Cartoon by Sean Delonas in the New York Post, February 18, 2009, who depicted President Obama as a crazy chimpanzee who was shot to death. Earlier in the week a domesticated chimpanzee was killed when he attacked a woman in Connecticut.
Updated 9:43 pm, February 18
A reader posted a comment at the end of this piece. Please read it and respond. She states that the cartoon was not intended to be racist. I disagree and so does the staff at the NY Post,as well as reporters in news rooms across the nation and abroad. Add to that the thousands who have protested through pickets, letters of protest, and by boycotting the Post. National news reports today stated that Rupert Murdoch, the New York Post owner-publisher is upset to the point of being ready to remove Col Allen, editor in chief, for crossing a critical line of judgement, values, taste, and common decency when he approved publication of the racist cartoon.
I won't burden my grey matter with trying to assess the motives of the New York Post cartoonist or the editor(s) who gave the green light for the cartoon to be published. Suffice it to say it is a despicable act to link President Barack Obama (hey, it is his Stimulus Bill) with a murdered chimpanzee. It conjures all kinds of subconscious feelings about blacks being subhuman (not just blacks, but a black President!), murder, violence and the like. The Post is unapologetic. In fact, when Rev. Al Sharpton protested the publication of the cartoon the Post accused him of trying to grab the headlines. These are racist people who are masquerading as journalists. Col Allan, the New York Post's editor-in-chief, denied the charge in a written statement. He wrote that the cartoon "broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."
New York Post owner Rupert Murdoch has cozied up with right wing Republicans for some times. He owns Fox News (Faux News, as its called by some) that is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the anti-Democratic rantings of Sean Hannity, Greta van Susteren who used to be a decent legal pundit when she was on CNN, and Bill O'Reily, Ann Coulter and a bevy of others. None had a kind word to say about Senator Barack Obama when he was campaigning for president. In fact, it was Fox News that dubbed Michelle Obama as a "Baby Mama," and described her as angry and anti-American. They tried to knock Barack Obama out of the race by trying to hold him accountable for what Rev. Jeremiah Wright said in a sermon.
Members of the all-black 369th squadron in World War I. Flickr photo
This cartoon reminds me of one of the important childhood lessons I learned from my grand uncle Archie. He regaled us kids with stories about his exploits in Paris where he served in the U. S. Army in World War I. He told us tantalizing stories about the night life, famous monuments, exotic language and foods, and the French people, especially the women. He said the women he met in social situations asked him if they could see his "tail."
"What kind of tail were they talking about," I asked eagerly.
He said, "They were told that black men had tails like monkeys, he said with a lot of sadness.
The French people held the most base stereotypes about African Americans. They thought these black soldiers shared common features with monkeys.
When I saw the New York Post cartoon, I thought about how Uncle Archie used this anecdote to give us an important black history lesson. He taught us to fight against stereotypes by asserting that we were equal to "any man, woman, or child." He also told us that our generation would change America and the world. "You girls have a responsibility to fight for equality for all Negroes," he said repeatedly.
Uncle Archie died in 1958, having lived long enough to witness the U. S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision. He also watched closely the Montgomery Bus Boycott from his perch in nearby Mississippi. But he didn't live long enough to see the seeds he sowed within us materialize in our participation in the civil rights movement. How disappointed he would be to see this cartoon published almost a century after he served in Paris.