Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New York Post Portrays Obama as An Ape

Then tries to say it's not racist.

I was waiting on the first Post-inaugural story where the President would be portrayed as an animal. We knew this was coming. And I'm sure we can count on seeing a lot more.

The NY Post published the above cartoon from artist Sean Delonas today... and they are now defending his work. They claim that it's no big deal... that the artist didn't mean anything by it. Afterall... we are in a Post-racial America now... so this stuff shouldn't bother you Blacks so much anymore. Grow Up!!! That was the gist of the papers' comments defending the blatantly racist cartoon.

So are we going to have to put up with this kind of sickness for at least the next 4 years... under this kind of reasoning?

If Obama doesn't come out, draw a line, and make it clear that this was inappropriate... then other such cartoons will follow in legitimate newspapers. They are under the false impression that this "post-racial" thing means that there are no boundaries.

As for Delonas... this apparently isn't his first slip up.

What's even more ominous about this cartoon... is that it sends a couple of troubling messages... not just one. Of course the racism is obvious. But it also desensitizes the idea of shooting the President. The shooting of the President in a political cartoon???? Yes, I know this is Amerikkka and all... but I don't recall ever seeing that portrayed in this particular kind of way...not in a cartoon...portrayed as something funny. I definitely don't recall this being done when the Presidents were from the white male club. Not in a legitimate mainstream newspaper. Something like that would usually be seen as patently offensive and wouldn't get passed the editors...and rightfully so.

Ahh... Angry Independent... stop overreacting... the scene in the cartoon refers to the shooting of the pet chimp in Connecticut. Yeah... what a convenient cover.

The fact is... the two stories don't even mesh well together... one has nothing to do with the other...and the cartoon isn't funny by any stretch of the imagination.
This isn't about the editors not seeing the cartoon prior to publication. I think they saw it...and approved it...and had their arguments ready. They simply responded too quick to the criticism. But how they can defend Sean Delonas or themselves, is beyond me. This is an especially strange move for a newspaper considering how the newspaper industry is struggling right now. Hopefully a few companies will pull their ads. Not likely... but it would be nice to see. Since the editors and the management officially want to stand by their racist employees... then they should be prepared to face any economic consequences that might come their way.


Baratunde Thurston... our neighbor from Jack and Jill Politics, discusses the NY Post fiasco on MSNBC. See video courtesy of Pam Spaulding's blog. Even host David Shuster couldn't hold back on how inappropriate this was.


Hear an interview with Richard Prince from last year regarding the New Yorker Magazine "satire". Some of the issues raised by Prince then also apply in this case. You can also read his comments on this latest fiasco at the New York Post.


Theo said...

I have to disagree with your idea that this cartoon is racist (reluctantly...I really WANT to agree). I believe the comparison is between those who wrote the bill (Congress) and the monkey. Not between President Obama and the monkey. What Delonas is attempting to do (in my opinion) is use the fact that cops shot a chimp to say that the bill is so backwards (his opinion) that a monkey could have written it. Now that the monkey is dead, who will write the bill?

I do not believe the whole post-racial bullshit and I agree that we mustn't let this stuff get out of hand, but I don't think this cartoon falls into this category. Great stuff though.

Anonymous said...

What, does your cousin work at the Post? You are bending over backwards not to see it as racist.

Paradigm said...

I consider myself a fair minded person. I don't fall into black group think when it comes to race. I've found as I grown over the years that we as black folks tend to have a sort of paranoid schizophrenia when it comes to race. We view almost everything through the lens of racial reasoning that doesn't always tell the complete story. In short, we tend to jump to conclusions far too fast. But this, IMO, ain't even in the same f****** ball park!

To excuse this you would have to ignore the racial stereotype of blacks having "simeon" like features. A stereotype that has been one of the most enduring throughout this country's history. Add to that we have our 1st black president who will very well be tied to this bills success or failure throughout time. How could a man not have enough sense to see that this would be offensive to a host of americans?

