A political cartoon printed in the New York Post depicted two police officers standing in front of a dead chimpanzee. One officer says, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”
This has been interpreted by many as being racist by likening President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee. In fact, on Saturday, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Benjamin Jealous, called for the firing of the cartoonist and editor. Jealous said the cartoon was an invitation to assassinate Obama, according to the Associated Press.
The absurdity of Jealous’ interpretation is almost as great as the lack of humor in the cartoon itself.
Anyone possessing an elementary understanding of how the federal government works should realize there is a problem with any sort of connection between the chimpanzee in the cartoon and the president — Obama did not write the stimulus bill. In fact, though a president can pen a bill and submit it to Congress just like every other citizen, it is historically rare for one to do so.
Additionally, anyone familiar with recent news should understand that the placement of the chimp in the cartoon was a reference to a story about a woman being brutally attacked by a chimpanzee. The pet chimp was shot by police officers arriving at the scene after a 911 call by the owner.
The cartoonist, Sean Delonas, told CNN, “The chimpanzee was a major story in the Post. Every paper in New York, except The New York Times, covered the chimpanzee story. It’s just ridiculous. It’s about the economic stimulus bill. If you’re going to make that about anybody, it would be (Nancy) Pelosi, which it’s not.”
Roland S. Martin retorted in a commentary posted on cnn.com, “But anyone with half a brain, especially someone knowing the history of African-Americans being called monkeys and gorillas, would have said, ‘We need to rethink this.'”
Martin seems to be implying that cartoonists — and the media at-large for that matter — should cater to those who carelessly misinterpret things by not understanding the context in which they are presented.
This is unacceptable. Assuming racism is not progressive. Inciting a witch hunt on a less-than-talented cartoonist is counterproductive to creating a national dialogue on race issues.
The use of the word “racism” should be dependent on evidence, not pessimistic speculation.