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Emil Wilbekin Headshot

The Dark Side of Parody

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Parody is defined as "any humorous, satirical or burlesque imitation as of a person or event." It is also characterized as "a poor or feeble imitation or travesty." So when I heard the New York Post's statement regarding the cartoon depicting a gunned down chimpanzee with a police officer stating "We'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill" as a parody, I think the latter definition is apropos.

Plain and simple, Black folks don't like to be compared to animals...especially nonhuman primate mammals. We have historically have had bad experiences with being called and treated like monkeys. You think of African royalty and warriors captured in their homeland by colonialist and shackled and chained like beast. Or Saarijite Baartman aka The Hottentot Venus, a Khosian woman from South African who is 1810 was taken to England and France where her naked body was put on display like a circus animal.

African Americans are not overreacting to the New York Post cartoon by Sean Delonas that clearly makes reference to the actor/pet chimp in Stamford, Conn. that severely mauled its owner and was killed by police. The illustration also subtly points to Barack Obama as the dead chimpanzee. I am confused by the Post's definition of parody. What does the chimp have to do with the stimulus package?

You see parody has become this masking of what seems to be racism. And when we have the first African American President of the United States who is used as the butt of the joke (excuse me, parody) my heart sinks. My parents participated in non-violent protest in the '60s and here I am 40 years later still suffering from the psychological abuse of discrimination and racial insensitivity. If it offends me, I am allowed to be offended.

As a black man, when I see that cartoon, I think of Amadu Diallo and Sean Bell being gunned down in a hail of bullets. I think of basketball star LeBron James growling on the cover Vogue magazine with Giselle Bundchen -- a parody of King Kong perhaps. It conjures up my discomfort of Robert Downey Jr. in black face in the recent movie "Tropic Thunder" and older images of Al Jolson singing "Mammy" in 1930.

My point here is this: I am disturbed and tired of this type of "parody." It's Black History Month and Barack Obama is the leader of this country, yet, I have to swallow imagery of an Obama monkey sock doll or a New Yorker cover depicting Obama as a Muslim terrorist. When is enough, enough or is this a parody of Liberal equality?