NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) – The National Association for Colored People called for demonstrations against media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News television holdings in 50 cities across the United States, to protest his New York Post’s Feb. 18 cartoon that showed two police officers shooting a chimpanzee. A caption read: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”
Critics immediately called the cartoon “racist” saying it compared the president to an ape and that the shooting of the chimp was a call to assassinate President Barack Obama.
The N.Y. Post initially said the cartoon “was meant to mock an ineptly written ‘Stimulus Bill,’ period.”
They claimed the cartoon was a parody on the police shooting of a 200-pound chimpanzee in Stanford, Conn., on Feb. 16 after the pet nearly killed its owner’s friend and attacked a police car.
NAACP chairman Ben Jealous said the protests would be an “NAACP-Post Day of Action.” The call for the national demonstrations, which also came from other outraged Black individuals and groups, came on the same day that the N.Y. Post’s owner, Rupert Murdoch issued his public apology. “The buck stops with me,” he admitted.
“As the chairman of the New York Post, I am ultimately responsible for what is printed in its pages. I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted.” He also said in the statement that after speaking with people, he better understood why the cartoon was considered offensive.
“We will seek to be more attuned to the sensitivities of our community,” Mr. Murdoch said in his statement.
Mr. Jealous said the apology was “too little, too late!” The apology came only after almost a week of tens of thousands of expressions of outrage, observed Mr. Jealous. “The offenders are still on staff and there are no measures to increase diversity in its newsroom,” he said.
The first demonstrations against started the N.Y. Post were led by Rev. Al Sharpton head of the National Action Network, which began the day after the cartoon appeared. For two days Rev. Sharpton, Mr. Jealous, National Urban League chairman Marc Morial, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry and Councilman Charles Barron, filmmaker Spike Lee, Judge Joe Mathis, Dec. 12th Movement founder Viola Plummer and hundreds of angry and vocal activists from all walks of life, who chanted “End racism now.”
Mr. Lee, who was accompanied by his 11-year-old son urged athletes and entertainers not to speak with N.Y. Post reporters.
Protests continued Feb. 25 in New York City and Newark, N.J., as the Newark-based Women in Support of the Million Man March held a demonstration and press conference at their African Cultural Center that was attended by clergy, elected officials and activists.
“We are in solidarity with our brothers and sisters all over the nation,” said the group’s founder Frederica Bey to The Final Call. “We are pushing back hard against the N.Y. Post, calling for a boycott of the paper and its advertisers such as Bank of America, Capital One Bank, Baby Phat Clothing, Citi Bank and HSBC Bank,” Ms. Bey said.
In New York, a cartoonists group held a press conference. “A handful of cartoonists gathered to denounce the N.Y. Post. We need an art and cultural movement in this day and time that fights for jobs and health care; not one that spreads racism,” Tony Murphy, a spokesman for the group, told The Final Call.
Organizations such as Women in Support of the Million Man March and the Dec. 12th joined others in calling for the firing of the editors and the cartoonist and some called for criminal charges to be brought against the paper’s publisher.
The December 12th Movement called publishing the cartoon a “criminal action” under Section 18 of the U.S. Code #871, which says that anyone who knowingly and willfully otherwise makes any such threat against the president, president-elect, vice president and anyone in line to succeed the president “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than five years or both.”
Many others such as Newark political activist, author and playwright Amiri Baraka and musician John Legend have written letters to Mr. Murdoch explaining their outrage and the outrage of countless numbers. “This is the least we can do as we push for a ‘post-racial’ America,” Mr. Baraka said.
“I’m well aware of our country’s history of racism and violence, but I truly believe we are better than this filth,” wrote Mr. Legend. “We don’t need the N.Y. Post to resurrect the images of Jim Crow to deride the new administration and to put Blacks in our place,” he said.
Social scientists and researchers say that dehumanization and animal imagery have been used for centuries to justify violence against oppressed groups. Blacks have particularly been depicted as animals and apes. Black military veterans have told stories of how White soldiers spread the lie that Blacks were animals and had tails that came out after 11 p.m.
Researchers from Stanford Univ. and Penn State Feb. 7 published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology entitled “Not Yet Human: Implicit Knowledge. Historical Dehumanization and Contemporary Consequences,” which noted that while historical depictions of Blacks as ape-like may have disappeared from mainstream U.S. culture many Americans subconsciously associate Blacks with apes.
Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Ph.D., director of the Media Center at the Boston-based Judge Baker Children’s Center and professor of Psychiatry at Harvard’s Medical School, and an expert on race relations told The Final Call the “intention of the cartoonist was profoundly racist and that the harm has been done.”
“Making the N.Y. Post pay for this–that is good–they now know we aren’t accepting this,” Dr. Poussaint stressed.