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McGruder denies report regarding Obama’s race

Aaron McGruder, creator of the Boondocks comic strip and television show, has issued a statement regarding the flare up in the blogosphere that has arisen after the Palladium-Item reported that Aaron claimed President Barack Obama wasn’t black because he wasn’t a descendant of slaves during a speech at Earlham College on Martin Luther King day. In the statement, Aaron denies that he made such a statement, but his his views expressed in the speech were “twisted around in a silly manner” by the press.

His statement in full:

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.

Community Comments

#1 Rich Diesslin
January/22/2009
@ 1:56 am

This is certainly a well-reasoned response and seems plausible as to what he may have been saying at Earlham. I can also see it easily taken out of context. Many of his points are debatable (as are most opinions), but overall I’m surprised at how much we agree on issues even if for very different reasons.

My question to those who went and commented on his talk as boring – was it not interesting because he was not a dynamic speaker, or was it that he didn’t share zealous enthusiasm for the new administration?

#2 Mike Peterson
January/22/2009
@ 4:08 am

Maybe he ought to let the reporters into his public appearances so they can hear what he actually says, instead of having to base their reports on what the kids in his audience think they heard him say. (Yes, yes, then blame the “MSM” because they’re not good at playing the old “telephone” game)

#3 Brent Ross
January/22/2009
@ 4:19 am

He does have a point… some comparisons and symbolism that has been attached to Barrack may be somewhat inaccurate. He is not the romantic ideal of a journey from slavery to the Oval Office.

What is for sure is that he is a symbol for all people of colour… that someone with non-white skin and the name of Barack Hussein Obama can become president of the USA. And that has import for slavery descended blacks as much as any other minority.

The four minute mile was once considered impossible, but once one person had broken it, many others followed shortly thereafter… because that psychological barrier was gone. So if it took an outsider free from “the psychological damage that still lingers from slavery” to overcome that final step and open the way, does it really make that much difference? The door is open either way.

#4 Chris Myers
January/22/2009
@ 6:42 am

Mr McGruder stated: “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.”

I would like to know of any plausible proof that there can be any psychological damage that can linger for 150 years since the end of an event and through 6 generations.

That one line discredits his entire statement.

If it were true, someone owes me for the psychological damage I am suffering due to delayed stress syndrome from my great-great-great-great grandfather’s service in the Civil War.

#5 jesse
January/22/2009
@ 8:57 am

I think Brent Ross nailed it.

#6 Wiley Miller
January/22/2009
@ 9:43 am

We heard this nonsense throughout the primaries and final campaign. I called Obama the Goldilocks candidate, and now he’s the Goldilocks President.

To the White supremacists like Limbaugh, Hannity and O’Reilly, Obama is too Black.

To the Black supremacists, like Jesse Jackson and Aaron McGruder, Obama isn’t Black enough.

For the rest of us, he’s juuuuuuuust right.

#7 Olly McPherson
January/22/2009
@ 9:47 am

“I would like to know of any plausible proof that there can be any psychological damage that can linger for 150 years since the end of an event and through 6 generations.”

Chris, the legacy of slavery extends into the Civil Rights movement and other struggles for equality that followed, many of which continue to this day. I’m in my 20s; when my mom was a kid, schools in the south were segregated. Even when I was younger, racist attitudes were common in my hometown, and few African-Americans could be seen in any positions of prominence or authority.

The United States dedicated centuries of its history–until very recent times–treating African-Americans as undesirable and even subhuman. Many families still bear these scars. The comparison to your ancestor’s service in the Civil War doesn’t hold true.

#8 R Pyle
January/22/2009
@ 9:59 am

I certainly understand his point of view, especially the paragraph about post 9/11 Orwellian worries.

However, I am still taken aback by the apparent sentiment that Obama is now black, he’s just not as black as Aaron.

I also have to wonder about this concept of shared history. My history began in 1960, not 1860. I’ve learned to live in this era, not the past. Perhaps Aaron should look into doing the same.

#9 Cory Thomas
January/22/2009
@ 10:26 am

As a non-American Black American, I kinda understand his point though. As much as I’ve assimilated and embraced and connected with, there are still aspects of the ‘ethnic’ Black American experience and history that I’ll never be able to relate to. Cultural elements I’ll never quite get. There are those ‘psychological damages’ that I’ve never had to face or overcome. I’ve even witnessed, at times, how differently (better) I’m regarded when it’s discovered I’m not one of ‘those’ Black people. I’ve seen anger and suspicion turn to welcoming smiles as soon as an accent came tumbling out of my mouth. I think, as much as Obama’s ‘foreignness’ terrified xenophobes, it also comforted a lot of people with the assurance that he wasn’t one of ‘those.’

