In the Loop

When a chimp is just a chimp . . . and when it's not

Posted at 2:26 PM on February 20, 2009 by Sanden Totten (1 Comments)

By now I'm sure you've seen the NY Post cartoon that has a good number of pundits in an uproar. If not, you can see it here. Some people, like the Reverend Al Sharpton, have decried the editorial toon, saying it has obvious racist undertones:

"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 . . . 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?"

The NY Post, for it's part, has apologized with a kind of back handed official statement:

"This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize . . . However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past -- and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback. To them, no apology is due. Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon -- even as the opportunists seek to make it something else."

Some New Yorkers have called for a boycott of the paper. The cartoonist, Sean Delonas, has gone on the record with CNN saying the whole thing is "absolutely friggin' ridiculous."

But is it?

Let's assume the Post wasn't trying to be racist. Let's say Delonas was just doing what cartoonists do; tying two big news stories together with a punchline. Should either of them be held responsible for others misinterpretation of the drawing? How should the Post have handled it? Are there some images and ideas that are just too racially charged for cartoonists to use when touching on a topic associated with President Obama? Was this cartoon even funny in the first place?

Comments (1)

I guess I'm too young to remember a monkey/minority connection.... From my viewpoint, the thing is "friggin' ridiculous," because the wild chimp was all over the news and obviously the source of the monkey reference in the cartoon. Should a chimp have been no where in the news recently, it might be a stretch to argue otherwise, but most people watching enough news to know about the stimulus know about the chimp attack.

Unless we TRULY believe that the cartoonist's intention was to paint the african american president as a monkey (and I think most of us would counter that was NOT his intention), making a stink about it does nothing to counter racism. And if the cartoonist does believe that stimulus bill was ineptly written, then it's not racism to point that out, no matter how unfortunately overlooked the prior connotations of a monkey might be, or just because the writer of the stimulus is a minority.

Part of winning your battles is knowing which battles to fight. A rather poor choice for Rev. Sharpton, I'm afraid...

Posted by LDH | February 21, 2009 9:43 AM

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