Today’s New York Post, a tabloid paper owned by Rupert Murdoch, published an editorial cartoon that shows two cops talking, standing over a chimpanzee they’ve just shot (a reference to this recent story in nearby Connecticut). The caption reads, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill,” a clearly racist jab at President Obama, comparing him to the chimpanzee. You can see the image here (h/t to Emery Graham, Jane Adams, Andrea Siegel, Jerry Krause, Eric Margolis and all the good folks on the IVSA listserv).
The cartoon is created by Sean Delonas, who as Hamilton Nolan at Gawker notes, has a rich history of creating similarly vile, loathsome cartoons.
As I’ve pointed out here before, racist jokes and cartoons are nothing new, and indeed, racist cartoons and jokes were a consistent strategy used by detractors to Obama’s campaign. In fact, Obama’s presidency has created a whole new category of racist jokes and cartoons. A Google search of “racist Obama jokes” today yields 1,910,000 results; a similar search for “racist Obama cartoons,” yields 1, 050,000 results.
What’s really remarkable here is that this particular racist cartoon is not just getting published on some individual’s website dedicated to racist “humor,” but in fact, it is being published by a major (albeit, tabloid) newspaper in New York City. Rev. Al Sharpton gets is right when he says that the cartoon is “troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys.” (An aside about Rev. Al: Y’all can say what you will about Rev. Al, but living in New York City and seeing him at most of the same rallies I go to and hearing him on local news, he gets it right more often than he gets it wrong. In the national mainstream press, he’s regularly treated with derision, but I have a lot of respect for him.) In fact, I think he doesn’t go quite far enough here. What’s also troubling about this particular image is the not-so-subtle threat (again) to President Obama’s life and the similar way in which this cartoon legitimates the police-shootings of so many young, black and brown men on the streets of New York City and beyond. Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, anyone? It doesn’t matter though, they were just “monkeys” – as one of the commenters on this blog referred to Oscar Grant just a few weeks ago. For those of you who might be new to studying and understanding how dehumanization works, one of the first steps is comparing human beings to animals. This makes their mistreatment, torture, and murder easier to accept. It’s an especially effective tool when a major newspaper runs images that dehumanize whole categories of people.
And, perhaps not surprisingly, the Post is standing behind the cartoon. New York Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan said:
“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.”
Right, so Rev. Al is an opportunist and therefore Allan doesn’t have to take anything he says seriously. Well, I have a feeling there are going to be a lot more people outraged about this one.
If you’re in the New York City area, and want to get involved in a protest about this, there’s one tomorrow, Thursday, 2/19 at noon, at the midtown offices of the New York Post, 1211 6th Ave., between 47th and 48th Streets. Rev. Al and I will be there.