I think McGruder’s point is that, while Obama’s election can be regarded as a triumph for modern Black people as a social group, it’s not necessarily a triumph over ‘ethnic’ Black America’s past. If I’m right and that is his point, I don’t really disagree.

#10 Darrin Bell
January/22/2009
@ 10:50 am

I posted this in the other thread. Should’ve posted it here:

?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?m not sure how that?s substantively different from what he was rumored to have said. Still reads as ?he?s not one of us? to me. But whatever.

Aside from the country of origin on his father’s passport and a few years spent in Indonesia, Obama’s story isn’t any different from the millions of mixed race kids (who identify as black) raised by their non-black parent in the suburbs. He was born and raised as an American, as he grew he sought out people who looked like him, he found a community, and became part of it. Many black Americans don’t have to do that because they’re immersed in it from birth, but many others do. To argue he’s not part of a triumph over ethnic black America’s past is to argue the rest of them aren’t part of ethnic black America.

I’ve heard that argument all my life, and I don’t agree.

#11 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
January/22/2009
@ 11:12 am

“I would like to know of any plausible proof that there can be any psychological damage that can linger for 150 years since the end of an event and through 6 generations.

That one line discredits his entire statement.”

The above statement is nonsense. Ten years ago, James Byrd was dragged to death in Texas simply because he was a black person. Just this past September 16, 2008, Brandon McClellan, another black person was also dragged underneath a vehicle and killed in Paris, Texas. Many consider this also a racist hate crime.
Admittedly, these men died from actual physical damages, not psychological. They are intended as acts of domestic terrorism…to intimidate others.

While I do not agree with all of AM’s methods, it is absurd statements and attitudes that would deny reality like the one above that inspire his continued vehemence. On that, I do agree!

#12 Wiley Miller
January/22/2009
@ 12:51 pm

“I?ve heard that argument all my life, and I don?t agree.”

I understand that makes you a middle aged White guy just sitting behind a drawing board, Darrin.

#13 Abell Smith
January/22/2009
@ 6:44 pm

“Black supremacist,” huh? Really?

Alrighty then…

#14 Chris Myers
January/23/2009
@ 6:05 am

Kranky wrote: “The above statement is nonsense. Ten years ago, James Byrd was dragged to death in Texas simply because he was a black person…”

I did not say racism does not exist. Mr. McGruder shows that just by what he says (blacks can be racist too).

I am saying racist attitudes from the last 50 years have nothing to do with slavery. Sorry, there are ignorant racist people in every time and every color. That’s their fault, not 150 year banished practices.

Olly wrote: “Chris, the legacy of slavery extends into the Civil Rights movement and other struggles for equality that followed, many of which continue to this day. I?m in my 20s; when my mom was a kid, schools in the south were segregated. Even when I was younger, racist attitudes were common in my hometown, and few African-Americans could be seen in any positions of prominence or authority.”

See above.

I simply do not believe racism against a specific demographic is an all encompassing problem and has not been for the majority of 50 years. There has been and always will be racist attitudes and that will come from the likes of Al Sharpton, Mr. McGruder and David Duke. A racist is a racist.

Most race problem are self perpetuating and self created. Look at urban schools and the cry of unequal opportunity. The percentage of minority homes that are single parent, the number of minorities in prison. A white person does make a black teen grab a gun and know over 7-11 for $23 and a day old donut.

Sorry, racism can either be blamed on the racists who hold disgusting beliefs and it can be blamed on those who insist on being a victim class in society. After 150 years, if a segment of society can’t join those in the majority to enjoy the benefits of that society it is the minority’s fault.

#15 Chris Myers
January/23/2009
@ 6:07 am

The paragraph above should read –

Most race problem are self perpetuating and self created. Look at urban schools and the cry of unequal opportunity. The percentage of minority homes that are single parent, the number of minorities in prison is not the fault of the majority, it’s the fault of poor choices and not taking advantage of all that society offers. A white person doesn’t make a black teen grab a gun and knock over 7-11 for $23 and a day old donut.

#16 Sam Arpens
January/23/2009
@ 12:54 pm

To Chris Myers:

Ouch.

That was pretty painful to read. Cringe-inducing, really.

While I applaud your brave condemnation of “racism” as a concept, you might want to do some research into how racism starts and where it comes from. People aren’t BORN racist. Certain groups that abhor other groups typically do so because of historical and sociological reasons.

An Arab in Palestine probably doesn’t care one way or another about a black man, but show them a Jew, and MAN, you’ll get an opinion.

