February 19, 2009

Tedious Tone Deafness in Black & White

White folks and black folks got a simultaneous poke in the eye today. In this corner, working white folks nerves direct from the White House, its Errricccc Holder! Newly minted Attorney General of the United States and the first black American to hold the post, Holder rendered the following opinion today in remarks at the Justice Department on the occasion of Black History Month.

Holder's points regarding how America remains very segregated in a variety of ways and that we still struggle to candidly and intelligently dialogue about this very volatile issue are reasoned enough points of view, nothing particularly objectionable about them. But his choice of phrase "a nation of cowards" was simply tone deaf ham fisted oratory on display. Its more than understandable that white Americans having just elected a black president by a margin of 192 EVs might find such language very rough on their sensibilities. His intended point is valid enough, that we avoid talking about race. Its true, we do avoid truly in depth conversation or grappling with the issue. But dogging out Americans as cowards because of that historical sensitivity is simply tone deaf from the first black Attorney General. Such language is above his pay grade. Maybe Obama can get away with that, but Holder should be more circumspect with his language.

In the opposite corner, we have cartoonist Seeeaaaan(Sean) Delonas and his employer, the New York Post, who printed a cartoon that accomplished a similar feat of tone deaf ham fistedness. The cartoon shows a police officer, after his colleague just shot dead a chimpanzee, saying, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

Sean Delonas' Cartoons

Gov. David A. Paterson and the Rev. Al Sharpton criticized the New York Post for printing a cartoon they said portrays President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee. The cartoonist denies any such intent to portrary Obama as a monkey and the New York Post Post editor Col Allan issued a statement Wednesday that said "The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit, the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy," he said

Well sure, of course it does. I totally get that, I really do. But, you know, it also basically portrays Obama as a monkey. I don't think thats what they intended to do, I think they honestly were riffing on the chimpanzee attack story, but the fact that a person on the street would look at that and think the monkey was Obama, should not have been lost on the cartoonist and certainly not the editor. It's tone deafness and if neither the cartoonist nor the editor saw that coming, then they are culturally stupid.

The silver lining in all this casually obtuse offensiveness and insensitivity? Like offsetting penalties, they cancel each other out.