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Go Ahead: Tell Me How It’s Not Racist

Chimp Comic.jpgDespite the fact that it was the NY Post, which is about as classy as Coors Light nipple pasties, I was willing — in my mind — to give them the benefit of the doubt with regard to the controversial political cartoon. But I kept staring at it and wondering where the hell the political satire was. There is absolutely nothing — nothing — that you can take away from it except that they are calling Obama an ape. That’s it.

The Post couldn’t even offer a valid defense:

“The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut,” Col Allan, editor-in-chief of the Post, said in a statement. “It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy.

That’s it? A “clear parody.” Listen, buddy: I’ve had a lot of years of higher education, and there’s no clear parody there to me, nor is there anything to suggest it’s mocking Washington. What does shooting a chimpanzee have to do with the economy? It’s not only racist, it’s completely fucking nonsensical.

I wish I had a Post subscription, just so I could cancel it.

| Comments (36)


Here's my problem with the complaints over this:

-Obama didn't write the bill
-the cartoon itself doesn't label the chimp as Obama
-to say that something was so shoddily done a monkey could have done it is a common expression

The only logical conclusion of these facts is that it's saying the writers of the bill are bumbling fools. To call it racist, you're making the assumption that the author is racist (decent chance of that), but I can't see how anyone can make an objective argument that the cartoon is itself racist.

I can see both sides of the argument. But the truth is, it's just not funny at all. It was a waste of ink for something that didn't make a hell of a lot of sense.

I have no clue whether the artist "intended" for it to be racist, but how could you not realize that people would take it that way? Either he's a moron with no common sense, or just trying to bait the liberals (which if that was his intention, he did a good job).

I'm talking to friends here, so I want to be careful how I say this. A chimp was killed by police. The cartoon obviously references that incident. Our culture has a long history of referring to things as being so easy a chimp could do them, or saying that "somebody must have had a team of monkeys working on this," there's the cultural icon of the chimp who picks stocks, etc. When I see the cartoon, that's what comes to my mind first, even knowing about the controversy. Again, I'm not trying to insult friends, but I want you to think about your relationship with race if you see the cartoon and that's what you think it means. I'm not going to tell you that if you see a chimp and you assume that it refers to a black person it's because you think black people are chimps or monkeys, but think hard about how well you're serving racial relations by keeping people so wound up about them that a cartoon with an obvious meaning should cause a stir just because it could also be interpreted to mean something that we all know nobody in their right mind would publish in a national newspaper. I mean just consider that: you would have to be out of your fucking mind to publish something in a national newspaper likening black people to primates. Is the theory then that the person producing the cartoon is just trying to sneakily reintroduce racial stereotypes? It just seems so far-fetched to me. Let's put down the paranoia and save our outrage for things really worth getting wound up about.

Eep --

So, what does the cartoon then mean? That Obama thought the stimulus plan was so easy that a chimp could do it, so we shot him? So the GOP shot him? I'd also note that the particular chimp that was shot happened to be a particularly intelligent chimp, just one that lost his senses, apparently. Is the cartoon suggesting, then, that Obama went crazy so he had to be shot? Or maybe the stimulus bill was monkey feces, and we had to shoot him because he was throwing them?

I'm not being facetious here -- there's just no logical connect.

Also, nothing is too far-fetched for the Post. Didn't they have a political cartoon likening gay marriage to sheep fucking?

Hrmm... The cartoon sucks.

That said, I think DL's and Eep's explanations are far more accurate nad reasonable than Dustin's.

Equating Obama to the chimp is a bit of a stretch. It's almost akin to when all those conservatives were freaking out about Rachael Ray's "terrorist" scarf in that Dunkin' Donuts commercial.

I agree with DL and Eep as well.

Getting terribly upset about the cartoon is largely akin to the press orgy that ensued after the "lipstick on a pig" comment made by Obama during the election campaign: Sarah Palin was not mentioned, it was not directed at Sarah Palin, it was the press themselves who in their 'outrage' labelled Palin a pig.