Heck, Africans of different ethnic tribes friggn hate each other with venom perhaps never seen in this country, and that’s clearly not even based on race.

To suggest that all of Black America’s problems are completely divorced from the historical context is simply incorrect (to be painfully polite, here), and a claim few people would seriously make.

Large parts of the country had to be dragged kicking and screaming into accepting the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act just over 40 years ago. To assume that after a 400 year history of slavery in this land, every bad feeling and resentment would be completely erased after just 44 years of forced compromise is a sunny assumption indeed.

I suggest you do a little reading before spouting off with something as staggeringly uninformed as that.

#17 Kemi Omololu Olunloyo
January/24/2009
@ 12:27 pm

Aaron McGruder is 100% RIGHT. What is all this fuss? Obama is a mixed race President and NOT a slave descendant! His mom was a WHITE AMERICAN and his dad was from Kenya. My 3 American sons are black and both parents are from Africa. Now if one of them becomes President, that will be your first BLACK president. Obama is not truly Black. Blame it on yorselves America. You are the only country in the world that calls anyone half black….BLACK! What about the other half…WHITE! That is why Obama won. Let’s see what happens when a “regular black” man runs next time. Hope my son wins one day!

#18 Kemi Omololu Olunloyo
January/24/2009
@ 12:30 pm

and I seriously mean this stuff. The mixed race got him all those white votes. He is a good man. Wish he would get involved in the dollgate with the kids and Michelle or is it Beaniegate?

#19 Mike Peterson
January/24/2009
@ 2:56 pm

But your kids — whether they become president or not — having been born here, will understand how the system works, and will not think that a half-black man is seen as white, any more than if they had grown up in South Africa or Rhodesia.

#20 Kemi Omololu Olunloyo
January/24/2009
@ 4:45 pm

I don’t get your point Mike. We are not from South Africa or the former Rhodesia. FYI, South Africa is NOT even considered Africa! It’s a stark difference we tell these American Rappers, Hollywood types and more who visit Africa. If you wanna know Africa, you visit West and East first. Nigeria, Ghana, Serria Leone, Liberia (an American colony btw) and Ivory Coast are all on the West coast while Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Ethopia are all on the East. Then go to North Africa in Morrocco, Libya, Algeria and Egypt. Only Americans, I’m telling you call a half white man ‘BLACK.” You need to ask an African. We in Africa HATE that Jesse Jackson invented ter, “African-American.” You can’t be both!! You are one or the other. While in College in the States, I could not check a form safely. I got confused as it said White (Caucasian)
Hispanic
African American
Native Indian
Other
I checked “other” all the time and entered BLACK.
The color confusion has plagued America so badly that the blacks can’t help cashing in on all this election. Obama is MIXED!!!

#21 Mike Lester
January/24/2009
@ 4:56 pm

“What about the other half?WHITE! That is why Obama won.” -K.O. Olunloyo

Black Americans don’t have the numbers in overall population to support your statement.

In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. White liberal guilt put BHO in the White House and supports his programs and holds him to a lesser standard of competence. Why? He’s black.

btw: I drew a cartoon last week of BHO as Chairman Mao
http://comics.com/mike_lester/2009-01-21/

and then I ran across this. The cult of personality thing is getting out of hand and very scary.:
http://www.historycompany.com/productdetails.php?p=128

#22 Mike Peterson
January/24/2009
@ 7:26 pm

“South Africa is NOT even considered Africa!”

Well, that’s what I meant. You wouldn’t even have to leave Africa to find places where a person with a black father and white mother would be classified as “coloured,” and I promise you that white Americans do not see mixed-race people as “white.”

You say, “oh, this part of Africa isn’t Africa, and that part of Africa isn’t Africa — only this part of Africa is Africa!” — so you see, you are dividing people even before you set foot on this continent. You seem to have your own opinions about who is what, but if you are right, then all Americans are white, because there are very, very few descendants of slaves who don’t have some mixed blood.

Now, if you look at our history, you’ll find that they were considered black, and I don’t think you’ll talk a whole nation out of feeling that way. You certainly can’t change all those memories of Jim Crow laws simply to fit in with your unique view of how this country works.

My point is that your children, growing up here, will doubtless have a better idea of how the nation feels about race. I hope they have a positive experience overall, but it won’t be the one you seem to expect.

#23 Abell Smith
January/24/2009
@ 9:42 pm

“White liberal guilt put BHO in the White House and supports his programs and holds him to a lesser standard of competence. Why? He?s black.”

Mike, you really want to complain about Obama being held to a “lesser standard of competence” considering the guy who just served two terms?

