According to this article in the Washington Post, not a lot.
It would be nice to claim that comic strips are the last bastion of racism in American media, but that really would be funny. It’s simply one more example of carte blanche being lily white in the realm that exerts influence over the thinking of millions of people every day, and most people don’t even bother to notice that it happening.
After all, who knows what the person drawing a strip looks like?
(I have friends who vacationed in Mexico a number of years ago and didn’t realize that the Gary Larson who was their beach buddy of a couple buddy of a few weeks, who shared many a meal with them was actually THE Gary Larson of “Far Side” fame.
Yes, he was a fun guy and his name did ring bells, but no connection was made until he signed the hotel’s guest book as he checked out and drew a little cartoon as a memento of his stay.)
To draw attention to the fact that the number of non-white cartoonists is an embarrassment in a country as racially diverse as America demographically is, this coming Sunday those sitting down to read the “funnies” will find a protest, of sorts.
11 cartoonists of color will be drawing essentially the same comic strip, using irony to literally illustrate that point. In each strip, the artists will portray a white reader grousing about a minority-drawn strip, complaining that it’s a “Boondocks” rip-off and blaming it on “tokenism.” “It’s the one-minority rule,” says Lalo Alcaraz (“La Cucaracha”). “We’ve got one black guy and we’ve got one Latino. There’s not room for anything else.”
Read along, smile if you are so inspired, but understand there is no little power in humor, and comic strips have long been both an indicator of and an influence over popular culture.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our kids could all spend their Sunday mornings hovering over a two-page spread that would represent them more fully and clearly? I’m not suggesting that every paper needs to have a special section for transracially or internationally adopted kids, but we’re a multicolored world, and the funnies haven’t been printed in black and white for many, many years. It’s time they caught up with themselves.