That Racist New York Post Dead-Monkey Cartoon
All the pundits are talking about the recent cartoon by the New York Post’s Sean Delonas, showing a chimp shot by two policemen who say, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” The prevailing view among the bloggers and talking-heads is that the cartoon is a racist depiction of Obama as a monkey. Al Sharpton has taken the opportunity to grab the media spotlight by condemning the cartoon. New York Post employees are reportedly “unhappy and ashamed” of the “offensive cartoon.” The media love arguments about race.
I was thinking of drawing a cartoon with the media frantically rushing to cover the “racist” Delonas cartoon, while Attorney General Eric Holder calmly stands in front of the melee telling Americans how they are “cowardly” in avoiding discussions about race. I expect we’re in for a lot of this for the next four years.
Some cartoonists (Ben Sargent of The Austin American-Statesman and Steve Bell of the Guardian in Britain, for example) consistently drew George W. Bush as a monkey. The cartoonists all chose to draw Bush with big monkey ears and a huge, monkey-like upper lip, so drawing Bush as a monkey was a natural progression. Now the cartoonists are all drawing Obama with similar, big monkey ears and we’re starting to hear complaints from readers about how we draw Obama’s lips. Presidents get shorter in cartoons if they don’t perform well — and chimps are short. Cartoonists tiptoe through a racial-metaphor minefield.
A standard, workday ritual that editorial cartoonists do is to list the major news stories of the day, and then think of how to combine two of the unrelated stories into a cartoon. Combining two unrelated things in a cartoon is funny. Monkeys are funny and the killer chimp was the big news one day along with the stimulus bill. Delonas is a staunch conservative who didn’t like the stimulus bill; this cartoon is a formulaic “no-brainer.” I’m sure the reaction to the cartoon was a surprise to Delonas.
But the reaction shouldn’t be a surprise. I’d suggest that every cartoonist should make a list of every racial stereotype to avoid regarding African-Americans, and assume that every cartoon will be considered to be a metaphor for Obama — then go through the check list before putting pen to paper, like a pilot goes through a check list before taking off in his plane.
And watch for a lot more cartoon plane crashes.
Daryl Cagle is a political cartoonist and blogger for MSNBC.com; he is a past president of the National Cartoonists Society and his cartoons are syndicated to more than 850 newspapers, including the paper you are reading. Daryl’s books “The BIG Book of Campaign 2008 Political Cartoons” and “The Best Political Cartoons of the Year, 2009 Edition” are available in bookstores now.