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The New Racism

In today’s Huffington Post, they criticize a cartoon the NY Post is running depicting two bumbling cops shooting a monkey with one of them saying “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”  On Digg, most of the arguments fall into a few categories:

  • The author of the bill is actually white and Obama only signed it into law. So at best, this cartoon is making fun of
  • Nobody associates blacks with monkeys (anymore) and if you do, you’re the racist.
  • Cartoonists have always depicted Bush as a monkey, so why the uproar now?

The problem with the first set of arguments is it completely ignores the very obvious history of blacks being called primates, monkeys, apes. One of my roommates in college actually maintained a website showing “scientific” evidence that blacks hadn’t evolved too far from apes and still had their limited brain capacity. He also maintained a hit (read: assassination) list on which myself, a Jewish professor, and about 100 others were listed by name. Even if the author was just calling the bill author a baboon, it’s still insensitive considering the history of blacks. 

Reading the comments on Digg shows a troubling trend I started seeing a few years ago. It’s a favorite argument of conservatives that my friend described as thus:

I hate that conservative argument that we’re so far past racism that it’s actually more racist for anyone who cares about something like this to make an issue of it

It’s quite a powerful tool if you think about it. If you merely point out that there may be a hint of racism or a stereotype, you are the one with the issue. Let me ask you this: how will we ever detect racism when it does rear its ugly head?

The Post defends their cartoon while replying to a statement by Al Sharpton by saying:

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. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist

What exactly is the connection between the shooting and the stimulus bill? Absolutely nothing. The Post is saying the cartoon is not aimed at anyone, and instead is a parody of the zoo incident. I think they should have just kept their mouths shut because now it seems like they are digging a deeper hole.

I seriously think it is disconcerting how insensitive people are and what’s scarier is the criticism you get if you get if you even point out the possibility.

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