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'In Character' Conversation

With a Fist in the Air

The Washington Post recently ran a story on a group of syndicated cartoonists planning a protest this weekend. They're targeting newspaper editors who choose not to syndicate one strip created by or featuring minorities because they're already publishing another strip — often just one strip — that meets that "diversity demand."

The cartoonists drew strips with similar plot lines — all of which involve an older, white character lamenting the appearance of "politically correct" minority-drawn strips on the comics page.

While a story in The Root states that the cartoonists eschew calling their united effort a "protest," their decision strikes me as reminiscent of another character originally created in the comics, one whose unique combination of idealism and cynicism deserves recognition. And so, a Your Turn nomination:

Huey Freeman
From The Boondocks by Aaron MacGruder

Truth to power: Boondocks firebrand Huey Freeman isn't the silent type. Cartoon Network hide caption

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Cartoon Network

His name is taken from Huey P. Newton, the co-founder of the Black Panther Party, and not without reason. The 10-year-old radical socialist Afrocentric activist grew up on Chicago's South Side with his younger brother, the wanna-be gangster Riley, where he experienced the debilitating effects that the United States' long history of racial discrimination had on poor African-Americans.

Their Grandfather Robert took them in when their family situation deteriorated, and moved them to the mostly white neighborhood of Woodcrest, whose denizens are met with his suspicion.

Although at times he seems to have an uncanny wisdom beyond his years, Huey is still 10. Other boys might enjoy science fiction; Huey's obsession is what the "mainstream" might call conspiracy theories. (He is, however, inexplicably skilled in the martial arts, which he uses to beat down enemies of black prosperity.)

Huey is usually depicted as the voice of reason, playing the straight man to the antics of Riley and Grandpa, but his occasionally far-sighted view of the world makes him the kind of well-read, youthful intellectual we can respect in some instances — and lovingly chuckle at in others.