The Racist Chimpanzee

On Wednesday, February 18, 2009, the New York Post published a cartoon by the famed cartoonist Sean Delonas showing two police officers, one with a smoking gun, standing over the presumably lifeless body of a bullet-riddled chimpanzee. The cartoon appears both on the New York Post website and on page 12 of the Wednesday edition of the paper.

Sean Delonas' Dead Chimp Cartoon from the NY Post
Now they will have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill

Delonas’ cartoon immediately sparked outrage from the Black community and many Liberals. The cartoon was denounced as being horribly racist because it portrayed President Obama as an ape and because it showed White policemen with firearms.

Alright – I can accept that the Black community and US law enforcement have long had an adversarial relationship and that depictions of a “shooting situation” involve White police officers might incite nervousness and anger among some of them. I can also appreciate that Blacks were depicted as being less than men for a long time and that various simian comparisons were prevalent in previous years.

The problem is that President Obama wasn’t depicted or mentioned in the cartoon, nor did President Obama write the abomination that is commonly called the Stimulus Bill. Congressional Democrats – almost all of whom are White – wrote that particular piece of legislation, and it’s been publicized enough that few people in America would believe otherwise.

I often find myself comparing Congress to a yammering pack of monkeys who spend their days screeching and throwing feces at each other and at anyone else who is nearby.

So what has happened is that the people who congratulated themselves on electing America’s First Black President saw some imagery that could – with a change or twist in context – be taken as racist and they got very, very upset. This is what happens when people define a political candidate by his race; it allows people to project their own racial sensitivities upon that person and re-frame any direct or implied criticism of that individual as a racist attack.

Of course the President of the United States has already been specifically portrayed as a chimpanzee and as other things that are equally insulting and hurtful in their own ways.

That was OK though, as was developing a cottage industry marketing tee-shirts, mugs, posters, and other items that visually insulted or defamed President George W. Bush. There was little or no outcry over that behavior – certainly none from the Liberals or Blacks.

Was Sean Delonas’ cartoon particularly funny? No, I didn’t think so. It was a cheap and overly contrived blending of two headlines stories, the recent chimpanzee attack and the Stimulus. It has become significant though because it highlights the lingering rage, bitterness, and insecurity of America’s Blacks, as well as the Liberals eagerness to paint any dissent from President Obama’s agenda as being racist.

By the current imposed standard I’m sure that the NY Post’s current (Thursday, February 19, 2009) lead story will draw even more outrage than Delonas’ cartoon has done.

Pri-Mates - The Happy Couple: Bizarre Love of Gal and Ape
Pri-Mates – The Happy Couple: Bizarre Love of Gal and Ape

I’m sure the overtones of bestiality combined with the imagery of a chimpanzee and a White woman must be setting off all sorts of painful race memories about the Jim Crow laws…

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12 Responses to “The Racist Chimpanzee”

  1. Mason Says:

    The difference between this comic and other depictions of President Bush as ape-ish is that the comics of Bush were attacking his intelligence. This comic clearly has only one item in its eye-sight and that is of President Obama’s race. To say that there’s no mention of his name is pointless. It’s beyond implied. Also, while it is true that Congress did pass the legislation, it started from President Obama’s ideas and he ended up signing it into law, so I think if you asked any random people on the street, they would equate the giant stimulus bill more to President Obama than, say, to Nancy Pelosi.

    This isn’t a “liberal” issue. This is exactly the kind of racial issues we still have in this country that people still push under the rug. The people who have defined our president as a race are the ones creating this comics and publishing them in mainstream, reputable news sources. You can’t compare that to the “Bushitler” that some jerk made with Photoshop and got some attention on the Internet as being the same thing. You can find disparaging photos and words on everyone on the Internet. But having it published in the New York Post is entirely different.

  2. jonolan Says:

    “You can find disparaging photos and words on everyone on the Internet. But having it published in the New York Post is entirely different.”

    Yes, it’s much like having it printed in The National Inquirer. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And no, the ones defining Obama by his race – and nearly solely so – are the ones who have been crowing and congratulating themselves on his election. The one consistent meme of Obama’s election was that “America elected a Black POTUS…” and those are same people most stridently denouncing this cartoon.

