The Rightysphere’s a-buzz with their new claim: Liberal cartoonists are making racist attacks on Condeleezza Rice! The IWF, incapable as ever of expressing an original thought, jumps on the bandwagon:
“The depiction of Dr. Condoleezza Rice by Jeff Danziger, Pat Oliphant and Garry Trudeau as an ebonics speaking, big-lipped, black mammy who just loves her ‘massa’ is a disturbing trend in editorial cartoons,” said Michelle D. Bernard, senior vice president of the Independent Women’s Forum. “These cartoons take the racism of the liberals who profess respect and adoration for black Americans to a new level. It is revolting.”
Let’s look at the cartoons they’re talking about. First, Jeff Danziger’s:
The cartoon is based on a character from “Gone With the Wind.” Here’s Danziger’s defense (via Rambling’s Journal):
Nothing racist about it at all. Just the standard lies told by a political operative, out of her depth, who happens to be African-American. Whenever this administration is in trouble they send out Condi Rice because the press, which is mostly white and male, gives her a far easier treatment than they would a white male.
It’s true that Danziger isn’t particularly a liberal, unless your definition of liberal is “anyone who criticizes George W. Bush.” If you look at Danziger’s cartoons from back when Clinton was in office, he was just as harsh on the Dems (for example, here, here [a quite funny one depicting Democratic racism, by the way], and here).
But I don’t think the rest of Danziger’s explanation helps him out. Danziger says that Rice “happens to be African-American,” as if he were depicting her without regard to her race. But that’s nonsense. It’s only because she’s black that it makes any sense to draw her as a black stereotype from “Gone With the Wind” – and drawing her that way doesn’t make fun of her lies or her politics, it just makes fun of her race.
It’s a racist cartoon, and pointing to a past history of non-racist cartoons – or, pathetically, trying to blame it on an unnamed black friend – won’t rescue it.
Next, Pat Oliphant:
I think this is borderline racist. There’s nothing wrong with depicting Rice as a parrot – doing so in no way makes fun of her race, and the cartoon would make just as much sense if she were white. But why did he have to draw her lips that way? Yes, it’s a cartoonist’s job to exaggerate, but a caricaturist as hugely skilled as Oliphant could have drawn Rice without reminding us of the history of racist big-lipped caricatures of blacks. (From the interviews I’ve read, my guess is that Oliphant would dismiss such a concern as political correctness.)
On the other hand, contrary to the IWF’s claims, Oliphant’s hardly a liberal. He’s a “whoever’s in power is my enemy” cartoonist; if anything, he leans a little to the right (see his cartoons criticizing teachers and teachers unions, for example).
(Incidentally, back when Bush senior was in office, Oliphant did a series of offensively homophobic cartoons depicting Bush as a mincing, flaming gay man, which I thought were pretty disgusting.)
Finally, the Doonesbury:
The Doonesbury cartoon isn’t at all derogatory towards Ms Rice; it is derogatory towards Bush and his famous habit of giving nicknames to people. At most, it suggests that Bush might be racist – which may be an unfair thing to say, but it’s not a racist thing to say.
So, what’s the score? The IWF, attempting to smear liberals, makes three accusations – but two of them, while racist, aren’t by liberals, and the third, while liberal, isn’t racist. As usual, the IWF scores zip on truthfulness. On the other hand, it is disturbing that two of the most mainstream, well-known figures in the editorial cartoon biz are producing racist strips, and it’s good that the righties are bringing this some attention (even if I suspect many of them are more concerned with being anti-liberal than anti-racist).