Cartoonist Takes On Color Line
Can you laugh at your prejudices? That's the question many Americans are being forced to ask themselves upon opening the comics section of their newspapers.
Twenty-five-year-old Aaron McGruder talks with CBS News This Morning's Hattie Kauffman about his new comic strip Boondocks, which confronts racial issues that many Americans shy away from.
Until recently McGruder lived at home with his parents in a suburb of Columbia, Md. An African American, he is the creator of one of the most controversial comic strips in the country.
Boondocks is to some extent a window into McGruder's life; the two main characters moved by their parents, to a suburb.
"Huey is the radical scholar," explains McGruder. "He's roughly 9, 10 years old. He's spent his first years of life in Chicago, recently moved to this fictional all-white suburb and is sort of clashing with the folks who live there now. He's got very strong militant beliefs," he says.
McGruder, who moved to a suburb as a baby, says that his comic strip is not intended to be autobiographical, but there are definitely some parallels.
"Well, I'm not Huey. I think I'm sort of all of the characters. I have to write for all of them every day. They all have to come from within the creator, I believe," he adds.
McGruder uses the comic strip to discuss racial issues, ranging from stereotypes to interracial marriage and fitting into a different environment.
"There's a lot of black people who don't know about ourselves. There's a lot of diverse opinions as to what it means to be black and where you draw the color line," he points out.
At times McGruder uses humor to poke fun of issues, which has provoked strong reactions from readers.
"I'm not afraid to explore issues that have not been explored before. It's not my desire to offend anyone, but it happens," he says.
McGruder also has a great deal of admirers - people who feel that he gives a voice to a group of readers never before represented in their newspapers.
"That support really does transcend age and race categories," he notes. "A lot of people have found it makes them reexamine their own beliefs and own perspectives on race in American society in general."
Race is a touchy issue, and for McGruder, humor is a good way to address it. It allows people to let their guard down and rethink some issues, he says.
"Certainly it's been done effectively by standup comics; Chris Rock and Richard Pryor have addressed race in an effective way," he adds.
The comic strip is nationally syndicated, and appears in more than 180 newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle.
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