    You know, if you look really hard for it, you can find racism or sexism or whatever-ism in just about anything.

    But that’s OK. America’s still somewhat adheres to 1st Amendment, so you can be as upset and vocal about that upset as you like.

  3. theNimrod Says:

    Mason –

    The the fact that some people are unaware that the bill was written in Congress does not mean that the author of this cartoon is a racist. You buffoon.

    And besides, that monkey looks much more like Pelosi than Obama. Wake up.

  4. jonolan Says:


    While I agree with your sentiment about the cartoon, let’s try to remain a bit more civil, please.

    I completely understand how infuriating race-baiting is, but insults between commenters isn’t going to solve anything or lead to reasoned discourse.

    Since this is Black History Month, let us instead fall back on the words of a great man of color who rose above such things:

    There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.

    — Booker T. Washington

    It is wise and good to both remember and remind others that people are not a monolithic block. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. deb Says:

    i am one of those white liberals who is offended by this cartoon for several reasons–first–(and i guess you mostly agree with this)–let me just talk about the simple fact that this “famed cartoonist” is simply not funny, or even slightly amusing but i also have no idea what the relationship is supposed to be between these 2 news stories–did you get that? am i just a bit dense?

    so, i don’t define obama by his race-tho you have to give me that he is a black man–i do define him as being a thoughtful, highly intelligent, strong leader who knows when to ask the experts for input (i realize that you may disagree with that)…anyway–obama has clearly been portrayed by the media and most importantly said himself that he is responsible for this bill (whether it helps or not) it includes everything he said he wanted with the addition of the concessions he made re: taxes even tho a huge majority of the top economists on both sides of the aisle (with whom he consulted among other top people in their field who might have input based on their specific knowledge in relevant areas) they all said that cutting taxes has a mild stimulative effect–that (unfortunately in terms of future problems it can create) that right now to keep our economy from continuing to spiral down–spending is what is needed–and bcse things are so bad–a lot of spending (in fact there are some economists on both sides who have said it’s not enuf)…anyway–i digress–the point is–it is his bill…

    perhaps this cartoonist is not overtly racist–may not even think he is–actually what is most disturbing to me is that i think many people have thoughts, images and ideas that they may not even be aware of themselves–i can deal with the david dukes of the world–racism is out in the open–you know what to expect –they are predictable…

    ok, so when you throw in the recent news story of the white police officer shooting a black male as he was restrained by other officers–well, perhaps that may be in the mind of people now –and as you say yourself (well, sort of)–there is a long sad history of white police harming black males when there is no threat to them at the time…then throw in the fact that there were so many death threats against obama that he needed secret service protection much earlier than any other candidate ever and he needed more of them (i have to assume that the secret service would only do something like that if they felt the threats and danger were real)

    and as you also speak to–there is a very long sad history of black people being thought of and treated as less than human (and a very common image is that of monkeys, apes etc –wild and dangerous primates–you know the animals who came before us civilized folks)

    i grew up in the deep south in the 60’s and 70’s and witnessed overt and at times brutal racism (not that it was limited to the south)–a lot of black folks being treated as less than human in so many ways–and you know “milder” stuff like restaurants still around that wouldn’t serve black people and for instance, ( long after the civil rights act) schools still not integrated–not because of the fight over busing…at my school–these were kids who lived a few blocks away from me (you know–the “wrong side of the tracks” tho there weren’t actually tracks–just a street that most white folks didn’t venture beyond–of course no black folks came over to “our” side either–hmmm, wonder why?) anyway–stuff like that–it was real and it had a huge impact on me–maybe i’m like those black folks who just can’t let the past go–i don’t think i’m looking for sympathy or worried about losing my job–it’s just branded in my memory and i still feel pain when i see things that bring up those memories…(i know that’s my “problem”)

    i don’t look for racism or sexism or ageism or other “isms” everywhere–i just happen to see it when it’s clearly there–whether people who exibit it are aware of their feelings or in this paticular instance it was then up to the editor(s) to not run it if they care about their image–i’m all for free speech–just expect to be judged by what you say and do… perhaps when you get feedback that many people are upset- to even go so far as to maybe apologize for the “unintended effect” or at the very least to not verbally attack, insult or blame people who call you on it…

    reflections from…me–i hope this doesn’t sound uncivil –i don’t mean it to be–just a thought…but perhaps if your reflections were from a bit clearer pond you might be able to see a little more beneath the surface…

  6. jonolan Says:


    Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems that you’re saying that since certain images are trapped in your mind and associated with strongly negative memories, you will always see those images in a certain manner and with a certain connotation. The chimp image being one of those cognates.

