Most of us take great pride in multicultural America. Particularly in Tucson, which is as an exemplar of diversity. Our population is a rainbow of people of many colors and languages, and our food and art are daily reminders of a richly multi-ethnic culture. Thirty-five percent of our local population is Latino, the African-American population here represents 4 percent, and other races — including American Indian and excluding Caucasians — represent an additional 17 percent.
Today, one in six marriages in the United States is interracial. The deserved national outcry against recent marches by white supremacists has been enormously heartening. We have built an increasingly inclusive U.S. society. Movies, television, music, and, of course, sports have become increasingly, gratifyingly integrated: a reality that benefits us all.
I know the Star, given its many good editorial positions over the years, is supportive of an equitable, integrated, multicultural society — in Tucson and nationally. As it should be.
Yet, one of the few remaining, largely segregated displays in our 21st century culture appears daily in this newspaper: on the two pages of comic strips presented to readers every morning. Virtually all of characters appearing in the 17 featured comics in the Star have faces as white as members of the 1980 South African Parliament.
Images of African-Americans? Latinos? Other non-Caucasians? Virtually absent. Yes, credits go to cartoonists such as Jim Keefe, Tom Batiuk/Dan Davis, and Greg Evans for the occasional inclusion of a minor character of color in Star-published cartoons such as “Sally Forth,” “Crankshaft” and “Luann,” respectfully. But those few, all secondary characters, are rare exceptions.
There do exist, believe it or not, cartoon strips in the U.S. created and drawn by talented people of color and featuring characters with something other than clearly all-white skin. Examples: “Candorville” by Darrin Bell, “Baldo” by Hector Cantu and Carlos Castellanos, “Jump Start” by Robb Armstrong, “La Cucaracha” by Lalo Alcaraz, “Wee Pals” created by the late Morrie Turner, and “Herb and Jamall” by Stephen Bentley. All six currently appear in hundreds of daily American newspapers.
No, there is not an abundance of such strips for sure — but none of us would accept a country club claiming, “Not enough minorities are eligible for us to include,” as a defensible excuse for segregated membership.
Non-whites represent 56 percent of Tucson’s population. The adults — and particularly the children — of our entire, wonderfully diverse community deserve to see representations of themselves, their family and their neighbors in a newspaper that purports to mirror us all.
I can imagine some readers responding, “COMIC STRIPS!? Pleeze! So PC! Such a trivial subject of concern.” But it’s not. Multiple studies over the years document the harm to children’s sense of self-worth, resulting in increased social isolation, sometimes including acting out, when people who look like them are either not represented at all or recognized negatively in information publicly dissemination by media.
Yes, even in cartoons.
It is 2017. Respectfully, it is time — well past time, actually — for the Star to integrate its comics pages.