Monday, February 23, 2009

Yes, It is Racist to Compare Obama to a Chimp

Nazi Propaganda against Jazz -ca.1935

Right Wing Propaganda - 2009

Just throwing my two cents into the discussion about the NY Post cartoon where president Obama may or may not be depicted as a chimp: while conservative bloggers are telling people to get over it, many people - including yours truly - are offended. Historically, the image of chimps and apes has been used to dehumanize black people - the folks at the NY Post must have known this and decided to sink to the lowest depths of political mudslinging by moving forward with Sean Delonas'cartoon.

This reminded me of my days as an intern at Nickelodeon when I used read scripts of "Dora the Explorer" episodes to pre-schoolers around the city to test content. Once the scripts were approved, they'd be recorded by child actors. A very cute Latina read Dora's lines, and a very cute black kid was enlisted to read the lines of Boots, Dora's monkey sidekick. The poor kid never made it to the studio, though, as the research director at the time pointed out that it wouldn't be in good taste to have a black kid depicting a monkey. Another actor was found, and the black kid was cast as another character.

But back to the Post. It's to be expected that the conservative tabloid would try to rile Democrats and liberals to pit themselves as victims of a new agenda that's out to really silence the silent majority. That Al Sharpton has taken public umbrage only plays into what I'm certain is a well-orchestrated PR stunt by the paper - even if people are offended by the cartoon, they probably reasoned, more people are offended by the spectre of Al Sharpton, so they'll tune his words out just to tune him out. And so more tasteless, racist content can be put out as long as president Obama is in office.

Let's just remember the boycotts and CD burnings that took place in 2003 when the Dixie Chicks front woman Natalie Maines said she was ashamed that W was from Texas. This honest, unambiguous expression of free speech nearly cost someone her career but now, six years later, a cowardly, juvenile "shucks, I didn't think anyone would be offended" cartoon is permissable and should be applauded. Riiight.

What bothers me most about this cartoon is its timing. We have a black president presiding over the worst financial crisis in history - whatever unresolved issues our country has with race can bubble to the surface in nasty, violent ways. I fear that, I've written about that, and I think this cartoon is the precursor to more affronts to decency and human life.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree that the NY post ad was inappropriate, and I have a hard time accepting that this was not in reference to Obama.

However, regarding the Dixie Chicks, yes she had the right to free speech, and i recognize her right to say it wherever and however she wishes. I even agree witht he concept that bush was far from our greatest president. However, having the right to speak free does not mean one does not live with the consequences of their speech. She is a country music star, Country music fans tend to be "love it or leave it" patriots, thus she was likely to anger her fans.

Secondly, the fans have a right to their free speech as well. Boycotting is a form of free speech, and is just as valid as her criticism of our former president. Free speech goes two ways, and one's free speech is no different than everyone else's.

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