Is Racism in the Eye of the Beholder?

Author: sethskim  |  Category: Values

 
New York Post Cartoon.jpg
Cartoon by Sean Delonas
 
 
 
The above cartoon has been in the center of some controversy. The cartoonist, Sean Delonas who draws for the New York Post and Col Allan, the editor-in-chief have both vehemently denied that there was a racial overtone (comparing President Obama to a chimpanzee). Many people would ask, “Are you serious?”

In many ways, I believe them. I honestly believe that when Delonas drew the cartoon he was not trying to draw a comparison nor did Allan think that it was racist as he reviewed the cartoon before publishing it.

But the question that begs us is: Are they (Delonas and Allan) white? Or for that matter, are they from any other ethnicity other than African-American?

The reason why this is an important question is that depending on your ethnicity you will interpret things in a different way. With an African-American background, you may react differently to this cartoon than someone from a lighter hue.

I recently had this discussion with someone in our church because they thought my comments on Miley Cyrus was being a bit too sensitive. In other words, I either have issues or I am just overreacting. My first thought was, “For the people who feel this way about my post, are they a fellow Asian or a non-Asian?”

The person pointed out the fact that there are some stereotypes of a certain race that might even cause someone from that race to think that the stereotype is funny. True. There will always be people from their own particular race that do not always view something as racist or offensive. In those situations, I really don’t have much to say.

But when a person from a different race makes comments that are in agreement about things not being racist or offensive, then I would like to challenge them and say, “Since you do not bear the burden of being part of that particular race, you will never fully know what it is like to walk in their shoes.” Ignorance is never a good excuse.

In this situation with the cartoon, it is funny that two non-African Americans are wondering why people are taking this cartoon in an offensive way because that was not their intent. They still cannot come to grips with the fact that even though their intent was not to reference the chimpanzee to President Obama, the context is hard to avoid. When you use the word, “stimulus bill” which is closely related to President Obama and then have a chimpanzee, something should have triggered in their minds.

But this is the point.

It did not trigger a second thought of not publishing the cartoon. Currently, they are certainly not apologizing for the “possible” misunderstanding. It is interesting that sometimes people do not have the lens in which to see how a certain situation can trigger different emotions for different people.

At the end of the day, we can point to a bigger principle at hand. When we are able to place ourselves in a person’s position and try to see things from their perspective, we will usually be more empathetic and compassionate. We will be more understanding of how a person would feel in a certain situation. Therefore, whether it is a racial issue or even a personality issue, the bottom line is that to have the heart of Christ, we must try to understand things from the other person’s background and perspective rather than our own.

This promotes unity, understanding and unconditional love.

You can read up on CNN’s commentary on this situation by Roland Martin (an African-American) here.