Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder castigated Americans for their cowardice when it came to discussing the issue of race in our society. By the weekend it had become clear to anyone with an ounce of sense that Holder was wrong.
New York Post cartoonist Scott Delonas published this commentary on the recently passed stimulus package:
The cartoon refers to the tragic case of a Connecticut woman who was mauled by a chimpanzee.
For those in the know, the authors of the stimulus bill were Democrats in Congress, primarily House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate majority leader Harry Reid. However, President Barack Obama is a black man, and there is a long history of racists using chimpanzees and other primates as code for blacks -- and President George W. Bush. Ipso facto, this is a racist cartoon.
Al Sharpton and the NAACP have both called for Delonas and his editor to be fired. Sharpton has also called for the FCC to investigate the Post's corporate owner, NewsCorp, over the cartoon. And, as if it was really necessary, the National Association of Black Journalists demonstrated that they are blacks first and journalists eventually.
Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said the Post showed a "serious lapse in judgment" by running the cartoon.
"To think that the cartoonist and the responsible editors at the paper did not see the racist overtones of the finished product should insult their intelligence," Ciara said in a written statement. "Instead, they celebrate their own lack of perspective and criticize those who call it what it is: tone deaf at best, overtly racist at worst."
Rall, who is familiar with Delonas' work, said he doesn't believe the cartoonist was saying anything about Obama. "It's about his economic advisers who wrote the stimulus bill, and they're a bunch of white guys."
The Columbia Journalism Review surveyed some cartoonists and the consensus view appeared to be that no one thought Delonas was racist, but that it wasn't a very good cartoon anyway. That didn't stop CJR's Charles Kaiser for dubbing Delonas a "Sinner" and calling him tasteless and stupid.
The second incident last week involved South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and House majority whip. I'll let Clyburn, who is black, speak for himself:
The four governors have said that they might turn down their states' shares of the $787 billion stimulus bill that Congress passed last week - with almost no Republican support - and that President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.
Clyburn said the measure reserved some money for census tracts in which more than one-fifth of the residents had lived at or below the federal poverty level for the last 30 years. He said that 12 of South Carolina's 46 counties qualified for the targeted aid, all along the impoverished Interstate 95 corridor.
"Now the (South Carolina) governor says, 'I don't want to accept the money,'" Clyburn told CNN. "That's why I called this an insult. That's why I said this is a slap in the face; because a majority of these counties are, in fact, inhabited by African-Americans."
Clyburn denies that he's suggesting Sanford and others are racists, but you don't have to call someone racist to play the "race card."
These two incidents have one thing in common -- neither of them started out as a discussion about race. They were both political and policy issues, but hypersensitivity to the issue of race by those who traffic in the racial grievance industry is now threatening at least two people's livelihoods.
Holder calls America a nation of cowards, but it's not cowardly to refuse to leap out of your trench to cross an open field with the likes of Al Sharpton, James Clyburn and Barbara Ciara manning machine guns. Instead, it's better for everyone not to stick your head up over the edge and get it shot off.
If Holder really wants to change the way race is discussed in America, he will come out publicly and tell Sharpton, Clyburn and the rest of them to stand down. Of course, America's first post-racial president would also burnish his credentials in that regard if he too came out and defended Delonas, the Post and Sanford from these cheap, false accusations.
Don't hold your breath, he too is just another politician.
On a related note: The fear has grown to such a degree that any monkey in any cartoon is now the subject of a pre-emptive apology.