The only offence I take from this cartoon is the fact that it's terribly unfunny.

If you had an infinite number of cops with an infinite number of guns would they shoot an infinite number of chimpanzees at an infinite number of typewriters--no matter what they were writing?

I have to agree with Dustin here that the meaning is far from obvious. I think that the explanation provided by Eep is probably right, but I don't think that it's an obvious deduction or connection. I don't know if racism would have popped into my mind (I read about the racist implications before seeing the cartoon), but I can say that "I don't get it" would have.

I have to agree with supremecourtjester here...that is really the question that we all need to be asking.

I'm honestly somewhat relieved to read that no one has any idea what is going on in this cartoon. I saw it on a different blog, and felt I should be offended, but also felt a little embarrassed that I had no idea what was going on. A chimp escaped the zoo and that relates to the economy... how? People keep making excuses for the cartoon because of our idioms about monkeys (ie: so easy a monkey could do it), but they aren't questioning why black people have been pejoratively labeled as a monkey; because historically, African-Americans have been either forced to or limited to manual, tedious labor, labor considered to be "so easy a monkey could do it." I am not suggesting that because of the connotations of comparing monkeys to black Americans, that the slogan "so easy I monkey can do it," is racist, but to dismiss the racial undertones when that specific saying alludes to a black man, is just silly and naive. Everything has meaning, which doesn't necessarily mean we always have to throw up a red flag, but it also means that anything produced by culture warrants analysis and interpretation.

yeah...I gotta go with Dustin on this one. Obama may not have handwritten the stimulus package, but everybody thinks of it as his bill. And comparing a black man to a chimp brings up racist imagery for me waaaaaaaaay before the "so stupid a monkey could do it," idea. There's just no reason to connect the chimp-killing incident to the president if you don't have that underlying racist notion of black people as apes.

I can only presume that those who don't have a problem with it or didn't see the inherent racism first aren't black.

Sorry to say it, but I didn't even know about this cartoon until I saw it on this site and the first thing that came to mind was "Why in the hell is the NY Post putting in a cartoon that racist?"

While Obama didn't write the bill specifically, it is associated with him since he is the one who signed it into law. I can see how it could be taken the other way i.e. the chimp shooting, but even taken that way, the cartoon just isn't funny. What is funny about a chimp getting shot?


I don't think it has anything to do with Obama. Obama didn't start the stupid stimulus packages. I think it's a making fun of our government thing, not a making fun of Obama thing. I think the implied setup to the punchline is that the author feels this stiumulus was put together by a team of monkeys, meaning that it's a nonsensical frantic reaction by a group of people that don't have a real understanding of the problem at hand or how what they're doing will affect the situation. If the chimp were Obama it wouldn't make sense because Obama is not dead and is obviously fully capable of carrying out his part in pressing stimulus packages, which is not writing them.

Also- from the cop's comment, obviously Obama would be part of the "they" looking for someone else to write the stimulus package, otherwise who were these people of higher authority that were asking Obama to write it?

OK, so it didn't even look like a chimp to me, because of the stocky legs. I thought it was supposed to be an ape, and thought it was totally racist. I did pause to wonder if maybe it was referring to congress instead of Obama, and that all of congress/the senate are monkeys.

So, any time there is an illustration of a monkey and it's politically related to the US, it's racist?

Don't you people remember all of those cartoons were Bush was depicted as a monkey, chimp or whatever the hell it is? Bush with a monkey face was a staple for cartoonists for years.

The recent news event was that Chimp who went crazy and was shot to death in Connecticuit.

The cartoon is taking that "recent news" story tying it to another "recent news" the highly controversial stimulus package.

The message is this: Only a crazy-ass chimp hepped up on Xanax could have written such a crazy ass bill.

The chimp does not symbolize Obama. The chimp symbolizes "Washington"/Congress.

The cartoon is lame. The message is lame. But there it is.

