Post-racial America

cartoonWell, it may be post-racial America, but in the newsroom of the New York Post it’s apparently still pre-civil rights America, circa 1955, a time when it was still OK to draw a parallel between black people and monkeys.

The Post’s defence for its horrific cartoon is that there was a story in the news about a monkey escaping from a zoo and being shot by police. This from soon-to-be-ex-editor-in-chief Col Allan:

The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy.

What Allan doesn’t explain is the connection between the two news events. How can you possibly get from an escaped monkey to an economic stimulus package, except via the sick racism of  “Monkey = black people = Barack Obama”?

Please, somebody give me a non-racist explanation for this cartoon. Please.

The reason I’m writing about this is not to bash America from the smug safety of London. We have plenty of our own racial problems here. And from what I’ve seen from some brief reading across the web, the reaction to this cartoon shows that many Americans are as shocked and disgusted by the cartoon as I am.

My point is simply how deeply influenced we are by ideas. I worked at a New York newspaper for several years and know how many people must have seen that cartoon and approved it for publication. That nobody thought to question it is a real problem. That the connection between a dead chimpanzee and the President of the United States could occur even in one person’s head in the year 2009 is a problem. But it’s not entirely surprising: those ideas were implanted by centuries of propaganda and can’t be erased in a single election cycle. I suppose the encouraging thing is that so many people are succeeeding to whatever degree in moving beyond them.

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