The media’s inept coverage of all issues related to race.

The thing about the dead monkey cartoon that really stuck with me — is the fact that I was not surprised.

I kind of expected it. I certainly expected the reaction from the right wing, who automatically began denying it had anything at all to do with race, was just another example of Rev. Al Sharpton playing the race card and was just more liberal whining. I certainly expected that. That’s what they do. They deny, ignore and trivialize dissent.


But why wasn’t I outraged? For one, it was Rupert Murdoch’s right wing rag. But more importantly, it came on the heels of the most historical presidential election. And it seemed to mirror much of the coverage of race — since President Obama first started to be taken seriously as a candidate.

The traditional media approached this election as if in a schizophrenic convulsion, revealing a complexity of class, race and gender issues.

The conservative or right wing media covered it as if the world as they know it was being threatened by a combination of socialism, terrorism and black radicals. The liberal media was, well, a little strange too. In some cases, it took the bold stance that Obama’s race was like some kind secret weapon. Then, with the other side of its face, it was very protective. I have personally never seen liberals come to the defense of a moderate candidate in the way they did with Obama. Liberals were as strangely loyal to Obama as black folks have been to Bill Clinton. And in both cases, the logic, not the sentiment, still baffles me.

As a black, liberal, I have been less impressed by Obama’s color or policies. What sold me was how he endured the bullshit. He’s been pelted with praise, insults, doubts and unrealistic expectations.  He was systematically labeled an elitist by the right and centrist media, despite growing up with a single parent and having to rely on government assistance at times. His citizenship was questioned without warrant. His religion has been fervently doubted, in a way that is nothing less than rampant Islamophobia.

Rob Fournier of the Associated Press penned a column that barely stopped short of calling him “uppity.”

That right wing hack Conservative Bill Kristol always talked about Obama’s heritage as if there was something nebulous about it. Black conservative pundit Stanley Crouch made the observation that “other than color, Obama … does not … share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves.”

Remember what Debra Dickerson of Salon.com said: His apparent otherness made white folks more comfortable voting for him. He was seen as someone more than just a black person, consequently able to escape that “angry black man” label.

Then, of course, there was the famous Chris Matthews quote, one he still can’t seem to live down. He commented after an Obama speech that it caused a “thrill going up my leg.”

This is how our country’s media approached the most historically significant presidential election in our history, like some mentally deranged person in need of their medication, or perhaps an impetuous child acting out.

“I think you can ask the question, ‘why do we expect our media to be different from our society, which harbors a lot of racism, sexism and what have you?’ ” said Steve Rendall, senior analyst with Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. “But, also I think, it is their job, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted. Those are the basic tenets of journalism.”

In hindsight, with a cartoon of a dead monkey and the right wing’s evisceration of Attorney General Eric Holder for saying we have not been very forthcoming in how we approach issues of race, once again I have to ask should we be surprised? Should we expect any more from the media?

This is the U.S. We have never been graceful when it comes to change. It has always been hard fought and bloody. Should we expect the media to do any more than mirror our own contradicting feelings?

“The media is huge and diverse, and some did well and some did terrible. When you have a media political environment that includes Fox News, The Daily Show, legacy newspapers, the Internet, in a thousand flavors, cable news, and all manners of radio, it’s impossible to make a blanket assessment of how it did,” said Markos Moulitsas, who is of Greek and Salvadoran decent and is founder of The Daily KOS, one of nation’s most well trafficked liberal-blogging sites. “I saw a lot of people afraid of the (race) issue, not because they were necessarily racist, but because they were afraid of inadvertently crossing lines.”

TheLoop21. com, a new media company where I work, commissioned a survey of more than 500 primarily minority journalists (43 percent were African American, 29 percent were Latino, 11 percent were Asian, 7 percent were Native American and 6 percent Caucasian). You can check out the full results here.

The survey found that minority journalists were evenly divided when asked how well mainstream media covered various issues of race, race relations and racism. Many thought it did much better attempting to cover issues affecting African Americans than it did other ethnic minorities. Only 20 percent felt it did a good job addressing issues facing Latinos while 43 percent said fair and another 35 percent said poor. When asked about issues affecting Asian Americans, only 9 percent said good while 29 percent said fair and a whopping 60 percent said poorly.

So, here’s my point. In these answers, I honestly also see confusion about the media’s role when it comes to issues of race. I honestly see some serious conflicts in how or if it should be approached at all. Just because we have a black president, should everything always come back to race? And because we have a black president, will everything eventually come back to race? And isn’t that the root of the differences between us?

