Angry Response to Betsy DeVos Political Cartoon Proves Its Point
On Tuesday, the Belleville News-Democrat published a political cartoon depicting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in the same situation as a poor black girl in Norman Rockwell's 1960s painting "The Problem We All Live With." The cartoon's use of overstatement had its intended effect — causing a storm of controversy which illustrated the anger many still have at DeVos, despite the altercation with protesters who physically blocked her entrance into a school and which resulted in assault charges.
Ironically, while the cartoon arguably deserved ridicule on its merits, the angry overreaction from liberals helped to illustrate the point — that the Left irrationally demonizes and protests against DeVos in the same kind of heartless way southerners protested against a little black girl who represented the end of segregation.
Slate's chief political correspondent, Jamelle Bouie, posted the cartoon with a two-word commentary, "my god [sic]."
Kevin M. Kruse, a historian and author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Created Christian America, explained why the cartoon could quite reasonably be considered offensive. He recalled the name of the black girl in the Norman Rockwell painting — Ruby Bridges. She remains an activist today.
But others responded not with history, but in anger, calling DeVos "the oppressor."
Others attacked DeVos as "a well-connected billionaire who paid her way into the cabinet," an interesting statement considering that she never donated to Trump or his campaign. Indeed, during the primary she attacked him, saying Trump "does not represent the Republican Party."
Finally, one Twitter user said DeVos "should take a page from Ruby Bridges' book and actually walk into a school." This is painfully ironic, since the event which inspired the cartoon involved protesters preventing her from entering a school.
As for the differences between DeVos and Bridges, Kruse (rightly) pointed out that "a billionaire-donor-turned-cabinet-member is *slightly* different from a 6yo black girl under Jim Crow."
But then he argued that the opposition to DeVos "was" not "remotely like" the "opposition to desegregation in New Orleans." (Yes, because the opposition to DeVos is clearly over, right?! Oh, yeah. I forgot. It's still going on.) Then Kruse actually described the political opposition to segregation in New Orleans in a way that echoed the opposition to DeVos.
"To prevent the most token desegregation of their public schools, thousands of white segregationists rioted in the streets of New Orleans," Kruse narrated. "As Rockwell's painting shows, the mobs threw tomatoes and rotten eggs at six-year-old Ruby Bridges, seen here in the US Marshal's car." He added that "crowds of furious white mothers who called themselves the 'cheerleaders'" kept up the pressure, "using violence, vandalism & economic boycotts against anyone, black or white, opposing them." Kruse concluded, calling the protests "a yearlong campaign of racial terrorism that paralyzed an entire city and became a cautionary tale for the rest of the nation."
He then neatly dismissed the protests against DeVos, categorizing the recent altercation as the Education secretary "being briefly inconvenienced by a handful of peaceful protesters."
But anyone who has seen the footage knows that even this "inconveniencing" act (which happened last Friday as the Education secretary attempted to enter a middle school in Washington, D.C.) involved more than just "a handful of peaceful protesters." A longer video shows that there was indeed a mob — exceedingly self-righteous, just like the "cheerleaders" — yelling, "Stop DeVos and fund black futures," as though DeVos represented a threat to the education of African Americans.
Finally, at one point a man — later identified as Bilal Ahmed Askaryar, who was charged with assault for the incident — ran in front of a van with a "Black Lives Matter" sign, physically blocking DeVos even from leaving the premises.
The protests against DeVos have not involved the throwing of rotten eggs and tomatoes — not yet — but the "Black Lives Matter" connection is indeed very interesting. First, for context: Black leaders have praised DeVos for caring about the kids in their community. "She's not African American, but she's concerned about our children," Dr. Dwight Montgomery, president of the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s organization), said of DeVos.
But then again, this is a Trump appointee, so how can she not be racist? Indeed, liberals have demonized DeVos as a racist, an elitist, a foe of public education, a religious extremist, and even — in a harebrained attack — a supporter of child labor. Much of this opposition can be explained by DeVos' championing of school choice, which terrifies teachers' unions. It is true that DeVos has no direct experience teaching children or managing school districts, but she has been deeply involved in the movement to expand educational options in her home state of Michigan and across the country.
So, let's see if conservatives might be able to apply Kruse's description of the New Orleans race riots to DeVos opposition.
"To prevent the most token [school choice in the public school system]," liberals branded DeVos the devil incarnate. As the videos show, a mob yelling "Shame! Shame! Shame!" physically prevented her from doing her job, after she had been demonized in this fashion. "Crowds of furious [liberals] who called themselves ['the resistance']" kept up the pressure. Violence and vandalism have not yet been applied to DeVos specifically, but the riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Milwaukee connected with Black Lives Matter, and the violence which followed Trump rallies (engineered by Democratic operatives) does not portend well for this budding "resistance."
The angry attacks against DeVos, which both caused and followed the D.C. altercation, seem unlikely to abate. Indeed, the Left has declared that the "resistance" is barely getting started. If this rabid demonization of the head of the Department of Education continues, she may well end up hated nearly as much as the poor 8-year-old Ruby Bridges was (if she isn't already). The comparison might not be right — not just yet.
Will the fight against DeVos (or against Trump in general) degenerate into "a yearlong campaign of racial [or ideological] terrorism" which paralyzes Washington, D.C., becoming a "cautionary tale for the rest of the nation"? Heed the lesson of 2016: anything is possible.