I'm as liberal as they come, but screaming "racism" in this instance is just liberal handwringing and belittles actual incidents of racism.

dude seriously, are you all completely ignorant of the racist analogy between blacks and apes? Are you living in caves? Even if this wasn't intended as racist (and given that the cartoonist has a history of both racist and homophobic illustrations, it isn't that much of an assumption to think that it is) there's no way this wouldn't be linked to race in many people's minds. I'm glad y'all live in perfect worlds where no one would ever think to link a chimp explicitly with a black person, but in the midwest, where I come from, I've heard people flat out call black people gorillas and apes and monkeys and various other names meant to imply they are subhuman. Just because you can interpret it differently if you try to rationalize it hard enough doesn't mean there isn't in fact a racist subtext to this cartoon.

Well, I see either argument but the thing is this:

a) It's not funny.
b)It's idiotically unclear.
c) It's criminally idiotic.
d) And whatever the intention was, I still feel a misguided hatred emanating from it that makes me uncomfortable.

Therefore, it is NOT worth defending. If enough people see it as racist, well, the cartoon and the person who authorized this for damn enough to not to see it, or thinking they can slip their covered hatred through like this.

I agree with Darcy- this is very similar to the "lipstick on a pig" comment that Obama made. Clearly it is not intended to be about the president because if it were it would never have been published. On the other hand, only a fool would not realize the racist connotation it can imply. I have to assume the artist is not so much racist as dumb.

I want to agree with 3l but the problem is that Sean Delonas could be one of the smartest and funniest cartoonist ever. Look back over his archives. The go for the jugular, funny, funny nature of his cartoons have always been brutal. Therefore we can rule out dumb. What's left is racist.

I would just have to say that this was poor execution. I am totally willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this, but they should have seriously thought it through better. The argument that saying things are "so easy a chimp can do them" is moot because A) it's not the fucking '30s and no one says that anymore and B) I don't think there's a single person in the country saying anything about the stimulus is easy. Yet minorities of any race are still referred to as monkeys and chimps among more white people than white people are ever going to admit to. The argument that there's no way this could ever be construed as racist except by hypersensitive shit-disturbers is disingenuous at best. If you're a white person who has ever heard your Nana or Pop-pop talk about African Americans, you know exactly what I mean.

But I don't think Sean Delonas was being racist, he was just trying to link two things that didn't have any business being linked (probably because he was out of ideas and facing a deadline) and he got bit in the ass for it - hard.

The lesson we should take from this is: Don't half-ass your job, or the entire country will think that you are racist.

a) @s. pisaster: Word.

and 2)this is a ludicrously bad cartoon: unclear, tenuous, and ineptly done, whether aiming at either satire or humor.

iii)Arguing the cartoonist's intent is almost pointless because it is so badly executed. If he is truly unaware of the cultural weight of American racism's historical and current linking of African-Americans and apes, gorillas (Remember the LAPD "Gorillas in the mist" comment? ANYBODY?) etc, then his editor should have been aware FOR HIM. That's what editors are for.

@Rachel: "Clearly it is not intended to be about the president because if it were it would never have been published." Who are you counting on to be the clearinghouse of good taste here? Editors. Whether you buy the ignorance excuse or the racist agenda, a human editor should have seen this and understood why it would ignite a firestorm of anger and controversy in an America that is not postracial by any means.

Here is something not mentioned: this "recent news item" business. Not everyone knows about the chimp getting shot. Hell, I didn't know until this cartoon mess started and folks were using it as a defense. I mean it was in Connecticut, for crying out loud.

The cartoonist had to have been aware that not everyone would get that reference, and take it to mean something else. And from what I can tell, that comment from the editor confirms that they were aware of the possible complaints and were prepared to toss out the chimp story with a little "you just don't get it" twist.

Problem was, folks did get it. It just wasn't funny.

I have posted the cartoon on my blog, but I altered the sound balloon over the policeman to read:
"They'll have to get someone else to draw Post Editorial cartoons."

pisaster, I don't think anyone who posts is "completely ignorant of the racist analogy between blacks and apes". At all. I live in the Midwest too. I understand that. We all understand that.

