By Paula Rogo, essence.com
A well-known cartoonist is under fire for an editorial he drew linking Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with civil rights hero Ruby Bridges.
Cartoonist Glenn McCoy used the iconic 1964 Norman Rockwell painting, The Problem We All Live With, to illustrate an incident in which protesters temporarily blocked DeVos’ entrance to a Washington D.C. school. It was her first school visit as Education Secretary earlier this month.
The original version of the painting depicts a six-year-old Bridges escorted by federal marshals into an all-white New Orleans school. This was at the height of the Civil Rights era, and Bridges faced violent taunts during her walks to school. McCoy’s cartoon uses the same imagery to show DeVos being escorted inside a school under heavy guard.
“In the new cartoon, the scrawled epithet ‘N——r’ is replaced by ‘Conservative,’” USA Today reports, and “the scrawled acronym ‘KKK,’ for the Ku Klux Klan in the Rockwell painting, is replaced by ‘NEA,’ the acronym for the National Education Association, the USA’s largest teachers union.” The NEA has been vocal about their dislike for DeVos as the new education secretary.
Outside of the distasteful comparison, little about the events Bridges and DeVos went through are similar. Bridges, a young child, suffered through violent crowds that tossed epithets her way as she tried to get to school. DeVos, a billionaire whose education credentials have been questioned, suffered through protesters that were largely peaceful,
Reaction on social media Tuesday was swift as the distasteful cartoon made its rounds.
What?! What?! https://t.co/oYcCLSZ0DK
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) February 14, 2017
Imma let you finish, but both Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock 9 had like 200 more protesters than Betsy and they still went in to school.
— ashlie atkinson (@ashlieatkinson) February 11, 2017
As for McCoy, the cartoonist, he tried to explain away his choice of imagery in a Facebook post: “My cartoon was about how, in this day and age, decades beyond the civil rights protests, it’s sad that people are still being denied the right to speak freely or do their jobs or enter public buildings because others disagree with who they are or how they think.”
“I thought I was speaking out against hate,” he added. “It’s a woman passively walking while being protected from angry protesters. Isn’t that what went down the other day when DeVos visited a school to do her job? You may disagree with her on issues but I didn’t see any hate coming from her. I did, however see hate going in the other direction which is what made me think of the Rockwell image. That was the only comparison I was drawing. The level of toxicity in today’s political climate has reached ridiculous levels.”
No, it is actually the audacity of such a comparison that is ridiculous.