Did you ever hear the saying that the worst kind of joke is one that you have to explain? That is the exact situation that the NY Post finds itself in after news paper tried to fuse the recent news stories about the economic stimulus package and the 200 lb chimp that attacked a woman. Thus, puts an end to the myth that the election of Obama signals a post-racial America.
In case you are one of the few Americans who don’t know what I am referring to, here is the cartoon:
Rev. Al Sharpton, not surprisingly, saw racism in the cartoon, “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? Given that the New York Post cartoonist came under heavy fire in the past for racially tinged cartoons including the infamous cartoons depicting 2001 mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer and me in very unflattering ways that were used as a divisive campaign tactic, one cannot ignore their history when one finds out what they could possibly mean by this morning’s cartoon.”
The Post defended the cartoon as satire, “The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut,” Allan said in a statement. “It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.”
I am not certain whether this cartoon was trying to be racist or controversial, but the furor over it shows that the election of Barack Obama did not move America to into a post-racial era. The issue of racism is alive and well, no matter the color of the person occupying the Oval Office. What is especially revealing is how the discussion of the cartoon quickly broke down along racial lines. Looking at the cartoon logically, Obama didn’t write the stimulus bill, Democrats in Congress did, so it is possible to see it as Democrats being portrayed as clueless monkeys.
The more sinister interpretation is that the dead cartoon monkey represents Obama. There is definitely a national history of African-Americans being characterized as monkeys, so it is easy to reach that conclusion as well. My own opinion is that the cartoonist and the newspaper knew exactly what they were inferring, but their satire doesn’t make much sense. For anyone who claims to be surprised that African Americans would be offended by the possible inference that Barack Obama is a monkey, I would like to know what fantasy land they have been living in.
This nation still has a long, long way on the issue of race. It was naïve of anyone to think that the election of dark skinned man as president would make a dent in an issue that has loomed in the national dialogue for hundreds of years. What interests me really isn’t the cartoon, but the mirror into national attitudes that reactions to it have brought about. What this latest episode shows is the more things change, the more they stay the same.