Provocative Cartoon Links Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Ruby Bridges, African-American Girl Who Had To Be Escorted Into All-White New Orleans School In 1960

A provocative editorial cartoon that appears to link embattled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with civil rights hero Ruby Bridges is stirring up strong reactions on social media.

The image, by longtime cartoonist Glenn McCoy, appeared online Monday on the Andrews McMeel Universal GoComics website, as well as in newspapers. The Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat also published the cartoon on its website.

An image of the Feb. 13 cartoon by Glenn McCoy depicting U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos being escorted into a school. The image has generated a flurry of comments on social media.
(Photo: Andrews McMeel Universal)

The cartoon shows a diminutive DeVos being escorted inside a school under heavy guard. It draws a direct visual connection between the iconic image of Bridges — the 6-year-old African-American girl escorted by federal marshals into an all-white New Orleans school in 1960 amid taunting crowds and barricades — and an incident last week in which protesters temporarily blocked DeVos’ entrance to a meeting at a Washington, D.C., middle school.

DeVos eventually entered the school and attended the event.

In an e-mail, McCoy, who also draws the popular comic strips The Duplex and The Flying McCoys, said, “I regret if anyone was offended by my choice of metaphors, but my intention was to focus on the protesters being hateful and to open up a dialogue on this point.”

The image draws its visual cues from the well-known 1963 Norman Rockwell painting The Problem We All Live With. In the new cartoon, the scrawled epithet “N—-r“ is replaced by “Conservative.”

Perhaps more provocatively, 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.

A NEA spokeswoman said the union had no comment on the image. DeVos’ office did not respond to a request for comment.

Teachers groups have been among the most vocal opponents of DeVos, 59, a Michigan school choice advocate and GOP mega-donor. Many point to her lack of experience in classrooms or in public schools. The Senate earlier this month deadlocked on her nomination, forcing Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote for her approval, the first time ever for a Cabinet nominee.

On Twitter, one reader said the image “perfectly highlights white privilege. No comparison between unqualified bureaucrat & civil rights pioneer.”

Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton late Tuesday reacted strongly to the image, tweeting: “What?! What?!”

Jamelle Bouie, chief political correspondent for Slate and a CBS News political analyst, tweeted simply: “my god.”

The Rockwell painting, which was seen widely in 1964 after it appeared in Look magazine, hung for several years outside the Oval Office at the White House under President Obama. It shows U.S. marshals escorting Bridges into the New Orleans elementary school six years after the Brown v. Board of Education case declared “separate but equal” public schools unconstitutional. Bridges became the first black child to integrate an all-white elementary school in the South.

McCoy’s image of DeVos invokes a Feb. 10 incident in which protesters blocked her from entering D.C.’s Jefferson Middle School Academy on her third day on the job. DeVos and her handlers eventually found a back door and attended the event.

The vast majority of protesters were peaceful, The Washington Post reported. One person was arrested for assaulting a police officer, D.C. police said, and a handful blocked DeVos from entering the school while others attempted to keep a government car from entering the street in front of the school.

Attendees inside the school that day included D.C. Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson, who said of the protest: “Our democratic republic only works with an educated populace, and public school systems serve everyone, educate everyone.”

DeVos later released a statement that read, in part: “I respect peaceful protest and I will not be deterred in executing the vital mission of the Department of Education.”

Andrews McMeel Universal Managing Editor Sue Roush said Wednesday that she hadn’t received any responses from newspapers refusing to publish the image but said reactions like that are rare with editorial cartoons. Instead, she said, newspapers that don’t like particular cartoons simply pass on them.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Greg Toppo