Friday, February 20, 2009

More than the Cartoon...

 I hate to disagree with my friend, Alex on anything, even mildly, especially since he invited me onto his lovely site to write and contribute.

All I can do now, is offer my perspective as an African-American. (Oh, and by the way, for those readers who didn't know before my "startling" announcement, uhhh, surprise! Yeah, I know. It's a blog, it can be hard to tell.)

There isn't an African-American that I know who saw that cartoon and didn't have a visceral reaction to it.

And yes, I mean that visceral reaction.

Drawing a cartoon, like that, with that subject matter, and placing a monkey anywhere within fifty miles of it, is asking for that reaction. I also believe that the (yes) racist, editor who approved the piece knew exactly what he was doing. The history of stereotyping African-Americans and animals is far too long, far too deep to be ignored.

I know there is a reaction from the quote-unquote white community that pushes back against anything the Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are for. I think a lot of my, again, quote-unquote white friends would be surprised how many in the African-American view these two as clowns. To me, Sharpton and Jackson's number one cause has always been Sharpton and Jackson. Any actions they undertake must always be viewed through that prism.

At the same time, when they're right, they're right. Don't blame the weak-ass messenger for the message.

Personally, I think you can debate the racial connotations of the cartoon. I think you'd be wrong, but you can debate it.

What cannot be debated is the violence associated with this cartoon, and in context of the Obama Presidency...that, more than the monkey itself is what's fueling the anger in the African-American community.

The President's personal safety is something that is personal to a lot of African-Americans. Lord knows its personal to me. It is a fear that almost kept some African-Americans from voting for him, much less believing he could win.

Look at the some of the incidents that have happened since the President's Election:

Sales of handguns have gone up.

A cross was burned on the lawn of Obama supporters in Hardwick, New Jersey.

Political Figures in both Georgia and Texas warned their constituents of an "Obama Dictatorship" or "Obama Tyranny".

A Teachers' Aide from the Allison Park suburb of Pittsburgh told a bi-racial student: "that Obama was going to be shot and killed. And that our flag is going to be the KFC [Kentucky Fried Chicken] flag and that the new national anthem will be 'Moving On Up' "

Again, told this to a freakin' student.

Students on a School Bus in Idaho started chanting "Assassinate Obama".

The Secret Service arrested a guy in Mississippi for threatening to kill the then-President-Elect. (BTW, thank you Secret Service for nabbing this guy.)

A Colorado Man was indicted recently for threatening the same.

Three men torched black churches (allegedly) within hours of the President's swearing in.

And of course, there was the lovely story of the man who said he had a delivery for the President, and was actually packing a rifle. (Again, thumbs up Secret Service...but this one sounded kinda easy. He did walk up to the front door thinking he could get in and just see the President.)

Again, just since the Election.

Forgive us for being more than a little bit paranoid.

The introduction of anything resembling violence toward this President isn’t going to be greeted warmly by anyone in my community, not even in jest.

In the end, this was an image of a Police shooting, in and of itself a sensitive subject in my community. It is an image of the shooting of a monkey, given the history of stereotyping African-Americans, every bit as painful. The monkey is also supposed to represent the author of the stimulus bill. This is where there's room for debate over the racial connotations of the cartoon; the Artist going so far as to say "if anything, the monkey represents Nancy Pelosi."

Yes, because gunfire is exactly the reaction you should have to a piece of legislation you disagree with.

But while the President may or may not be the author of the Stimulus Package, his was the face most associated with it. (He may not have written it, but I have no doubt than an awful lot of it came out of the White House.) In the end, this Artist and his Editor have decreed, however seriously you want to take it, that the penalty for this bad legislation, should be death.

That struck a nerve.

It was not without good reason.

Originally posted on Fort McHenry


(S)wine said...

Yeap, good points. I am definitely not surprised by how many in the African-American community think Sharpton and Jackson are somewhat detrimental.

B.E. Earl said...

I agree.

I'm a white dude and my first reaction to it was pretty much the same as yours. I can't look into anyone's head, so I don't know what the cartoonist was thinking when he drew that decidedly un-funny bit, but I can't believe he can claim that he is shocked by how some if not most would perceive it.

What I want to know is that there had to be someone, some editor or something that knew that it would trigger some kind of outrage. There had to be.

Controversy sells.

sleepyjer said...

When I first saw the cartoon, I did not understand what the controversy was because of the context in which I saw it.

Earlier this week I read about Travis the chimp who was shot by the police after mauling a friend of it's owner.

A few days later I read about a controvertial cartoon involving a chimp. As it did not specify what the controversy was, I assumed it was about the above incident.

When I finally saw the cartoon, knowing that it is Congress that writes the legislation, I thought the controversy was (as the cartoonist stated) about the Post depicting Pelosi as a monkey, and a dead one at that. It did not even occur to me that the monkey might have been Obama. Maybe that indicates my ignorance that a paper- or rag, in this case -would dare in this day and age, to depict an African-American as an ape.

Again, who knows if it was intentional or not, but seeing it in this other light, I certainly understand the issue at hand.

Those on the right that are saying people are overreacting, need to remember the anger they felt when Sarah Palin was jokingly compared to Pontius Pilate, and cop a clue.

(S)wine said...

My original piece here did not explain that I, too, made the connection to the chimp being shot story. It's necessary to realize through which filters we all see and read this kind of stuff. The dialogue that is opened afterwards is vital. Malcolm's (and hopefully Jose's) takes on this, as well as other contributors' would really round out the picture. I take great care to mention that this was a mistake, run by the editors in the hopes of generating exactly what it did: press. I have no doubts about that. The slant of my piece wasn't toward NOT being insulted or offended; it was toward moving into an era in which this kind of junk won't divide us any longer--it will make us take swift consumer action against its perpetrators or propagators.