Critics Slam Conservative Cartoonist for Re-Imagining Iconic Civil Rights Painting Featuring Betsy DeVos

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Norman Rockwell’s iconic Ruby Bridges painting (left) and Glenn McCoy’s political cartoon featuring Betsy DeVos.

A political cartoon comparing contested Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to a young Black girl facing racial discrimination in the 1960s South sent shockwaves through the Internet on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

The cartoon, illustrated by conservative cartoonist Glenn McCoy, is a re-creation of Norman Rockwell’s iconic civil rights-era image “The Problem We All Live With.” The historic image displays the likeness of young Ruby Bridges, who had to be escorted by policemen each day as she walked to class at the whites-only William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans during the early 1960s.

The word “Nigger” is scribbled on the red-stained wall behind Bridges and a tomato is hurled at her by mobs of angry whites who regularly congregated outside schools with the intent of intimidating African-American students. Their efforts perpetuated the violent resistance of white America against mandated school desegregation following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954.

In McCoy’s re-imagined cartoon, a demure DeVos, who was blocked by demonstrators from entering a Washington, D.C., middle school last week, is surrounded by men in suits as she walks down the street. The word “Nigger” has been replaced with “Conservative” and the red stain of a tomato drips down the wall behind her.

McCoy’s implication is clear: The pushback the billionaire conservative-turned- Education Secretary is getting from Americans because of her total and utter lack of experience in public education is comparable to the traumatic experience of a young Black girl being threatened by angry racists for wanting to get an equal education.

To say critics were unhappy about the comparison is an understatement.

News site Talking Points Memo reported that McCoy is known for illustrating controversial and right-leaning cartoons, like the comic depicting former President Barack Obama as a Muslim wearing a turban. His latest eyebrow-raising cartoon featuring DeVos was posted online by Illinois’ Belleville News-Democrat but doesn’t appear to have been published anywhere else.

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