In recent weeks white political cartoonists have created controversy in ways they most likely did not intend, mostly because they did not seem to have much awareness of the racist implications of the images they were using. Two of the most controversial are included within this cartoon. Exhibit A is "Post-Racial America" by David Cohen, who likens President Obama's inclusion of salary caps on executive pay in the bail-out legislation to a generic black criminal mugging a white guy. Please note the same white guy appears in both panels of this strip. After pissing people off, Cohen has since taken his cartoon down from the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists site, but you can still see it full size at PopeHat, which gave him their Second Golden Asshat Award
Exhibit B by Sean Delonas drew the ire of none other than the Rev. Al Sharpton, mostly because it was in the New York Post (Cohen's paper, the Asheville Citizen Times refused to run his cartoon.) Here Delonas was making a cheap gag about the unpopularity of the stimulus package and the recent sad, but weird news of police shooting a pet chimp. This is a very common political cartoonist technique: take one part current event (gas prices, mortgage crisis), add a dollop of random trivia (a popular movie, a celebrity scandal), and — voila! — instant political comedy. Well, actually, no. It is rarely ever funny, but mainstream political cartoonists do it in their sleep (or so it seems.) This time one of them stepped in it. Here's Sharpton's criticism:
"The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this when in the cartoon they have police saying after shooting a chimpanzee that "Now they will have to find someone else to write the stimulus bill."
"Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama (the first African American president) and has become synonymous with him it is not a reach to wonder are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?"
I should note that there is no consensus opinion among political cartoonists about how to interpret Delonas' cartoon — certainly not at the Daily Cartoonist
. Most agree that it is total hack-work, but whether the racist implications of ape imagery to Obama's sponsorship of the legislation really hold is another matter. I think Delonas' intent is irrelevant here, because readers cannot see inside his mind, they can only interpret what appears on the page. If he is sloppy and they are offended, then the responsibility still rests on his shoulders.
(Total aside here: despite calling his cartoon "hack-work" I really like his ape drawing. Poor little critter.)