THE NEWLY OPENED FILM “The Hunger Games” has caused many parents, pundits and cultural critics to consider the depiction of fictional teens being slaughtered in the name of popular entertainment. But in Pittsburgh, the depiction of a real-life teen being killed has sparked controversy and explanation in the name of journalistic opinion.
Some readers of Rob Rogers, the editorial cartoonist for the city’s Post-Gazette, are upset that in commenting on the fatal shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, the artist has invoked the visceral imagery of a lynching, and has delivered his opinion by drawing the boy’s shooter, George Zimmerman, in the clothes of a Klansman.
Rogers stands staunchly behind his illustrated editorial.
“The killing of African American teenager Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Florida last month was not an act of self-defense,” Rogers tells Comic Riffs, noting that Martin was unarmed, toting only iced tea and Skittles. “Zimmerman had a history of reporting black males to the police. I believe he is a racist who was acting out his racism in the name of neighborhood watch.
“Now he is using Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law as an excuse for his racist violence,” Rogers continues, adding that “many feel the actions by the local police [in Sanford] were also racist.”
With that in mind, Rogers wasn’t about to pull any editorial punches as he rendered his judgment in ink.
“The cartoon was meant to suggest the real motive behind the shooting,” Rogers tells ‘Riffs. “I realize that the image of a lynching can be disturbing and horrific, even in a cartoon. I can certainly understand why some readers may find such an image shocking and unacceptable.
“On the other hand,” the veteran journalist says, “it is the job of an editorial cartoonist to push the boundaries and to use the power of an image to get a point across. I felt it was my job “to show the horror of this injustice for what it really is ... with the hope that by bringing attention to it, maybe it won’t happen as often.”
In recent days, reaction to the tragedy has grown like a conflagration in the national conversation: President Obama said Friday, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Members of the Miami Heat took a team picture wearing hoodies in memory of Martin. And the public responses have included the Million Hoodie March in New York and Friday’s “Hoodies on the Hill” rally and prayer service in D.C., outside the Capitol.
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As federal authorities investigate, commentators like Rogers continue to weigh in with their opinions. Here are eight more editorial cartoons that — agree or disagree with them — are especially striking in their visual and verbal commentary.