The answer, he did have enough sense. He's a political satirist. His job is to know the "mood" of the country. He isn't tone def and IMO should be fired.

rikyrah said...

I told you, I'm losing patience at folks throwing racist shit like this out there, and then trying to tell Black folks what IS and is NOT racist.

Black folk have been compared to apes/chimps/gorillas/monkeys for forever and a day in America. There is NO misinterpretation.

And, then, there's the visual of the PO-Lice executing said monkey - Oscar Grant anyone?

Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's Kool-Aid.

This was straight up racist, and yes, I reserve the right to be angry as hell about it.

great post, AI.

redante said...

This is straight screwed up. Not only is it screwed up to use the racist imagery but more screwed up that the NY Post is defending their use of the imagery and saying it's no big deal. Disgusting.

All the more disgusting is when the issue is put to the public for them to weight in that a whole lot of people will jump on the "it's no big deal" bandwagon and will accuse blacks and other minorities of being oversensitive or being politically correct and then invoke "freedom of speech." What passes for rational discussion about racial issues in this country sucks. At least in blogs like MOA, Racialicious, Angry Asian Man, etc. minority voices will be given a platform and a fair shake to air the perspective of minorities most harmed by this racist nonsense.

It is the intolerance and growing insensitivity to all things racial that I am seeing in mainstream culture that scares me. It is as if the notion of mutual respect, dignity, and enlightened and serious discussions on race is now impossible in mainstream culture and we all have been reduced to discussing issues like race on the level of the Jerry Springer show.

Anonymous said...

Like T3FLON, I'm not so sure about throwing the racist hat in the ring with this one. I get the racialized imagery of chimps and black folks. But I'm not so convinced of the alleged racial undertones here.

Had the animal shooting in Connecticut involved a lion, I'm sure a lion would have shown up in the NY Post strip. Had it been a parrot, I'm sure a parrot would have been in the strip.

Quite frankly, if anything, I'm suprised that this story hit more of a collective nerve with black folks than it did with the good and deranged folks over at PETA.

Brian said...

Teflon and Andre,

I appreciate your dissent (I love dissent).

But we will have to agree to disagree.

I too am reluctant to proclaim racism (have you seen enough of my posts and comments?).

I can see how you could possibly see this as just an innocent piece of satire. And perhaps it was just an innocent thing. I'll get to that in a minute....

But just a few quick points...

1. Let's apply a bit a reasoning to your argument.

A. The caption reads:

"They'll Have to Find Someone Else to Write the Next Stimulus Bill"

"Someone"= a personification...

"Someone"= singular... not plural.

There is nothing obvious in this piece of work that indicates that the cartoonist was referring to Congress... the Democratic Party, or any other "group". Typically you would find some sort of caption showing the intent of the satire or showing the target of the satire.

B. We know that President Obama (with the help of his staff) was one of the primary architects of this legislation... in fact... much of it was being worked on via the transition office...even before he became President. If there is any one person who can be linked to or identified with the stimulus bill... it is President Obama.

2. This can't be looked at in a vacuum. There is a long, deep and complex historical context here. If we lived in a world where events took place in a vacuum...completely independent of other events, then I could buy your argument.

3. With all the events taking place in the World.... why use the Ape image? The attempt at satire doesn't even make sense to me... and I pick up on satire pretty well. Travis the Chimp (an out of control pet primate that tragically almost killed someone) has nothing to do with the stimulus package. The cartoonist could have made the satire work with any number of other events or imagery.

4. This is a Right leaning newspaper that is no stranger to racial insensitivity. Again... adding to that c-word... "Context". There is a context and a history here that has to come into play when thinking about this.

5. Look back at the campaign. What did Obama's enemies attempt to do? They tried to Africanize him... to give him the tribal image... as a way to play on American xenophobia which was running deep...and continues to run deep.

