On Sensitivity and Censorship

Perhaps we’re too sensitive. Or, we’re not sensitive enough. Likely your perspective on the nation’s collective sensitivity level has influenced your opinion about the now infamous New York Post chimp cartoon. That is, if you have an opinion on it.

On one hand we have the historical references to Blacks (and let’s not forget the Irish) as monkeys or apes. We also have a history of racial profiling and incidents of White policemen shooting and killing Black suspects. New York City, in particular, has had its share of alleged police misconduct involving largely White policemen and Black residents (who have often been guilty of nothing more than being in the wrong area at the wrong time).

On the other hand, we’ve historically used images of monkeys and chimps doing human tasks as satire to imply that any idiot could accomplish those tasks. (Geico put another spin on this with their ads involving cavemen, one step up on the primate chain.) We’ve often referred to members of Congress as idiots (not to mention a certain former President). Also, in the New York metro area (in CT) days before the Post cartoon, police shot a chimp dead. Perhaps the artist only intended to refer to idiot politicians and a dead chimp.

Perhaps. Perhaps he only intended to offend Democrats or liberals or Congressmen and women responsible for the bill, along with the President. Instead of boycotts how about simple conversation?

Our problem is that we like to shoot first and ask questions later. Just like those cops in the cartoon.
What a perfect opportunity to actually talk about this in a civil manner. (By the way, wouldn’t it have been
funny if the guy was actually using racist symbolism to parody racists?) This was an opportunity to discuss
the impact that the cartoon had on people who have been, or whose ancestors have been, referred to as
inferior–as apes or monkeys because of their racial or ethnic background. And let’s not ignore the cartoon’s impact on others who have never been targeted with these racial stereotypes, but are aware of this history.
This was also an opportunity to discuss the artist’s intentions. Perhaps we all would have come away more enlightened. Education should always
be preferable to censorship.

SJI

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