Political cartoons have been a unique part of American history. Last week, a cartoonist for the New York Post walked a tight rope that has drawn national attention.
Sean Delonas illustrated two current events together, one being the chimpanzee attack in Stamford, Conn. and the other, the recently- approved economic stimulus package.
As you may have seen, a picture tells a thousand words. The cartoon shows two police officers with their weapons drawn and a recently shotdead monkey, with one cop commenting, “They’ll have to find someone else to write our next stimulus bill.”
What would possess a person to have that published? This picture draws a fine line between racism and a political ploy. During an economic crisis like the one this country is facing today combined with an unfortunate wild animal attack could there be a real message behind this illustration.
The newspaper has stood by the columnist entirely. They even went as far as calling out the outspoken African-American activist Al Sharpton who was outraged by this cartoon. The fact that Mr. Obama is part African- American and is the President of this country spells out public backlash – all they had to do was compare him to a monkey and mention his stimulus package.
This controversy has raised new questions of racism in our world. The media is a very powerful tool and when people say or draw whatever they want it can be dangerous. People are going to have their own opinions and interpretations, but linking the President of the United States to his ethnic background in a derogatory way is indeed one shot too many, even if it wasn’t intentional. A dark cloud will certainly loom over the head of this cartoonist because of his lack of judgment and inability to relate to current events in an appropriate way.
His defense was that Congress is on a wild spending spree, and it has become an animal that has gone out of control. It does relate exactly to the mauling by a chimpanzee in Connecticut, but that doesn’t make it justified. In a nation that has overcome the extremes of segregation and Jim Crow laws, no one in their right mind should draw the comparisons in such a manner that was done last Wednesday.
Obviously the right decision wasn’t made and the public has been critical in a lot of ways. The satirical approach to political cartons has been deeply diminished over time. There have been wide debates on this issue and the involvement of race relations in itself is a risk.
The repercussions of this drawing are yet to be seen. Whatever they are, they can’t change the damage already done. This cartoon has offended a wide variety of people on many different levels. Hopefully this will be a lesson learned in moving forward.
Whether you’re a freelance writer, cartoonist, a professional or citizen journalist, always think about the content of the words and pictures intended for publication. The challenges and problems facing this country are real.
There’s no need for cartoonists to put in their two cents in a way that is sure to spark outrage.
-Dan Dinunzio, Special to The Recorder