#24 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
January/25/2009
@ 3:04 am

?White liberal guilt put BHO in the White House and supports his programs and holds him to a lesser standard of competence. Why? He?s black.?

There is no honor in being tolerant of intolerance.

Mike Lester has some very out of bounds opinions.

#25 Ted Rall
January/25/2009
@ 11:37 am

Obama has already proven himself inadequate to the task. But as Abell said, the bar for competence was set so low over the last eight years that it’s impossible for squeeze underneath.

#26 Mike Peterson
January/25/2009
@ 1:13 pm

Okay, I’ll bite: Aside from sending off the editors of TIME and Newsweek for extraordinary rendition, what else would an “adequate” president have accomplished in the first two days of his administration?

#27 Wiley Miller
January/25/2009
@ 1:18 pm

“Obama has already proven himself inadequate to the task.”

Yeah! It’s been 5 days now, and there’s STILL a budget deficit!
What gives?!

Dang, we should have elected that old white guy. At least he admitted he didn’t know anything about economics.

You haven’t lost your touch for bipartisan hyperbole, Ted!

#28 steve skelton
January/25/2009
@ 2:52 pm

?Obama has already proven himself inadequate to the task.?

What a big internet playground bully. After the last 8 years of stinking overspending and destructive and dangerous policies we finally get a change in Washington and all you can do is denounce those trying to make a change and offer nothing.

#29 P.S. Mueller
January/25/2009
@ 3:27 pm

I suspect Americans aren’t up to the task of holding their elected officials’ feet to the fire and demanding an end to the poisonous American Empire. After all, it is now historical fact that we did nothing to defend our constitution after passively accepting a stolen election in 2000.

How dare we demand responsibility from our leaders if we do little more dash off whiny notes like this. Mr. Obama will only be as successful in his endeavors as we require. Government isn’t the problem. It’s merely a symptom of the culture at large.

I don’t think Jefferson had a nation of semi-literate channel surfers in mind for this country’s future.

Hello

#30 Ted Rall
January/25/2009
@ 4:34 pm

Pete has it exactly right. Politics isn’t something that happens on Election Day. Americans think you vote, wash your hands, and hope the winners do their best. We The People are supposed to have no faith in our politicians. We The People are supposed to lean on them, yell at them, scare them into doing the right thing every day of the year. Which is, by the way, what good editorial cartoonists do.

What a big internet playground bully. After the last 8 years of stinking overspending and destructive and dangerous policies we finally get a change in Washington and all you can do is denounce those trying to make a change and offer nothing.

As Steve no doubt knows, I was a huge fan of Bush and his policies.

Seriously, I’ve offered plenty of suggestions to the Obama Administration via my cartoons and columns, and even through some back channels to people who work with him.

Among them:

Economic Stimulus: Krugman says we need at least $1.5T in direct infrastructure stimulus. Obama offers $138 billion–less than a tenth of what’s needed to avoid a catastrophic Depression that will make us yearn for the 1930s. I suggest $3T to be sure. Get the money by…

Pulling out of Iraq AND Afghanistan. The War of tError is costing us at least $10B a month. Cancel it. Obama won’t–he’s sending MORE troops to Afghanistan. BIG mistake.

Nationalize the banks and auto companies. We bail you out? We own you. Obama won’t do this.

Soak the rich and the corporations. Doubling the effective corporate tax rate from 13 to 26% would still make the US a tax haven compared to Europe, and bring in enough money to cover what’s needed to fix the economy. Obama wants to cut taxes for the rich by extending Bush’s tax cuts beyond their scheduled expiration.

Close Guantanamo and other torture camps immediately. Today. Right now. Prisoners who can’t go home can stay in the U.S., anywhere they want. We pay each $10M each and issue an apology. Obama wants to give them kangaroo trials, make other countries take them (!), and reserves the right to start torturing if he wants to. Really.

Healthcare: Every doctor becomes a government employee. Every hospital is nationalized. Healthcare should not be a for-profit business. Obama wants to insure some kids, no adults.

Oh, and Mr. Obama: Why are you keeping the Patriot Act? And wiretapping my phone calls? And the Military Commissions Act, which abolished habeas corpus?

Obama doesn’t understand the magnitude of the task. He has appointed party hacks and centrists/losers who couldn’t deliver if he had the desire to order them to do so.

The difference between what Obama promises and what needs to be done is so vast that failure is inevitable. But hey, what do I know. I’ve been wrong so often since 2000.

#31 Wiley Miller
January/25/2009
@ 5:00 pm

“Obama doesn?t understand the magnitude of the task.”

