On Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Cleveland edition of the Call & Post, a weekly newspaper with a largely black readership, published a front page, above the fold editorial criticizing Ohio State Senator Nina Turner for her recent support for Issue 6, which called for county government reform with an elected county executive. As the only black elected official who strongly supported Issue 6 rather than Issue 5 which proposed a committee to conduct a year-long study of county reform, the Call & Post depicted Ms. Turner as Aunt Jemima professing "I be's da new leader," in the editorial's accompanying cartoon.
The Plain Dealer, along with several civic and faith-based groups, has criticized the Call & Post for the cartoon since it was published last week. A Facebook page, We Demand Apology for Call & Post Aunt Jemima Editorial, garnered over 500 joiners during the first 24 hours. Yet, the newspaper stands by the editorial cartoon criticizing the Plain Dealer for "haven taken this shot across the bow with a fellow publication." The Call & Post recent editorial backs its stand and makes no mention of its other critics -- namely the United Pastors in Mission, an ecumenical group of predominately black congregations, and several black city councilmen along with many community and business leaders.
The Call & Post is confused on the issue. They can editorialize all they want about Ms. Turner's position on Issue 6, but there should be no confusion that Aunt Jemima is a derogatory, demeaning label of racism and sexism. There was no confusion that Aunt Jemima was a racial stereotype when a similar cartoon was published (and later apologized for) by The Plain Dealer in 1989. George Forbes, now President of the Cleveland Chapter of the NAACP and legal adviser to the Call & Post, was then a mayoral candidate. Now confused about the cartoon's use as racist, George Forbes holds both the paper and the local chapter of the NAACP hostage in denouncing the racial slur. Let's not confuse politics, freedom of speech, the black agenda, the education of the 50,000 black school children, black leadership in Cleveland or the election of the new county executive with racial stereotyping. The caricature "Aunt Jemima" is a demoralizing and demeaning racial and gender stereotype and its use distracts from these important issues and possible solutions. The Call & Post and George Forbes should not be confused about that.
What is certain is that State Senator Nina Turner is not confused about who she is or what she stands for and her position on Issue 6 was very clear from the jump start. That deserves respect. It is beyond disappointment that a black newspaper is not the representative voice of all black people and that the leadership of the local NAACP remains silent on this unprincipled depiction of a black leader. Moving forward, we must demand civility in our debates to move our communities toward inclusion and not be confused about racism and sexism even when the source purports to speak for black people and positions oneself as a leader of the black community.
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