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19 February 2009


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Sidney O. Smith III

Here’s an interesting hypothetical, at least to me.

Suppose the same cartoonist for the same reasons drew the same cartoon but it first appeared in a newspaper in Evergreen, Alabama.

Would the outcry be the same, less, or more? Would the NY Post crowd offer the same lame excuses about the cartoon (which, imo, is consistent with racist cartoons from the past) or would the editorial staff leap at the chance to describe the cartoon as racist.

If history is an indication, odds certainly exist had the cartoon originated in Evergreen, Alabama, then C. Matthews would have aired his show from Evergreen for the next three weeks. It most certainly would offer movie of the week potential.

And Susan Sherandon or someone of that ilk would lead protests in Los Angeles. Never mind that LA in the early 1990's was the venue of some of the worse race riots in American history -- riots that targeted innocent Korean Americans and left Koreatown looking as if it had been hit with cruise missiles. Speaking of which, will anyone ever apologize to the Korean Americans of Los Angeles? Maybe the US Attorney General has the courage to do so.

So, perhaps, the message of the cartoon goes beyond just racism. It also reflects a very deep dysfunctional dynamic that is part of the American experience -- the inability of at least some Americans to look within and transform themselves first. Instead, they project their racist attitudes onto others.

After all, far easier for a Boston Brahmin to talk about Arkansas than south Boston or Beacon Hill, no?

I don't know if the wbs exacerbated this dynamic (the abolitionist Spooner thought so but I just dunno'). And I am not saying that racism does not exist in the South. Of course it exists. But the cartoon originated in the NY Post and therefore echoes the famous quote from DeTocqueville about race relations in America.


This John McWhorter interview on Bill Moyer's Journal is enlightening:


It made me realize many of us are still fighting the battles from the 60s while the battlefield has moved elsewhere. Sometimes the wisdom of the elders needs to be rejuvenated by the inteligence of youth.

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