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Monkey Business
By Steven Malik Shelton

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In a recent news report, attorney general Eric Holder, called the United States "a nation of cowards" because most Americans are afraid to engage in open and honest discussion about the racial divide and address the fear, hatred, and ignorance that has shrouded relationships between its black and white citizens.

What attorney general Holder (the first black to occupy the office in the nation's history) may be overlooking is that for Americans to be open about racism would be admirable yet difficult; and for them to be honest as well would prove to be even more arduous for whites (and many blacks) have deluded themselves for so long that it is doubtful if they could address the economic and psychological nuances of race and distinguish truth from fiction, and preconceived notions from reality.

The controversy surrounding the New York Post cartoon that many perceive as a racist attack on President Obama (with Obama supposedly being likened to a chimpanzee) is indicative of this divide and dilemma.

In the cartoon, concocted by Sean Delonas, two white cops are shown standing over the bullet ridden body of a dead chimp. The cop who holds the smoking gun quips to his partner that "they'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

The Post released a statement saying that the cartoon has nothing to do with race, and was created to parody the stimulus bill with a recent incident in which a chimpanzee went berserk and viciously mauled a woman. Yet, even if this is true, the cartoon is still not even remotely amusing, and it is bad taste bordering on cruelty to make fun of such a tragic, and painful incident especially when the woman is still recuperating from her injuries in a hospital and whether she will ever fully recover is unknown.

I seriously doubt if the woman attacked happened to be the cartoonist's mother, or sister, or daughter, he would have thought it funny enough to lampoon it in a cartoon. And I also suspect that Delonas would be very uncomfortable if he was to encounter a close friend or relative of the mauled woman (and he should be).

At best, the cartoon is in very bad taste and, at worst; it is a brutally ignorant, violent and racist diatribe against Barack Obama, the nation's first black President. It has racist overtones because it feeds into the centuries old insanity that associate black people with some form of primate, be it apes, monkeys, chimpanzees, etc. And it is ignorant because the mind-set that fashioned it to ridicule and to demean blacks, does not realize that the characterization of blacks as apes or chimps, indicates nothing about blacks but speaks volumes about the persons that need to believe this horrid myth and falsehood.

Blacks, because of America's tradition of relentless racial character assaults and negative stereotyping, have become hyper-sensitive to any hint of association with animals. And, given America's shameful history of portraying blacks as brutes, this is understandable. Howbeit, we have challenges before us that are much more substantial and pressing; and to protest every perceived insult distracts us and spends our time, energy and resources away from battlefields that are more vital and crucial.

Besides, because the cartoon did not mention either Obama or black folks, but referred to the writers of the bill (and neither the President nor black people are its authors) it is impossible to prove with any certainty that they were its intended targets. So, as the saying goes, if it does not apply let it fly; or as the legendary attorney Johnny Cockerel said in his closing argument in a famous trial, "If it does not fit, you must acquit."

Steven Malik Shelton is a journalist and human rights advocate. He can be reached at malikshelton19@aol.com

© Mar 2009 By Afromerica || [TOP]


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