Your ad hominen attack isn't going to get you anywhere. (Well, I guess it gets you a "Word" for stating the obvious. So, you've got that much going for you.)

That said, not every time an ape/monkey is in a cartoon or whatever is it racist. Just like every time a woman wears a scarf she's not supporting Hamas or terrorists or whatever the hell that was. Just like every time someone says "lipstick on a pig", they aren't referring to a woman as a pig.

There is a chimp in the cartoon (insteand of, say, a chipmunk, raccoon, ocelot, kangaroo, dog, cat, mouse, etc.) becuase the police In Connecticuit recently shot a crazy-ass chimp dead and not a a chipmunk, raccoon, ocelot, kangaroo, dog, cat, mouse, etc. That's why there is a chimp.

I really don't believe it's there to imply any sort of racist subtext. (I could be wrong, as I know nothing about this cartoonist, but I really don't see it here.)

If every time you see a drawing or some depiction of a monkey you think "RACISM", you're really jumping at shadows.

I don't think it's racist - I think it's a bad cartoon. The idea is that the stimulus bill, in the eyes of the cartoonist, is such a mess that it might have well have been written by apes. Connect that with the crazy (and unrelated) chimp incident and an apparently uninspiring news week, and you get this cartoon.

Al Sharpton wants you to believe that it's racist, but Al Sharpton also depends on this kind of thing to stave off obscurity. So he took an opportunity. The symbolism is unfortunate, and the cartoon is betrays the cartoonist's ignorance of the historic linguistic tools of racism, but the I don't believe that the intent was there.

The cartoon just isn't any good at expressing the message I believe it meant, and a better cartoonist would have picked up on the negative connotations that his imagery carries.

Bill, I have to politely disagree with your statement that Sean Delonas is the smartest and funniest cartoonist ever. Ex. 1: http://gawker.com/5155855/ten-masterpieces-from-sean-delonas

However, given his history, I will agree that the racist undertones were probably not unintentional, or at the very least, he knew the reaction it would get.

If you want funny, irreverent and offensive, I highly recommend Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: http://www.smbc-comics.com/

It's funny. (If only to me.) I gotta go with Andal 6:36, and pisaster 6:52 on this one, even though they are on opposite ends of the ring, because I believe both.

There is no shortage of cartoons, jokes and parodies calling George W. a monkey, for just plain being a dumb clown. Poor monkeys. At the same time, there's no shortage of ire erupting in this country every time a simian so much is placed anywhere near a black person. Does anyone remember the controversy over King Kong? What I often think when these things happen is that the racism or fear of racism lies within the people (and this applies to people of all colors because white people do it too) who scream "racist!" because they're the ones who actually believe that apes or monkeys and black people are even comparable in the first place.

It never occurred to me that the chimpanzee in the cartoon was supposed to represent Obama or anything close to anything Obama-ish. Am I being naive for not linking the monkey to an African American? No. I know full well there are plenty of buttheads who do, but its not a comparison I make, therefore I don't interpret it that way. For the history of our country though, and the fact that yes, despite us having successfully elected a black president, racism still exists, the drawing was in one part an act of poor taste for the cartoonist.

I for one definitely interpreted it as a link between the two current event items; the stimulus package and the nightmare of a chimpanzee story. I saw the cartoon as saying, the Stimulus package writers went out of control (apeshit, anyone?) with writing the bill, throwing in everything they could without regard to the potential massive damage to the economy (and for people who do believe in the validity of the stimulus package - just the general havoc and bipartisanship it is perpetrating). I don't know if the chimp is supposed to be or hint at Obama or not, but I do agree that it hovers in dangerous territory. Ideally, if the cartoon would have been drawn and not complained about if Bush was in office at the time, it should not be a problem that it's drawn when Obama is. This is not the situation though, and people are not rational. (Hence, the shitty things we all do to eachother.)

