Are We Really in a Post-Racial America?



            The unity that existed after President Barack Obama’s historic election has seemed to hit a reality check.  The notion of a post-racial America sounded good, but the reality that America is far from overcoming its turbulent racial history became very apparent with the recent New York Post cartoon by artist Sean Delonas that depicts a dead chimpanzee with a quote stating, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

            Understandably, many Americans, Black and White, were outraged with the New York Post cartoon because of the fact that America has long caricatured Blacks to resemble monkeys.  Furthermore, comparing the dead chimpanzee to Obama also brought up fears that the first Black president’s life could be at danger during his presidency.

            Despite the initial backlash, the paper stood by its cartoon and the artist, criticizing activists such as Rev. Al Sharpton for seeking the limelight and not equality.  “The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut,” said Col Allen, editor of the New York Post.  “It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy.  Again Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.”

            However, after organizations such as the NAACP vowed to boycott the paper’s many advertisers such as Bank of America, Capitol One Bank and Bloomingdale’s Department Store, the paper did an about-face and apologized to those offended by the New York Post cartoon.

            My question is why should logical thinking Americans accept this apology?  Time after time bigoted comments are made against minorities and the apologies only come when the bigots fear they will lose money.  From Don Imus to the New York Post cartoon, contrition only surfaces when the loss of a contract seems imminent.

            Complaints from all over the country did nothing to make the paper apologize for the distasteful image.  A New York Post employee who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Every (phone) line was lit up for several hours.  The phones on the city desk have never rang like that before.”

            Nevertheless, the editor maintained that the New York Post cartoon was a jab at everyone in Washington and not just Obama until everyone from Steve Harvey, Michael Baisden and even White radio show hosts from Air America Media supported the boycott.

What Americans must realize, is that America has always had a turbulent history with race relations, and unfortunately it always will.  Despite Obama’s historic election, many in this country will always only see him for the color of his skin and not the content of his character. 

After his election victory over Senator John McCain many questioned the need for racial distinctions in a “post-racial America.”  Many questioned the need for Black History Month, the Voting Rights Act and anything else that mentioned race or ethnicity.  Some saw it as a clear indication that we had achieved equality. 

The truth is, despite his election victory, many Americans said they refused to vote for Obama simply because he is Black.  That revelation, no matter how historic the victory, reveals that America still has a problem with race as illustrated in the New York Post cartoon.

What makes it worse is that during President George W. Bush’s first term, anyone who criticized his decision-making was branded as unpatriotic, and entertainers like Whoopi Goldberg and the Dixie Checks lost millions in endorsements for voicing their opinion.  The fact that during Obama’s presidency one could compare him to a chimpanzee and joke about someone actually assassinating him is totally reprehensible and shows that his treatment compared to other presidents is unequal, so how can equality exist for other people of color if that respect is not even given to the leader of the free world.

Simply put America has a problem.  And anyone who has seen someone struggle with problems such as drug or alcohol addiction knows that the first step to solving the problem is admitting you have one.  And although many believed that no racial problems exist in this country, the New York Post cartoon is a harsh reminder that some problems are more difficult to solve than we ever imagined.

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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