They Shoot Black People, Don’t They?

Two decades of police brutality cartoons

As I was drawing a cartoon about the goings-on in Ferguson, Missouri, this past summer, I realized I’d been drawing cartoons about police harassment and brutality of black and brown people for damn near 20 years. Here’s a mere sampling of what I’ve been churning from the Rodney King beating to the shooting of Tamir Rice.

This is one of the earliest strips I did on racial profiling. It was shortly after seeing an image of the crowd at a Nascar event and looking for, but never finding, one black kid.

One of my favorite and most effective strips came in 1999 after four white cops were acquitted after murdering African immigrant Amadou Diallo in the hallway of his New York City apartment building as he reached into his pocket for his wallet. The lawyers for the cops claimed that they were defending themselves. The point I was trying to make with this strip was at what point during the barrage of 41 shots they fired does it go from defense to offense?

After this (th)ink panel ran, a few editors called me and to say that people were calling and complaining that it was a racist cartoon. I always ask editors if they could tell what race the callers were. As far as they could tell, they were white people. Black people are too busy experiencing this shit to complain about a cartoon. The cartoon isn’t racist — the act that it is portraying is racist. I told my editors that if white people complained as much about profiling and brutality as this cartoon, there might be something done about it.

I drew this in 2009 right after Oscar Grant was killed by a transit officer who claimed he thought he was shooting Grant with his taser. I juxtaposed it with the college student in Florida who was all over the internet earlier that year for getting tased by the cops on video.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a gun or not, all a cop has to say is they thought they saw a weapon to justify killing you. Why can’t I get gift cards for all that stuff if I can get killed for it?

This final strip is one of my favorites, because it provides much needed humor and levity to a tragic topic. Some folks confuse the basketball in the last panel for a watermelon—it works either way.


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