While gathering up some Sunday Funnies this morning, I came across the above Jerry Holbert cartoon. In light of the Secret Service scandal(s) in the news, I thought it was a lighthearted cartoon that would hold appeal to constituents on both sides of the political aisle. After all, it is outrageous that an American president could have come to harm, due to incompetence (Note: Julia Pierson resigned today).
Then in my Facebook newsfeed, I came across the following from Daily Kos:
The Boston Herald continues its tradition of being
There was never going to be a shred of plausibility that watermelon was a completely random choice of fruit with no racial overtones. But just in case anyone was going to try to claim that shred of plausibility:
… a similar cartoon posted to an archive of [cartoonist Jerry] Holbert’s work on GoComics.com doesn’t use the watermelon stereotype—in that version, the toothpaste is raspberry-flavored, even though the rest of the cartoon is drawn up exactly the same[.]
It’s unclear at what point the choice to use “watermelon” was made before the cartoon went to print and appeared in Wednesday’s newspaper. A call to the Herald’s editorial desk was not immediately returned Wednesday morning, and the paper has yet to comment on the strip, which continues to infuriate readers online.
So, was Holbert’s original cartoon the racist one run by the Herald and changed for syndication, or did the Herald take an innocuous enough cartoon and say “you know what this needs? a little racism.”
If you click on the Boston Herald link, it leads to an update at the top of the article, posted after the Daily Kos blogpost:
UPDATE, October 1, 11:45 a.m.: The Boston Herald artist who has the Internet in an uproar over his racially-charged cartoon featuring President Barack Obama and a reference to the stereotype that African Americans love watermelon apologized for offending readers, and said he didn’t even consider the negative implications in the drawing.
“It was completely naïve or innocent of any racial suggestion. I wasn’t thinking along those lines at all,” said Jerry Holbert, who has been drawing political cartoons for the newspaper since 1986.
Holbert made the apology during an interview on Boston Herald radio with Joe Battenfeld and Hillary Chabot on Wednesday morning, just hours after snapshots and links to the cartoon went viral.
Holbert told Chabot and Battenfeld that the idea to use “watermelon” instead of “peppermint” or another common toothpaste flavor in the text of the cartoon came after he looked through a cupboard and discovered someone had left “a kids Colgate watermelon flavor” there.
“I, myself, love watermelon, and I thought that would be a great one,” he said.
After images of another version of the cartoon that were featured on a syndicate site called GoComics.com made the rounds online, there was speculation—including from Boston—about whether the Herald chose to change the name of the toothpaste flavor right before the newspaper went to print.
But Holbert clarified Wednesday that it was his intention to include the term “watermelon” in his cartoon, not thinking about the racial connotations, and the switch to “raspberry” was made by outside editors since his cartoons are syndicated.
Holbert told the radio station that on Tuesday night someone wrote to him and asked if they could change the watermelon reference, and he was “confused” by the request. “I changed it to raspberry and sent it back to them,” he said.
Why others noticed the racial implications before publishing, but the Herald didn’t, still remains unclear.
The Herald issued an apology Wednesday as conversations swirled online, gaining national attention, but they failed to address that answer, and merely stated they were sorry for “inadvertently” offending anyone who read the political cartoon.
“I also apologize to anyone I offended, it was not my intention at all,” said Holbert. “I don’t think along the lines of racial jokes, I never do. Naïve, stupid—those kinds of things I understand. But racist, I am definitely not.”
I believe Holbert; and give both the cartoonist and the Herald the benefit of the doubt. It’s certainly naive on their parts; and in their positions, they certainly should be more worldly-wise in regards to such things. However, some people simply don’t think in those terms. It’s a sad state of affairs when you can’t put things like “watermelon” and “fried chicken” in the same context as a person who is black (or bring up metaphors of “darkness & light”, “night & day”, “black & white”) without evoking racial connotations.
When “uncle” Joe Biden recently used the term Shylocks, he certainly should have known better; but truth be told, even though I was an English major in college, I was ignorant of usage of the term, “Shylock”.
If I were enjoying some watermelon and a friend of mine happened, I don’t want to have to pause and think twice before offering him some, realizing just in the nick of time that, “Oh, yeah…my friend is black.”
The NFL recently apologized for penalizing Husain Abdullah for his Monday night “victory prayer” in the end zone; and Daily Kos and Co. were quick to jump on the racism witchhunt and ponder whether or not there is hypocrisy when Tim Tebow and other Christian players express religious signs of thanks supposedly getting a pass (no pun intended); while a Muslim football player did not- as if there were a double standard at play (recall all the derision from militant atheists wanting Tebow to stuff his Christianity back into the closet). To his credit, Abdullah seemed to take it all in stride and rose above the partisan ideologues with an agenda:
The KC player himself cast doubt on that theory opining that the penalty was the result of his sliding into the end zone on his knees which may have given the referee the impression he was doing an improper celebration rather than a prayer.
Seems like a silly rule to me, anyway:
A strict reading of the rulebook reveals why Abdullah was flagged. Using the ground for celebration is not allowed, although Tebow was allowed to kneel. The penalty comes under Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL rulebook, which states that “players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations or demonstrations while on the ground” as part of the league’s crackdown on excessive, elaborate celebrations. Mike Pereira, the league’s former vice-president of officiating and now a Fox Sports commentator, pointed out that there is an exception to the rule: going to the ground in prayer.
Sometimes, I think we read more into situations than is warranted, based more upon our own beliefs and prejudices than upon objective reality.
Not everyone thinks in racial terms.