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Crazy Governor, Angry Police, Timid School District and a Great Cartoon

This cartoon was my response to the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police officer, diagramming the historic roots of our systemic racism,” Fitzsimmons said. “Perhaps it requires too much moral courage or honest clear-eyed reflection for the National Fraternal Order of Police to funnel their fury at the few racist police officers who disgrace their oath and their badges by disproportionately murdering African Americans.

Here is a column that I wrote for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram; see it on their site here. The column will run in their print edition Wednesday or Thursday. The Star-Telegram is the major metro daily newspaper in the area of the Wylie School District, in Texas.


A testy confrontation has developed in the Wylie Independent School District about an editorial cartoon included in a lesson plan, with Gov. Greg Abbott demanding that a teacher be fired and police insisting on an apology. Cartoons can indeed drive people crazy.

A few months ago, a flood of similar editorial cartoons were published, criticizing police brutality after George Floyd died at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. Arizona Daily Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons drew a cartoon showing white oppressors over the years, ranging from a slave trader to a member of the Klu Klux Klan, kneeling on the neck of a Black man who is saying, “I can’t breathe.”

The final panel in the cartoon shows the infamous image of a Minneapolis officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

I run a newspaper syndicate, CagleCartoons.com, that distributes Fitzsimmons’ work. Over half of America’s daily, paid-circulation newspapers, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, subscribe to our service. Fitzsimmons is one of the most popular editorial cartoonists in the country.

A teacher posted Fitzsimmons’ cartoon on the Wylie district’s website as part of an assignment for eighth-grade students. In a letter to the district, National Fraternal Order of Police Vice President Joe Gamaldi demanded an apology for posting a “abhorrent and disturbing” cartoon.

“We are willing to sit down with anyone and have a fact-based conversation about our profession, but divisiveness like your teachers showed does nothing to move that conversation forward,” Gamaldi wrote.

Fitzsimmons noted that the day after he saw Gamaldi’s indignant tweet, a Wisconsin cop shot a Black father several times in the back. In front of his children.

“This cartoon was my response to the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police officer, diagramming the historic roots of our systemic racism,” Fitzsimmons said. “Perhaps it requires too much moral courage or honest clear-eyed reflection for the National Fraternal Order of Police to funnel their fury at the few racist police officers who disgrace their oath and their badges by disproportionately murdering African Americans.”

Abbott tweeted that the teacher should be fired and called for the Texas Education Agency to investigate. Fitzsimmons called Abbott a “red meat vampire.” “Shame on him, calling for that teacher’s head on a pike.”

The interpretation of an editorial cartoon is part of state-mandated AP History testing in 8th and 11th grade throughout America. School textbooks that “teach to the test” are big clients for editorial cartoonists. Some of Fitzsimmons’ best clients for licensing cartoons are test-preparation companies.

It is the role of eighth-grade teachers to prepare students for these tests and teach them to evaluate controversies in the news by exposing them to different points of view about the issues of the day. There’s no better way to do that than through editorial cartoons. Fitzsimmons’ cartoons are widely used in middle and high school curriculums, not only in the U.S., but around the world.

David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson

Fitzsimmons is among the most republished editorial cartoonists in the country, and this cartoon in particular was printed widely in newspapers.

The visual metaphors that editorial cartoonists use can be difficult for some students to understand, and the study of cartoons in schools most often involves the “interpretation” of the cartoon. Cartoonists’ email boxes are filled with variations of a common message: “Please explain your cartoon to me. My paper is due tomorrow.”

Classroom discussions of “what did the cartoonist mean by this?” effectively engage students and prompt them to think about issues from different perspectives.

The Wylie district apologized for using the cartoon. But Fitzsimmons asked: “And what did we learn, children? We must not criticize law enforcement. Ever. Sacred cow.”

Cartoons about issues that don’t evoke passionate views on both sides of an issue don’t provide valuable lessons. The school district is teaching the wrong lesson by removing Fitzsimmons’ cartoon and apologizing.

Fitzsimmons and I give the teacher who used this cartoon an “A” for her assignment. The timid school district, the National Fraternal Order of Police and Abbott each get an “F.”

This is what the column looked like in the newspaper:

 


This article from television station WFAA tells much more about the school assignment that included David’s cartoon, among others. The assignment “was designed to start a conversation about the Bill of Rights, protests, democracy and freedom of speech.”


Our reader supported site, Cagle.com, still needs you!  Journalism is threatened with the pandemic that has shuttered newspaper advertisers. Some pundits predict that a large percentage of newspapers won’t survive the pandemic economic slump, and as newspapers sink, so do editorial cartoonists who depend on newspapers, and along with them, our Cagle.com site, that our small, sinking syndicate largely supports, along with our fans.

The world needs political cartoonists more now than ever. Please consider supporting Cagle.com and visit Cagle.com/heroes.  We need you! Don’t let the cartoons die!


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8 replies on “Crazy Governor, Angry Police, Timid School District and a Great Cartoon”

Great cartoon! Fitzsimmons and the teacher are the real heroes here. The rest are cowards, politicians, self-servants, & other dreck. Time for another donation to cagle.com for preserving freedom of expression, 1st amendment, all that good stuff!

What is going on here? I liked the cartoon, very thought provoking and open to interpretation worthy of a socratic debate.

Excelent cartoon. Yet it is missing an initial square which is also an important part of history. A black tribe cheif with his knees on a war slave which he is about to sell to the white slave traders. This can go back more…

He died of a massive overdose of fentanyl and the police were attempting to save him as they had learned.

What the teacher should teach her students is when a cops says stop then STOP! The reason the cops were called in the first place was a domestic violence call. He has a long rap sheet and was reaching for a knife. Just gives an excuse to riot! STUPID to support a criminal!

This is in response to the comment above from Marilyn, who seems to be claiming that the police involved in the death of George Floyd aren’t killers, but are actually would-be heroes who were really just trying to save him from a Fentanyl overdose. Apparently, Marilyn believes that police are trained to save an overdose victim by kneeling on their neck for nearly 8 minutes, even after they are entirely still and unresponsive for 2 minutes, without checking for a pulse even once the entire time.

There is no world in which that could possibly save an overdose victim. It would, in fact, ensure the death of a Fentanyl overdose victim, as well as many who are substance-free, since it deprives the brain of oxygen, resulting in asphyxia. What was performed was a life ending measure, not a life saving one. Not even the police officers charged with his death are making this ludicrous claim, which would require one to deny all facts at hand, medical science, and just plain old common sense to believe.

Good police officers should be appreciated, respected, and lauded for performing acts that go beyond their call of duty. But lionizing all law enforcement, placing them on a pedestal above those whom they are sworn to protect and serve, treating them as infallible, all powerful, a sacrosanct monolith who are all beyond reproach, never to be questioned, immune from all criticism and oversight, is how you create a police state – where police are above the law that they are sworn to uphold, have no accountability to the taxpayers paying them for their service, and are answerable to no one.

In a profession bestowed with an enormous amount of power and public trust, and failure to do your job property results in the taking of life, the standards should be higher than that of any other profession, not lower. And when it comes to law enforcement, their power has steadily increased as public trust has declined, undermined by law enforcement itself – which has only
made their job more difficult and dangerous, both for themselves and the public.

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