Today, the New York Post published a cartoon by artist Sean Delonas that is flagrantly racist:
It merges two news stories, the recent passage of the stimulus bill and the chimp attack in Stamford, Connecticut. The Reverend Al Sharpton responded to the cartoon with this statement:
The cartoon in today’s New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that “Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill. “Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?
Editor-in-chief of the New York Post, Col Allen, released a statement defending the cartoon:
The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.
The editor ought not to have responded than to give this inane statement. Racist symbols and signifiers are practically oozing from this cartoon. In fact, it goes out of its way to inject racist symbols. The cartoon really doesn’t make sense given the timing of the bill and the chimp’s rampage. The stimulus bill passed the senate and house last week and as was expected was signed by President Obama this week, Tuesday. The chimp attack occurred on Monday. Given these facts, what does the caption,”They’ll have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill.” mean? Why marry these two stories in this way? It just doesn’t make sense.
Let’s explore what the cartoon reveals. There was a rabid chimp on the loose who has been fatally shot two times in the chest by two white policemen. The officers look frightened and dumbfounded if not just plain dumb, Jethroesque even. One utters the statement, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill.” This implies that the rabid chimp was supposed to be authoring the bill. We all know that the bill was authored primarily by House Democrats with amendments added by Republicans. However, no matter who technically wrote the bill President Obama has been its spokesmen and biggest champion. In essence it is his bill. He is its author and finisher. President Obama is the leader of Washington.
So whether this cartoon is a mocking parody of our elected officials as chimps. This cartoon portrays our President, the head chimp in charge to continue with the racist conjecture, as a violent, rabid, monkey who needs to be stopped, with violence no less. It invokes symbols of police brutality.
Sean Delonas should have known better. No one can control for every possible interpretation of their art, but a responsible artist should be aware of certain cultural, historical, and social norms, stereotypes, and epithets. If they seek to use them in a racist way, be up front about it…be a man about yours!
Another story piqued my interest that smacked of racism. A store clerk in the commissary of Peterson Air Force base removed President Obama’s picture from a President’s Day display amid protests from shoppers that President Obama’s face wasn’t fitting in a display to honor men like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Some saw it as a dispute of the technicalities of the holiday, whether it is to celebrate all presidents or just these two. Others, like head of the local NAACP saw it as the racism of those who can’t stomach a black man ascending to the highest office in the land. I concur that this was not an argument of the semantics of the holiday. These “patriots” only want to serve a commander-in-chief with the same hue.
I am not outraged or disappointed. These sorts of reports will continue to bubble up and out over the next four years. I will however call them like I see them: Racism extraordinaire or Racism 1.5 to co-opt a concept from Time Wise’s new book, Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama. I great read.