By Amandala McWright, 18, Santa Monica HS
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Amandala recommends the Boondocks collections The Boondocks, Fresh for ‘01 ... You Suckas! and A Right to Be Hostile.

The way that some of the black students behave at my school—interrupting class and being disruptive—has always bothered me. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t behave better, but no one seemed to share my point of view. Then I discovered The Boondocks.

I found The Boondocks comic strip three years ago at a bookstore. The cover featured three black cartoon characters and since I rarely saw comic books featuring black characters, I read a few pages. Most of the strips were about a Southern grandfather who struggles to raise his two grandsons—Riley, the hoodlum, and Huey, the revolutionary—in a white suburb.

On page three, one of the characters was commenting that entertainers shouldn’t be idolized. I had finally found a writer, Aaron McGruder, who shared my views on some of the stereotypes and hypocrisies in black culture. As someone who isn’t the media’s stereotypical black female—I am very studious and don’t dress provocatively—I appreciated McGruder’s arguments. And I realized that many black students imitate people like 50 Cent, because they’re trying to be different from the academically driven white students. But they end up being looked down on as ignorant.

I also read a strip in which McGruder hinted at the way rappers waste their money on ridiculous things. When Riley says he wants to buy an expensive car, Huey responds by saying, "What kind of idiot spends several hundred thousand dollars on a car?" He continues by saying, "It either says, ‘Hey, I’m a successful Caucasian businessman with two homes, stock options and a pension,’ or it says, ‘I’m a black recording artist who lives with his folks and doesn’t manage his money well.’"

This reminded me of a time when I was walking through my high school and overheard a black student tell his friend that he would rather spend his savings on "iced-out" rims, than on an SAT review book or future college costs. How could I blame him entirely though? When Black Entertainment Television constantly shows music videos that glorify getting rims, diamonds and Gucci, (like 50 Cent’s "Stunt 101") it is almost impossible not to want these things.

The Boondocks © 1999 Aaron McGruder. Used courtesy of the creator and Universal Press Sydicate. All rights reserved.

McGruder also portrays how some blacks aren’t in touch with their ethnic roots. When Huey meets a half-black and half-white girl, Jasmine, she denies that her hair is an afro. Huey says that Jasmine is clearly suffering from "Afro-Denial" in which patients believe they have "straight-flowing European supermodel-type hair—thereby refusing to accept the coarseness, thickness and/or nappiness of their actual hair."

Some black students at my school do this by buying clothes they see white students wearing. They’ll get Von Dutch hats and shirts to be accepted by the "rich" white kids. And it works. Sometimes the black students end up getting invited to certain parties or being allowed into certain cliques.

Sharp social commentary

McGruder also criticizes stereotypes white people have about blacks. When Huey and Riley go to a new school in white suburbia, the principal assumes that they’re troublemakers. The strip starts with the school’s principal telling a teacher, "There will be something different about your class this year." Then the principal snidely asks whether the teacher has ever seen The PJ’s or UPN. As if the now-canceled television show The PJ’s, which featured black characters as custodians, prostitutes or unemployed, was an accurate portrayal of blacks. The teacher figures that the inner-city ghetto youth are not smart enough to be in his class, and he suggests that they be placed in a remedial class. The principal replies, "I thought about that, but then we got [Huey’s] standardized test scores … the boy is smarter than YOU. We were going to give him your job."

I felt a special connection to that strip about blacks being uneducated and unruly, because of experiences that I’ve had. In one of my classes this year, the majority of the black students disrupt the teacher and distract other students from learning by talking very loudly. They have a chance to get a good education at a good school but most of them act like they couldn’t care less.

And then there are the "wanna-be white" black students, who try to gain the approval of white classmates. In my history class last year, there was this one black guy who always made witty jokes and pointed out the irony in some comments my teacher made. It seemed to me that he tried so hard at pleasing the white students by cracking a joke almost every five minutes, that he reverted to being the black entertainer. This was the modern-day version of a minstrel show, in which blacks would pretend to be carefree, ignorant slaves to gain profit during slavery.

At times, I’ve felt like I’ve had to struggle against racial stereotypes in school. Last year in my AP English class, when I asked my teacher why he gave me a B on my paper, my teacher said, "Well, this is an AP class." His comment made me feel as if he believed my work was automatically of lesser quality because I’m black (I was one of two blacks in the class), and that perhaps I shouldn’t have signed up for the class. Later though, after I had discussed many of my papers with my teacher, he complimented me on my writing, saying that my vocabulary and writing were very elaborate and advanced.

After reading the various Boondocks strips, I realized that McGruder is a lone voice on the comic pages, since he is the only black cartoonist that discusses politically and socially controversial issues. I feel as if McGruder is waging the good fight to eliminate stereotypes by getting people to think beyond them, by showing how characters like Huey and Riley combat prejudice by being intelligent, clever and activists in their community. I like to think of myself as a role model for other aspiring, bright black students to achieve their goals. If freshmen see a senior excelling in high school and planning on going to college, they may become motivated to do the same.