02/19/2009 11:17 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Cartoon and Trafficking in Racial Symbolism

I'm a fan of political cartoons and political satire. When well done, they can humorously humble those overrun with hubris, subvert stodgy convention, and speak truth to power. I understand satire can sometimes be harsh and be painful to some. But Sean Delonas' cartoon that recently ran in the New York Post -- with two policemen standing over a prostrate chimpanzee sporting two bullet holes and leaking blood under a caption "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill" -- doesn't meet any reasonable satire test. Indeed, the vile cartoon continues the degradation of our political discourse that has gone on too long. The difference here, however, is that it adds a heaping helping of racial symbolism to the mix.

The imagery of this cartoon is foul on at least two levels. First, the truth of police brutality is real in the black community and there are more than a few examples of police killing black people. Second, is the centuries-old degrading device of referring to black people as monkeys. It cannot be said that monkey in the cartoon refers to anyone else but President Barack Obama. This cartoon isn't referring to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, or anyone else involved in it's passage. It's Obama's bill.

It's appropriate and necessary for the Right to oppose Obama on policy differences. That's the primary role of the loyal opposition. It's absolutely out of bounds to traffic in racism to give voice to that opposition. This is no small point. Obama's supporters must understand that if the Right is allowed to push this garbage with impunity, its volume will only increase. The Constitution offers us many guarantees, even those that make us cringe and angry. Those guarantees should be protected at all costs. But that doesn't mean those who promote racial symbolism should be able to do so in comfort.

I believe that there should be a place in our society for vigorous political debate; it's helps to make a society strong. I also believe that it would be a mistake to have media that comprehensively sings the virtues of any political, social, or cultural leader. But it's at least as dangerous to have a media, particularly a venue as powerful as the New York Post, that proffers racial imagery to attack those with which they disagree.

Delonas and the New York Post have hidden behind the horrific details of an event in Connecticut to traffic in racist imagery and gratuitous violence in the name of parody. This is cowardly and they should not be allowed to escape public scorn and ridicule. The aid and comfort they provide to those that have yet to make peace with the fact that the United States of America has a Black President should be met with the unified voices of reason. Make your voice heard:

Michael K. Fauntroy
is a professor, author, columnist, and commentator who blogs at