While I do not believe like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson that the white man is the cause of all of the black man’s problems, it must be acknowledged that we do have a race history. Part of that race history is the depiction of blacks as monkey’s, apes, and gorillas so the cartoonist’s denial and subsequent refusal to accept that fact does not pass the smell test. I was watching the Chris Matthews show last night and my favorite Republican apologist and white defender Ron Christie was on and in rare form. If this was still during slavery times Mr. Christie would be a casualty not by white slave owners but by other blacks as a collaborator and house Negro. Everyone has the right to join whatever Party and support whatever agenda they choose to, but no one has the right to change or ignore facts. When asked by Chris Matthews about the history of blacks being depicted as apes being a historical fact Mr. Christie denied that it was an historical fact. It is this distortion of the facts that keeps us as Americans from proceeding with the necessary national conversation concerning race.
Mr. Christie represents the most despicable of blacks in America, while he is more palpable to whites he does not represent the true feelings and concerns of blacks and this makes him dangerous. He is dangerous in that he creates a false sense of security for white Americans. No matter how outrageous the behavior or how grave the slight Mr. Christie will just smile and pretend that no ill will was intended. Not only will he accept the behavior but will often times justify or excuse the behavior and will attack other blacks who may be outraged by the behavior as being racists. Mr. Christie reminds me of the black man who when the Klan came to his house to burn a cross remarked that the neighborhood welcome wagon had arrived and they were kind enough to bring their own lighting. Unless we are willing to discuss these types of events honestly and be able to express the historic significance of them we will remain a nation of cowards and our racial divisions will continue. Our fear is that by speaking openly and confronting these issues we will be ridiculed, labeled racists, or subject to hostility and the truth is initially there will be those who respond in these ways. However, our fears must not prevent us from having a conversation that is long overdue. We might be surprised at how many of us share similar views once the shouting subsides.
Mr. Christie made a statement that illustrates to me the crux of many of our misconceptions. He spoke of a racially blind society which on the surface may seem benevolent to the issue of race in America. The truth is that it is patently false and unrealistic. Race unlike religion or many other differences we hold is apparent upon seeing someone or in some cases upon reading someone’s name. So the idea of a colorblind society is ludicrous and not what most blacks want. We don’t want a colorblind society, we want a color-neutral society where we celebrate our differences but we do not allow those differences to color our judgment of one another. It should be ok to be different and not be penalized for it.
The problem with the cartoon is that it plays on the historical prejudices that still remain deep in the psyche of America. Also, it made no sense logically. A cartoon is not the type of media that should require an explanation and I believe the cartoonist knew that. It isn’t like Mr. Delonas is a stranger to comic symbolism. He has previously been called to task for other drawings that depict prejudice against other groups and individuals. I have no problem with the cartoon myself because to those who view and accept the racial connotations of the cartoon I have no rational conversation with anyway. I am never going to be able to reach out to them in any substantive way. To those who recognize its racist depiction then it does not appeal to them as well.
While I understand sometimes the need for controversy to stimulate dialog this cartoon and its hidden meaning do not rise to the occasion. If the artist had been willing to acknowledge its true intent then we would have a basis for conversation, a starting point; albeit a sick one but one none the less. By continuing to couch our true feelings in innuendo and false metaphors we only persist in feeding our insecurities. Racism has always thrived in secrecy and until we remove the cloak that protects it we will never be able to uncover and eradicate it.