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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

An Open Letter to my White Friends: Or, Why Even I Was Offended by That Cartoon

When I was in the 3rd grade, my friend Stephen Rosen got into a pushing and hitting fight with my cousin Ayanna. Seeing my friend attack my cousin, I immediately jumped in, pushing him to the ground and telling him to leave her alone. As I walked away to console her, he shouted after me "Fuck you, you dirty black ape!". It took about 5 people to break the grip that I had around his neck. Later in the day, Mrs. Anderson, one of 2 5th grade teachers (and a holocaust survivor) backed me up against a wall of lockers, screaming at me "Why did you do that?! Why did you attack Stephen?!". When I told her "He called me a 'black ape'", she literally stopped in her tracks. She backed away slowly, diverting her eyes, and murmured " shouldn't hit people."

I'm telling you, the reader, that story because it's the first thing that I thought of when I heard the half-assed apology originally issued by the NY Post to justify their stupid little cartoon. Their claim that what they were REALLY trying to do was to comment on Barack Obama's stimulus package. And their lack of understanding as to why ANYONE would be offended by a cartoon that "some people" had "misinterpreted" as racist. Now, unless you are 12 years old, an absolute cultural innocent, or have your head firmly wedged between your hind cheeks, you know that the images portrayed in that comic are blatantly racist. OWN IT! The fact that artist Sean Delonas and Post editor Col Allan feign ignorance to the racist imagery is preposterous. OWN IT. You people knew damn well what you were doing, how it would be taken, and you didn't care. And that is what it is. You either want us to believe that you are completely and totally incompetent, or remarkably ignorant and inexperienced. Neither excuse is acceptable.

This is all a matter of historical perspective. America, and more specifically, White America, is known for propagating racist imagery in films, print, and advertising-- and, in some cases, even using SCIENCE, or pseudo-science to justify their racist opinions. For example:

The caption here reads: "On the left side of the figure there is a young Chimpanzee, and on the right is a young Orang-utan. This is a wonderfully interesting comparison."

How about this "scientific" comparison of the races:

Notice the direct correlation made between the African and the ape at the bottom of the illustration.

And this cartoon, cuts right to the chase:

The caption reads: "Man-eater". Pretty striking, considering what that chimp in Connecticut did to that poor woman.

Now, I'm not one to scream "racist" every time one of these stories came up. Even with that Vogue cover with Lebron James...I felt that was stretching it, to say that Lebron looked like an ape grabbing at a white woman. But there are some familiar images that project "white race phobias":

And that's the key here...PERSPECTIVE. Racism in America is strictly a white issue. PERIOD. Whites in America have an unfortunate legacy of hate and oppression against all ethnic and cultural groups that are unlike themselves-- Native Americans, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, you name it. There is a "white word" for all of those people-- savages, niggers, spics, gooks...and even with the "smarmy" groups-- W.O.P.s (without papers), guineas, dagoes, micks. And there are plenty of images that go along with "those people" as well. But that's just history talking...

So, is it "reaching" to suggest that the NY Post cartoon is racist? No. Were they misunderstood? No, we understood their viewpoint just fine; our "black ape" president had a stimulus bill that some people just did not want or like. Now, since the writing of this blog entry, Rupert Murdock has come out with his own apology regarding this issue-- which, as some people have cited, is pretty unprecedented. While not as half-hearted as the Post's official apology, there remains a stilted apology of "if anyone was offended by this, we are truly sorry." The truth of the matter is...this should have never been printed in the first place. This was a poor decision made by 2 culturally bankrupt, socially inept imbeciles.

But, with some perspective....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting...I'm Black. I get it.