Obama was also heavily portrayed as a Monkey... as a savage... all of these images were running rampant during the campaign. There was no attempt then to obfuscate and redirect intent... it was no secret what kind of message folks were trying to send.

6. The c-word again... sorry to keep bothering you with this one... but it's important.
How have Black men in particular been portrayed over the decades and the centuries... not just in this Country...but throughout the Anglo world? As beasts... as sub-human... as animalistic... as primates... as hyper filthy.... etc. Basically as animals.

Remember what Travis the Chimp had just done right before he had to be put down by authorities. He was not shot because he played piano... or for being the greatest Ape in the World... or for not doing tricks correctly. He was killed after/during a savage attack.

What the Hell does that have to do with the Economic Recovery bill in Washington D.C.? You see.... when you do satire... there is one thing that you have to be sure of... you have to make sure THAT IT ACTUALLY WORKS.

7. EVEN IF THIS WAS A LEGITIMATE ATTEMPT AT SATIRE...and everything was completely innocent... shouldn't there have been an editor competent enough...knowledgeable enough about American history to know that this was probably not a good idea???? You mean to tell me that they couldn't adjust the imagery? That only an Ape could be used for this so-called "satire"?

We will have to agree to disagree (and I like to think of myself as fairly moderate... Conservative on a few issues...and reasonable...and I hate screaming racism).

Anonymous said...

AI, you know that I more than anybody else appreciate your insight on things. But this is seriously a stretch. At its worst, this was a racially insensitive strip done against the backlight of another breaking story about a crazy chimp. Again, I'm sure if there was another animal involved in the story that animal would've shown up in the strip.

"There is nothing obvious in this piece of work that indicates that the cartoonist was referring to Congress... the Democratic Party, or any other "group". Typically you would find some sort of caption showing the intent of the satire or showing the target of the satire."

AI, I've seen dozens of strips using a single donkey or a single elephant to represent a large body of Dems and Repubs. If it was indeed the intention of the cartoonist to depict the Congressional body as chimps, I could see that. Given the "do-nothing" label they've been given (and the dismal approval ratings which substantiates this claim), I can see why someone would equate Congress to a chimp as well. It would've probably been a little more relevant had Delonas used a donkey in his strip. But, again, that would take away from the cross referential subtleties with the chimp story.

Brian said...

"AI, I've seen dozens of strips using a single donkey or a single elephant to represent a large body of Dems and Repubs."

Are you serious man???!

Of course those images work... That's because the Donkey and the Elephant are well known symbols of our political Parties. Again... Context. That would have been completely valid.

But an Ape is not a symbol that represents either Party in this Country. Since when did a Chimp become the mascot or recognized symbol for the Republicans or Democrats? I shouldn't even have to ask the question... because the whole premise is silly.

And you continue to make a link between two stories where there is no link.

"Seriously a stretch"? Please!!!

As I stated before, we'll have to agree to disagree.

Thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

"But an Ape is not a symbol that represents either Party in this Country. Since when did a Chimp become the mascot or recognized symbol for the Republicans or Democrats? I shouldn't even have to ask the question... because the whole premise is silly."

You say that as if cartoonists are all brilliant. Clearly, they are not. But being an idiotic and racially insensitive nitwit like Delonas is not the same thing as being an outright racist.

Besides, if the cartoonist would've followed your advice and avoided singular association (while also trying to use the chimp story as a backdrop), the strip would've called for...what...535 chimps to represent all of Congress (well, minus the Congressmen who voted against the stimulus). How much sense would that make?!

C'mon dawg: I never said there was any linkage between the two stories. Finding links between these two stories is like finding links between Iraq and 9/11. We know how well that went.

So again, my point remains: the accusations of racism are a stretch. In fact, I'll take this a step further. Not only is this a stretch, but this story stands to compromise more legitimate instances of racism. Basically, it's the 2009 remake of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf". Available in HDTV.

Brian said...