Oh, please, Ted. He doesn’t but you do?
Let’s put it this way… how effective have YOU been as president of the AAEC? Here we have an entire profession in dire straights, and we can’t even get these cartoonists who are directly affected to agree on ANYTHING, and we’re just talking about some 100 people. There’s stuff you have to deal with as president that the rest of us don’t know about, making your task more difficult. Don’t you think the same is true for Obama… magnified by about a billion?

Now the president has to run an entire country that has been decimated by the previous administration, as well as empire building that has been going on for half a century, and somehow you expect a president, any president, to accomplish all that stuff you want (which I agree with) overnight? He’s not the emperor of the United States.

Personally, I want to see every U.S. military base outside of the United States closed and slash the defense budget in half every year for the next 10 years. But I also know, even if there was unanimous support for this, that it simply couldn’t happen overnight.

#32 Jim Lavery
January/25/2009
@ 8:01 pm

The magnitude of the Kartoon Krisis is simple to understand. We need to nationalize the cartoon profession. Make every cartoonist a government employee who answer only to Rahm Emmanuel.

Declare war on Garfield Inc. and Dilbert Industries, soaking all their profits in order to pay the poor victims of Gitmo.

Replace the bald eagle with Woodstock, publish comic strips only on government forms and outlaw webcomics just because they can.

Problem solved.

Next up, steroid abuse…..

#33 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
January/25/2009
@ 11:47 pm

Hi Pete! You still in Mad City?

Ted is a valuable voice, but Wiley is right here…let Obama manage the world. The guy has more synapses than most countries have treaties. He has out maneuvered me, and I look ten steps ahead. This analytical mind of Obama’s is the new paradigm. Every time I think that he has pidgeonholed himself into a typical paradox, he has figured out a new way to emerge. The guy is a genius.
What a privilege after the insult and travesty of the frat-boy cheerleader. The filth and stench of that underwater sewage expedition can only be cleansed with the antiseptic brilliance and resolve of Obama.

#34 Wiley Miller
January/26/2009
@ 7:52 am

“This analytical mind of Obama?s is the new paradigm.”

I certainly hope so. This era of all-or-nothing, scorched-Earth polarization of labeling everything either “liberal” or “conservative” in place of critical thinking does nothing except go in an non-constructive circle.

What Obama has proven, and why his appeal is so broad, leading to his election (not simply because “he’s Black”), is that he’s a pragmatist. This is exactly what is needed at this time, instead of another ideologue who only marches to the beat of a political extreme.

And perhaps we should wait longer than a week to give this pragmatic approach to work rather than already declaring him “inadequate to the task”.

#35 Mike Lester
January/26/2009
@ 8:18 am

Ted, You just described Cuba, Venezuala and Zimbabwe w/ a touch of KimJongIL for good measure. When Ted Kazinski moves into your building, let me know. Meanwhile, former Gitmo prisoners stole the towels from their rooms and returned to al Quada. Who knew?

Jim Lavery’s (don’t know the man) metaphor is just barely hyperbolic.

#36 steve skelton
January/26/2009
@ 9:59 am

“Obama doesn?t understand the magnitude of the task. He has appointed party hacks and centrists/losers who couldn?t deliver if he had the desire to order them to do so.

The difference between what Obama promises and what needs to be done is so vast that failure is inevitable.”

This quote is the equivalent to opening the door and throwing a napom bomb into a internet chatroom and running away.

#37 Antony Parkam
February/9/2009
@ 12:39 pm

The facts remain that our current president is the product of a mixed-race marriage. Also, his father was not American. We have defined our race as Negro, Black or African=American during different points of our recent history. This was the norm, though a lot of our people debated the acceptance of each classification. Mr. Mcgruder has staked a position that I have held since I first started to read Obama’s second book. He is not Black in the vernacular of what we American decendents of slaves feel Black means. He certainly is not African-American or Negro. Now, when we consider what other nationalities will think of our new president, we all realize he is as black as another non-caucasian, or non-mongoloid.

#38 Antony Parkam
February/9/2009
@ 12:48 pm

…..Thus, we can think of him as being as black as any Jamaican, Haitian or Bahamian person we see with dark skin. What about the Fiji native, golfer Vijay Singh? He is certainly darker than most of the African=Americans I know. Is he Black? He will say he is not. Tiger Woods also says he is not Black. Looks Black to me and he also has a father who is a descendent of american slaves. Black people in America need to wake up to reality and quit faking the reality of what the past means to us all. It is never going to go away, so we must deal with it in a real way like Aaron Mcgruder seems to be doing!!!

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