No Comic Relief

By Tammy Johnson Feb 13, 2009

I consider the comics the best part of the newspaper. And yes, I’m one of the few that still reads an actual newspaper. Unlike an article, a comic strip makes the point quick, dirty and graphically. In one to four panels, they tell a story, make you laugh, angry or think. In the case of the Obama presidency, the tale is about America’s ongoing race wars. I’ve been tracking the narratives of comics about President Obama since he declared his candidacy well over a year ago. I’ve collected more than 400 strips that illustrate the nation’s racial schizophrenia as embodied in the political aspirations of one Black man. With grand imagery Obama is portrayed as the griot, the voice of reason and right. Flip to the next frame he’s devoid of morality, an enabler of the undeserving. In these strips, the face that pursued and captured the highest office of the land, the face that now is government, and holds the hopes and fears of millions, is a Black face. But with a sweep of a pen that face is used by comics to delegitimate, dehumanize and deflect from real issues. The daily sting of racial injustices experienced by millions is rarely addressed. These comics remind us that no matter who or how it’s delivered, the joke is still on us.