Cartoon racism highlights continuing prejudice, say Anabaptists

By staff writers
February 27, 2009

An Anabaptist denomination in the USA has said that apologising for a racist cartoon in the New York Post is not enough - the hardline and violent prejudice it embodies has to be tackled.

Church of the Brethren leaders including Annual Conference moderator David Shumate, Mission and Ministry Board chair Edwin H. Edmonds, and COB general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger have issued a statement responding to a cartoon published by the newspaper on 18 February 2009, portraying the image of a dead chimpanzee, shot by police, alongside a reference to the federal government's economic stimulus bill.

"Our concerns center on the cartoon's use of old racist symbolism equating those of African descent with monkeys, and the way it connects that racist symbolism to President Obama, our nation's first African-American president," say the Church leaders.

"We are concerned about the effect of this cartoon personally for people of African descent, and its effect on our society as a whole during a time in which many hope that America is moving beyond its racist past. Our deepest concern, however, is that the cartoon might be interpreted to encourage violence against President Obama and other African-American people.

"Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corporation, which owns the New York Post, has apologized personally for the publication of the cartoon and we are grateful for that. However, the apology does not detract from our concerns about the destructive effects of the cartoon.

"We call on members of the Church of the Brethren to hold President Obama and his family and the whole African-American community in prayer, and we call our church to a new awareness of how frightening expressions of violent racism are for people in minority groups in our country. We are painfully aware of an increase in hate crime, and of the various threats that have been made against President Obama since he was elected.

"We suggest that members of our church and people of good faith across the United States seek positive responses to the harm that may have been done by the cartoon. If we act together with faith, we may seize this difficult experience in our life as a nation and convert it into an opportunity to do outreach and relationship building with people of every ethnicity, and make it into an opening to talk with the children in our families and Sunday school classrooms about how God loves all people equally."

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.