Time to draw the line on offensive cartoons

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In the so-called grown up, mature world of politics, you are nobody until somebody has made fun of you in a political cartoon. President Barack Obama is no exception.

In the so-called grown up, mature world of politics, you are nobody until somebody has made fun of you in a political cartoon. President Barack Obama is no exception.

By now, we have grown accustomed to caricatures of our president with oversized ears, an elongated face and a whimsical expression. But a cartoon in the New York Post widely interpreted as likening the president to a chimpanzee went too far, in my opinion.

I found the cartoon both offensive and frightening. At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My mind went back to early depictions in film of African Americans as savages with bulging eyes and exaggerated lips steppin’ and fetchin’. Even worse was another thought that popped into my head: “Had the cartoonist intended to bring to mind the image of a slain president?” That one gave me the chills.

To say that the cartoon was in poor taste is an understatement: Two police officers with a smoking gun standing near the body of a bullet-riddled chimpanzee remarked, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus.” The cops versus chimpanzee scenario referred to a national news story about police shooting to death a chimpanzee kept as a house pet that had viciously attacked a woman.

The New York Post issued a hollow apology last week that only made matters worse. In numerous commentaries slamming the cartoon, writers have been asking the question that’s on everybody’s minds: Was the chimp supposed to symbolize Obama?

But what I want to know is whether it occurred to the editors who approved the cartoon that people would be offended by it. Did they care one way or another? Was it their intention to offend? Or were they simply conducting an experiment to see if they could get away with likening African Americans to apes again now that we have a Black president?

Well, it’s not okay. I’m not saying that editorial cartoonists, Jay Leno, David Letterman or anyone capable of a good one-liner cannot make fun of Obama or any other Black public figure. I fully expect there will be an endless stream of negative, goofy, ornery and onerous images of our first Black president in the coming months and years.

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