I've never told you this... because I try to be polite and accommodating around here... :)

But I hate when someone refers to me as a K-9... that **** just drives me crazy. My blood pressure shoots up 10 points. Especially when Black men do it (but anyone really). The slang drives me nuts.

"Angry" "AI" "Angry Independent", "Man", "B", "Brian", "BJ" "Worlds Greatest Blogger"... any of those will work without leading me to heart attack or stroke.

Sorry... just a longstanding pet peeve.

And your argument is still not holding water very well.

Brian said...


I try to have informed discussions on this issue here. And I try not to allow anything to descend to the Jerry Springer level.

It's no accident that I tried to establish a diverse group of blog contributors (although I can't twist everyone's arm to get them to participate).

3 Black men (sharp ones I might add), 1 Lovely Black Woman, 1 Asian American, 1 White American. Although I wanted it to be even more diverse. That was the best I could do.

I hope to take another crack at that at some point in the future. (diversifying... enriching the discussions). Doing the best I can do right now... considering I don't do web design... and i'm too broke to afford a professional site revamp to draw more traffic and to add all the bells and whistles I want... etc.

redante said...

Sorry if I wasn't clear on my Jerry Springer reference AI. I was making a statement about American culture in general and how Americans typically talk about race in mainstream US culture. I wasn't making a statement about MOA. I love the quality of the discussions here and in my favorite sections of the blogosphere. It is when I step out into TV-land, newspapers, talk radio and talking to people in my day to day life that things have a tendency to degenerate. So my Jerry Springer statement was meant as a general observation on American culture and how it usually treats the subject of race.

Just clarifying to make sure no one is interpreting me the wrong way :-)

Brian said...

I figured that's what you meant LAD.

Anonymous said...

Is this the US today? Random killing, tons of weapons floating in the streets?

Theo said...

The Angry Independent,

Even if I agreed with everything that you presented (and to a great degree I do!), my irritation is with the reaction of the black community. It is the same reaction (to a slightly greater scale) that we had to Don Imus, the racist campaign of the Repubs, and any other soapbox issue. Here is the problem I have (recently stated on my blog and on the Al Sharpton video on this site), we ignore the true issues and speak loudest on things that do not matter as much.

Why is there no outrage regarding the discrepancies in the criminal justice system? Why aren't we screaming at the top of our lungs about the need for education reform in the inner city school districts? Why don't we become as angered by the fact that Chris Brown hit Rihanna partly due to his violent stepdad or at the fact that Rihanna had a crackhead dad to teach her how to choose a man (this is more about the black family breakdown than those two, but they are recent news)?

If Al Sharpton truly wants to make a difference, then he should speak out on this issues (act) and not on these 'firestarters' (react).

So, it doesn't matter (to me, feel free to disagree) that the cartoon is racist or not (it affects us in different ways). We can't change all bigotry. However, we can address the issues within our community and that should be where our outrage and anger should be directed.
*steps off soapbox*

Good stuff though...I always enjoy it.

Brian said...


On that... I agree with you 150%.
I'm always stating the same here (and in my daily contacts with people).

Anonymous said...

"But I hate when someone refers to me as a K-9... that **** just drives me crazy. My blood pressure shoots up 10 points. Especially when Black men do it (but anyone really). The slang drives me nuts."

Please accept my humble apologies for this. Also, thank you for bringing that to my attention. No need to be "polite." Say what's on your mind. Your blog, your rules. Besides that, I certainly don't want to disrespect anybody.

"And your argument is still not holding water very well."

Well, neither is yours. Two people. Two varying opinions. No absolute truth. That is a recipe for perpetual arguments or - for the more civilly minded - debates.

Our subjectivity is what makes the discussion work.

Anonymous said...

One more thing, AI:

"Worlds Greatest Blogger" a'ight. But if I had to put money on it, I'd say the reigning king is that cool guy over at The Unmitigated Word"

Spoiler alert: That was a self plug.

Anonymous said...

OK AI, if we want to talk about BLANTANT displays of racism, here's one for your consideration.