuse

This man gave a MLK Day speech? I believe the segregation and prejudice that MLK protested was directed at "colored people", not just at "descendants of slaves". Barack Obama would have been the subject of it just as much as Mr. McGruder would have been.

Posted by: seismic-2 | January 21, 2009 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Who gives a sh*t what a two bit cartoonist thinks? The Boondocks is probably the most overrated piece of crap cartoon ever.

Posted by: wangbang747 | January 21, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Okay, boys and girls here's the skinny on what Mr. McGruder is trying too say in my opinion. If you would take the time to read his comic strips and/or watch his cartoon on "Cartoon Network's Adult Swim", you would immediately understand that he exposes all side when it comes to racism, havs and hav nots, oppression, feminism and other pop culture deficiencies. So why would it be different President Obama? First, and foremost Obama is a Negro (I use the word Negro because in this country if you are over thirty four your birth certificate says Negroes) . Do you agree? Next, When Negroes call other Negroes; Toms (Clarence Thomas), Clear (Michael Wilbon from the Washington Post), Step & Fetch (I'm drawing a blank...okay the character Carlton Banks from the sitcom "Fresh Prince")they basically are calling out someone in a position to either, help or harm them by identification of race. This has been deep rooted in our culture since the beginning of slavery. Then it was the "Field Slave", The House N-Word or the educated Negro :Uppity N word. Pretty much what Aaron is accusing him of, is being from the non traditional plight that most Negroes come from and that is slavery. Furthermore, comments made from the persons like RobRoy1, seismic-2, Attucks and I am sure more comments will come...fit into the category of "if you do not have something intelligent too say, then you may want to be quiet", or if you need attention get a pet or call your mama. Then spend a little time to get to know this incredible artist work. Then maybe you will not rush like idiots who start riots too say something foolish like each of you did. Respect the man comments (And no your comment does not deserve the right to be respected if you are an idiot. Now as a Negro Male who, before I voted did my due diligence on President Obama and let me say this, "He's not black, He's not white, he's MF Politician. Now if you are genuinely insulted by Mr. Aaron McGruders comments then I apologize for him. But, I serious doubt you were insulted if your IQ has the same three digits as a hot summer day in Scottsdale, AZ. Free your mind and you behind will follow..........................

Posted by: knjon353 | January 22, 2009 7:47 PM | Report abuse

As someone who attended the lecture, I was highly disappointed that the Washington Post would cite a newspaper such as the Palladium Item who obviously didn't listen carefully to what Mr. McGruder had to say. I think it is very unfortunate that comments he made on Obama and ethnicity were misconstrued and misunderstood. The Palladium Item which is considered a joke newspaper to many in Richmond quoted McGruder as saying that Obama was not black, that was not what he said. He stated that Obama is not African-American in the terms of American societal and racial construct. Many use the word African-American to describe the descendants of slaves in America, even Obama himself said to not call him African-American and to refer him as Black. So to the comments that were stated before about McGruder making "purebred," a sub-saharan bloodline and other claims of blackness are unfortunate because the reports of comments made by McGruder were very biased and not understood. It is unfortunate that people can make comments and pass judgement on an lecture they did not even attend. Please do not always believe what you read because you can be easily fooled and that is what the Palladium Item did to alot of people.

Posted by: lj2005 | January 23, 2009 12:06 AM | Report abuse

>>to: lj2005:
Comic Riffs would like to hear more about the talk from anyone who attended the event, including yourself. Meantime, we were able to get Aaron McGruder's own reaction and effort to "correct the record" in an interview. I encourage you to check out Aaron's words, which we will post shortly in our ongoing efforts to get to the bottom of the story.
--MC

Posted by: cavnam | January 23, 2009 5:59 AM | Report abuse

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