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Archive for February 19th, 2009

So how about that New York Post chimpanzee cartoon? There’s plenty of insightful commentary lighting up the blogosphere on it today. But, in my usual self-serving manner, I’ll point you to the current post at UrbanFaith.com (with an assist from Sojo.net) for a nice overview/perspective piece on the controversy.

The debate over whether the cartoon was just boneheaded insensitivity or blatant racism is something that will continue as long as there’s such a thing as monocultural editorial teams (wasn’t there anyone in that NY Post newsroom to raise a caution flag?) and monophonic civil rights activitsts (Al Sharpton leads the charge again). But, as a journalist, one of the most interesting aspects of the controversy for me is the ethical questions it raises for the media and other communication leaders. For an exploration of that dimension, I think Steve Myers and Mallary Tenore’s report at Poynter Online is excellent. In it, Ted Rall, president of the Association of American Cartoonists, won’t label the chimp cartoon as racist, but he does call it a “misfire.” From the article:

The flap over this cartoon does illustrate the difficulty editorial cartoonists, who are generally white men in their 50s, have in dealing with race, Rall said. As for African-American cartoonists, “as far as I know, there’s only one or two working in the entire country.”

If you’re like me, you’re probably weary of this type of thing. It seems every couple months there’s a new brouhaha, whether it’s Obama Waffles or LeBron James on the cover of Vogue.

From my perspective, the question should be: Will we use these incidents to start constructive conversations about race, culture, and understanding (the kind I believe Attorney General Eric Holder was attempting to get at yesterday), or will we use them as justification for our hostility and as vehicles for our continued separation?

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