    OK, I can understand and sympathize with that. Psychological triggers are prevalent and hard to overcome.

    My question is why should anyone else care? If we don’t have those triggers lurking in our minds, we’re not going to be affected by them. Should we have to analyze every word and image to ensure that nobody is offended or upset? How long and how far must we as a society cater to such sensitivities that are grounded in the past, a past separated from today by a over full generation in this particular case?

    Sometimes a chimp is just a chimp – to most people.

    BTW: The stretched and contrived link between the mad chimp and the Stimulus is the old yarn about how 10,000 monkeys with 10,00 typewriters would eventually write Hamlet due to random chance. That and call-backs to how many times in American history that Congress has been referred to as baboons.

    Also: That was very poetic reference at the end of your comment. I liked it a lot. I must reply though that clarity comes more often from narrow vision and small-mindedness than from wisdom or experience.

  7. zhann Says:

    Jonolan, I have to agree with you here. Personally, when I saw this cartoon I simply found it funny and moved on. My first thought was the poor chimp that bit some lady. It wasn’t until I heard the cry of racism that I looked at it and thought, “Are they calling Obama a chimp?” I may be a bit more open minded than most, but I still think that if people stop searching for racism, it will die out more quickly.

    Those that find it Racist have a valid point, when looking at the image with racist glasses it is easy to see the relation. While on the one hand the New York Post should have been more carefuly, on the other people should learn to let things go quicker. The fact that such a big stink was raised brought much more attention than is necessary. Bad Advertising is often the best advertising.

    … you know, this may have been a well thought out move by the Post. What better way to drive the New York Post into people’s minds? Print a racist article, then call racism on yourself using different chanels. Brilliant!

  8. The White Guy | Reflections From a Murky Pond Says:

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  9. Deb Says:

    hey jonolan–i appreciate your thoughtful and respectful response from way back–i realize it’s been a long time and all this is long over–i actually have never responded in a blog and in fact rarely go to any–i ended up here by a mistake clicking on this link instead of the one (maybe right below it?) that i meant to go to– you should know that you’re popular enuf to show up as a “related” link on at least one pro-obama page on squidoo–that’s pretty cool/interesting–anyway–so i really don’t have time to do this stuff even tho i think i would enjoy it–
    –i did just want to respond this one more time (and then i’m really letting it go) bcse i do appreciate your response and understand most of it–one thing i have to question is your question: why should anyone else care about other’s psychological triggers? well, maybe just when it’s such a huge group of people that this clearly affected–not just a few people with their own issues–of course you can’t worry about every little thing–but it does just seem that when it does affect such a large gruop that maybe it would be helpful/perhaps educational/interesting/perhaps being more thoughtful about the world around us etc to care–to listen–to think about or consider…that’s all…good luck continuing with your obvious sucess…deb

  10. thekillerj Says:

    I’m glad I found your blog! You have an interesting, stream-of-consciousness style I like, and you’re views are spot on. I found you by clicking on your name on my buddy’s blog, whom you were vehemently arguing with about Jimmy Carter.

    In any case, the idea that people finding racism in that cartoon is based off their own racist projections is spot on. Good on you.

  11. jonolan Says:

    Welcome, thekillerj. I’m glad you enjoyed my ramblings.

    Yes, it’s sad that people are so caught up in their age, bitterness, and insecurity that, if a statement or image can be construed as racist, then they will do so. It’s even sadder that there are individuals like Sharpton, Wright, and Jackson who will capitalize on this for their own less than savory purposes.

    The worst though is that there are many on the Left who agree with them and seek to have all of us carefully analyze our every word and deed – they’re trying for thought as well – to make sure it doesn’t in any way offend any minority or special interest group.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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