And by few I mean a handful. Michael Cavna reports on this in a powerful piece called Why are there no staff black cartoonists at a time when we need them most? He spotlights a few of the black cartoonist who have a voice, including Keith Knight, Darrin Bell, and, Congressman John Lewism who thought not actually a cartoonist has certainly become a voice in comics. But the numbers are still awful:
Even here, though, rests a pesky professional truth that sits offstage, waiting in the wings. On one hand, cartoonists who can articulate firsthand racism are a valuable voice in the national conversation; indeed, Knight rightly received an NAACP History Maker award this year for his police-prejudice comics. Yet on the other hand, in this era of raised voices for Tamir and Trayvon and Freddie Gray, one journalistic stat stands out to me: Not a single full-time staff political cartoonist on a major American daily newspaper is black, according to the industry’s national professional organization.
Not to repeat a trope but if you’re a black man you’re exponentially more likely to get shot by the police than get a job as a staff cartoonist. True, the very role of the “Staff cartoonist” is diminishing daily as newspapers shrink, as well, but at a time when systemic racism doesn’t even bother to hide, we need a lot more voices to represent ALL Americans. That’s why editors and curators like Matt Bors and Jennifer Sorenson and tireless workers like Knight are so important.