NEW YORK - The Rev.Al Sharpton has asked for an apology from Cartoon Network for an episode of edgy animated series "The Boondocks" that shows the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. saying the n-word.
"Cartoon Network must apologize and also commit to pulling episodes that desecrate black historic figures," Sharpton, a civil-rights activist and former Democratic presidential candidate, said in a statement Tuesday.
"We are totally offended by the continuous use of the n-word in (cartoonist Aaron) McGruder's show."
The episode, "The Return of the King," aired Jan. 15, the day before the national holiday honoring the slain civil-rights leader. It shows King emerging from a coma and using the n-word in an angry speech venting his frustration toward sexually explicit hip-hop videos, among other things.
In the episode, King is branded a traitor and terrorist sympathizer for his "turn-the-other cheek" philosophy of nonviolence in response to post-Sept. 11 retaliation. Exhausted, he moves to Canada, but his speech provokes a second civil-rights revolution.
So don't watch the show.
You have BET showing uncut videos which are basically strippers, and silence from the black community. The problem is not the videos, but the network which shows them.
Then you have the absolutely useless editor of Essence who wants to tell rappers what to say.
Earth to critics: black writers and performers work under the same First Amendment as anyone else. If you don't like what people have to say, don't buy their books or watch their shows. You don't have the right to demand a retraction or to tell McGruder what to say on his show.
If you want to talk about denigrating the King legacy, get the King family on the phone and ask them why they have mismanaged their foundation. They still selling Yolanda's book there?
The fact is that McGruder is unsparing about black culture and folkways in a way which is pretty much undecipherable to white America. They may get the jokes, but not the context. It's why Diary of a Mad Black Woman escaped most reviewers while making a fist full of money.
Where were these critics when Bob Johnson attacked him viciously? Nowhere. Now they want to determine what he says.
The first episode mocked the tendency of hero worship in the black community. Another, the fake gansterism of rappers, which ends with the rapper and his former lover kissing. That is pretty fucking radical for black America. The ONLY other place you see black men kissing is Jerry Springer. But there it was, revealing something widely acknowledged in private. Another episode parodied Rumsfeld and Bush as crazy wigger gangstas, who wind up robbing a store owned by a Saddam look-alike over hunting down the "X Box" killer.
Last week's episode "The Itis" discussed the problem with eating tons of soul food. The grand father creates a burger with five slices of bacon, cheese and placed between two grilled Krispy Kreme dounts. Needless to say, it turns into crack, with people begging for food and hanging outside his new restaurant.
Besides the gorgeous, anime-level animation, the politcs here are much more aggressive than in the strip. The word nigga is the least reason to complain about the show. The grandfather beats a man to death over an argument, Uncle Rukus is a self-hating black man who would surpass the clowns who work for NRO. In short, there is a lot to dislike about the show.
But, the fact is that this is the first time a non-rapper, non-novelist gets to have a forum to discuss black life from someone under 50. This is a nearly unique perspective on modern African American life and it is not comfortable at times. But it is not ignorant either. It is extremely well thought out and makes points in a way which need to be made.
The King show was NOT critical of King in any way. It was, however, a brutal take on our celebrity driven culture and how trivial many black people have become. It made a point that people need to reclaim their dignity and stop worrying about Diddy's latest aquisition. In fact it lamented his absence in a very real way, an important way. In fact, McGruder showed greater fidelity to King's message than his own family has in recent years.
We have so many people making trivial messages and making millions, yet, these people want to go after McGruder for a word we all use? That's bullshit and it's wrongheaded. There's a deeper message in his work, if you want to find it.