Thursday, October 2, 2014

Jerry Holbert uses ‘watermelon’ in an Obama cartoon

Alan Gardner in The Daily Cartoonist.

A cartoon by Jerry Holbert that ran yesterday in the Boston Herald has people speechless and wondering how it even made it into the paper. Here’s the cartoon as it ran in the Herald (online and print).

A less offensive version has been posted on GoComics (and I assume the one sent out to his syndicate subscribers:

Jim Romenesko reached out to Jerry’s editors for comment.

Herald editorial page editor Rachelle Cohen tells me neither she nor artist Jerry Holbert saw anything wrong with the cartoon. “Jerry doesn’t have a racist bone in his body,” she says. He chose watermelon because he had just seen that flavor of toothpaste in his house, says Cohen. 
She says she never anticipated controversy or cries of racism over the cartoon. That seems naive, I say. Her response: “Guilty as charged.”


Michael Cavna talks to both Jerry and his Universal Uclick editor Reed Jackson for their reactions. Below is Jerry’s response to the public outcry.

“I feel awful about the perception that it was racist, but it was nothing of the sort,” Holbert tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “I wanted another flavor of toothpaste for the cartoon, and we had a bottle of Colgate kids’ toothpaste that was watermelon-flavored … watermelon seems to be a big flavor these days, so…I went with it.” 
“It was a completely innocent attempt at humor, but it did not come across that way to some people,” Holbert continues. “I have said I am sorry for offending anyone — I never intended to do that. I never even thought about the racial element. I wish I had, but I did not. A bit dumb on my part — I should have thought it through more.”


Mike Peterson in Comic Strips of the Day.


"I'm more distressed by those who pay no attention to their surroundings than by those who act through ill-will. 
It's disheartening and kind of scary to think a literate, mentally competent, well-intentioned person could somehow manage to remain so blissfully unaware of what's going on around them.
And then vote."
And for god's sake, stop saying, "It was just a joke." 
Granted, in this case, there was no attempt to make a political point, but, given that it was a political cartoon, there should have been. And if you think of political cartoons simply as inconsequential jokes, then you clearly don't understand why they exist. 
Which brings us to the issue of professional competence: Political cartoons are made up of metaphors and symbols. 
If you are a cartoonist, or the editor of a cartoonist, you should understand metaphors and symbols, the tools of your trade. 
Specifically, when it comes to ethnicity and race, you should know not to make a reference to a Jew as a stingy pawnbroker, or draw a Mexican sleeping under his sombrero, or show a Chinese person swapping Rs and Ls and doing laundry. 
And neither should you depict a black person eating watermelon or as a monkey. 
Yes, even if there was a raging chimpanzee in the recent news.

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