Barack Obama is the second president in a row frequently compared to a monkey. It‘d be accurate to say most people have seen the images of former President George Bush being compared to a variety of primates. It was always comical because his facial reactions did really closely resemble those of the apes and chimps he was being compared to. Lefty or Righty, you gotta admit it.
What‘s not comical is the New York Post political cartoon of a monkey shot to death by two policemen, one remarking, “They‘ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.“ The cartoonist alleges that he was making reference to the chimpanzee Travis that tried to maul a woman’s face off and ended up being shot to death by police last week.
Which of these did you think of first: Obama, the unofficial author and force behind the stimulus bill was being shot, or that the cartoonist was trying to say the bill was poorly written, a la the chimp reference?
During Obama‘s presidency campaign there have been some monkey comparisons. But the depiction of President Obama as an ape, specifically in last week‘s cartoon, is significantly different than any of the Bush/Monkey facial expression similarities. Actually, there is something immediately disturbing about having President Obama compared to a dead monkey.
To dispute any argument that there is some sort of double standard going on here, let‘s first consider the following idea: Bush‘s facial expressions in actuality look remarkably like a monkey‘s. It‘s a subjective argument but the “monkey look“ applies more so to him than any other person. I mean, for humans I suppose it is hard not to look somewhat like a monkey, it‘d be like denying having your grandmother‘s eyes, to give a weak analogy.
But the emphasis should be on the fact that Bush is juxtaposed with chimps, gorillas and, occasionally on a good day, even with Curious George, at particular moments in time. Mementos of his confused, angered and smiling face are what so closely resembled the apes; Bush himself was not illustrated as a monkey.
More important is this: Comparison to animals, especially monkeys, has been historically used for the justification of prejudice toward black Americans. Initially, the exploitation of African Americans for slave labor was rationalized by the idea that “Negroes“ were savages. This idea was so accepted by Americans some even used science to “prove“ this theory, again comparing Africans to monkeys. The dehumanization of Africans was so deeply embedded in America‘s mainstream society that clearly even today remnants of its earliest forms still exist.
History is what is of the essence, now. To quote a random woman from Twitter.com: “What a double standard for the liberals to preach that we evolved from apes and then scream when we compare people to them.“ I quote this woman because it really grasps the ideology of the part of the country that might not see the bigger picture.
Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting for desegregation only a little over 50 years ago. Within the generation of some of our grandparents, there was the strong belief that blacks and whites shouldn‘t even integrate! Tell me that the dehumanization from slavery wasn‘t still apparent in the backdrop of society in the mid to late 1950s. That‘s the same generation that is now part of our court systems and basically running shit in Washington.
To get all my controversial fetishes out of the way, Attorney General Eric Holder was quoted last week saying, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.“
He continues: “If we’re going to ever make progress, we’re going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other.“
I agree with Holder in that it‘s very necessary to be able to communicate between races so that ideas such as dead monkeys are understood as inappropriate.
Even if given the benefit of the doubt, the New York Post cartoon is especially dangerous if the author didn’t realize the history he was stirring up.
SARA KOHGADAI thinks our society needs to invoke some change to see some change. Hope midterms are going well. Love, email@example.com.