That said, political cartoonists don't make a career out of being sensitive and drawing sugar plum fairies. So is Delonas racist? Jury's still out. Is Delonas trying to be incendiary and cause chimp-like trouble? Definitely. I love the fact too, that the two cops in the picture happen to be white and dumb looking. But I digress.

The thing that really makes me feel bad about the cartoon though, is the story upon which the cartoon is based. Charla Nash, age 55, lost both eyes, her nose, and her jaw to this attack. She will have to get a FACE transplant. Only one other face transplant has been done in the US (the world??) and it was done two months ago, and took 22 hours. The Herolds had to violently kill their pet of what, 13 years, who they had completely anthropomorphized into a surrogate child, after the death of their only daughter, while trying to stop the horrifying attack on their friend. Travis the chimp, who had once been a star in commercials and liked to surf the internet met his end after he was fed Xanax in tea to "calm" him down, stabbed repeatedly with a butcher knife, hit by a shovel and finally shot to death. That story, is the first story I think about when I see this cartoon. Granted, the stimulus package and racism encompass much larger issues that affect more people than the 3 (4?) involved in this incident, but the victims of that story are who my heart goes out to first.

Sorry about going on so much, and thank you if you made it this far.

*bangs head repeatedly on table* I'm always amazed at the ability of people who aren't the target of racism and other forms of discrimination to dismiss any form of it that isn't blatant and obvious. I don't believe for a moment that this "slipped past" the editors. I think they knew damn well that many people would look at this and go "of course they couldn't have meant that." It's code, like the phrase "states rights." It's a wink wink nudge nudge to people who are racist, who will see the ape as Obama because that's how they see all black people. But it's ambiguous enough that the people involved can play innocent. Please please try and understand this: racist whites, in the south, in the midwest, looked at this and saw Obama. They saw Obama with bullet holes in his chest and they understood that it was supposed to be funny. Just because you didn't see that didn't mean that those predisposed to think this way didn't.

The first rule of comedy - if you have to analyze it, it's not funny.

Now, if I were to say that my Blog-mom always said, "Comments was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get," most commenters wouldn't be offended.

But if I added "Racist is as racist does," did I mean to imply that some literate, intelligent, well-meaning commenter was stupid, or a racist (you know who you are)? Or did I simply mean that I thought the cartoon in question was racist, or stupid?

Trying to separate this cartoon from centuries of derogatory and inflammatory imagery seems to me to be a futile attempt to wrest an irrelevant and undeserved presumption of innocence from the jaws of political correctness.

Watching the clowns at the Post bend over backwards to try to almost, but not quite entirely, apologize for publishing this offensive and tasteless piece of crap - priceless.

Good god, people. It's not even unclear. It's not a bad cartoon. These one-panelers are never laugh out loud funny. They all kind of suck. Replace "Stimulus Package" with "Michael Bay scripts", and you'll see what I mean. It clearly becomes a reference to the chimp incident and a commentary on how ridiculous said scripts are. If you don't know about the chimp incident or Michael Bay then you don't get the joke.

The idea that it didn't occur to the cartoonist actually implies he's less racist than everyone here.

Pretend we don't have a black president, which you people apparently cannot forget for three seconds, which says some things about all of you. Have the chimp incident fresh in your mind, then look at the cartoon.

Oh, Doug, Doug, Doug. . . Is this a failed straw-man-alogy?

Context is everything. Michael Bay is neither black, nor the POTUS. Let's take your "Michael Bay script" example and instead try these on for size. Replace "stimulus package" with:

"Spike Lee script"
"Tupac album"
"I have a dream speech"

Did you cringe yet? Pretend you're black yourself; pretend we didn't have a 400 year history of enslaving black Africans and their descendants; pretend Eleanor Roosevelt could fly - what's the point?

I am still left wondering why someone would give a chimpanzee xanax...or tea for that matter!

Also: isn't it interesting that the people who tend to get most fired up about this stuff are either (a) Al Sharpton or (b) white people?

We are sort of psychotic about race in this country, which is totally understandable...but still kind of troubling.

What happened here? My posts have someone else's name on them?!?