There is a reason that Barack Obama tried to ignore his race for the better part of the presidential election cycle. He did not want to become a black candidate because he knew he would lose. It was OK for Hilary Clinton to play the “I’m a woman” card. Why? Because women make up roughly half of the nation’s population while black folks make up a mere 13 percent. She didn’t run the risk of alienating a massive majority of the country in doing so. There’s another reason I think that Obama tried to avoid the “black label.” It reminds me of a job interview. When you are a person of color, and you walk into a room with someone who could give or deny you employment, the thing you hope most when you look into their eyes is that they can see past your color. What you don’t want to see is that second guessing, that “if something goes wrong is this person going to go there, are they going to try to make this about race?'”

It’s a real fear for white folks in positions of power. It’s a huge hassle for minorities who are not in positions of power. And it’s a dynamic that hardly anyone else in the world even acknowledges exist.  I would argue that it, more so than overt racism, is at the root of much institutionalized racism in this country.

“It wasn’t until the Jeremiah Wright episode that Obama even talked about race. I am not saying that means he is a bad guy. But it was strategy,” Steve Rendall, senior analyst at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting about how Obama himself carefully approached the race issue in the election.

After this tape was released, of course, Obama went from transcendent and post-race to succinctly black in the minds and words of traditional media. He went from not being black enough in the minds of the far right to being the “angry black man” by proxy. They didn’t call him angry. They called his pastor angry. They called his wife bitter. They pulled the William Ayers card. They even, at one point, talked about him palling around with terrorists. You know Barack Hussein Obama and Osama Bin Ladin, what’s the diff, right?

“It’s undoubtedly a tough dialogue,” Moulitsas said. “There’s a reason that the GOP tried to turn Michelle Obama into the female Wesley Snipes — an angry black woman.”

But Moulitsas warns me that I should not read too much into how the media handled race in this election. He believes that, by and large, it was simply fascinated by Obama. He was the first serious black candidate for the presidency, but his race to the national political stage was no less than meteoric and his talents for engaging people — throngs of young, poor and other disenfranchised folks — in the process were unparalleled.

“He was about to become the first black president. I think it’ll be just as big of an issue when we elect our first woman, our first Latino or Latina, our first Asian, and maybe even our first atheist. Each of those would shatter a barrier, and that’s newsworthy,” Moulitsas said. “I think they really liked him. If he had been Jesse Jackson, white folks wouldn’t be patting themselves on the back while supporting him, all in the name of racial progress. Given that choice, they would’ve voted for Hillary.”

“Obama won despite being black, and despite the unusual name. He won because he’s an unusual talent and truly connected with people. And he won because he had the good fortune of winning the nomination at a time that the Republican brand was dirt,” Moulitsas added.

OK. OK. If you say so.

Devona Walker is a Business Writer and blogger. She can also be found at theloop21.com

(edited by DrGail)

17 Responses to “The media’s inept coverage of all issues related to race.”

  1. Bennie says:

    I am black and you are ignorant as hell. Black people are so ignorant to not understand that they don’t truly beleive in abortion, don’t support gay marriage etc. are fundamentaly christians, and sure as hell don’t support wellfare. Welfare makes you dependant. you and your blaming ilk are part of the problem. Them pulling the Willaim Ayers card etc. is justified. Also, who the hell votes for the President based on his serious lack of experience. That was the Joke of it all and we have all been duped. That is what we should be talking about. He won because he was black, because if he wasn’t the black people wouldn’t have voted in droves, the young hip hoppers wouldn’t have voted in droves. The guilty whiteys wouldn’t have jumped on his wishy-washey, play all sides of the isle, no experience bandwagon if it wasn’t for the fact that this was “history”. What was historic was for the first time in modern history, we have elected a President who hasn’t run a business, who hasn’t led and GOVERNED anything! That is hilarous at best, sad really. The man hadn’t even completed his term as senator and was running for president the entire time. that is like hiring a head coach for a pro team that only talked about football for years and consulted coaches. then you make him head coach. Stupid really.

  2. Wilburpup says:

    Who wrote the stimulus plan? The monkies in Congress did. So why does the media and all those “outraged” by the cartoon automatically equate the monkey with Obama? Because they want to put on public display their exquisitely sensitive moral superiorty to the NY Post, its publisher and its readers. The facts be damned.

    There is another interpretation of the cartoon, though the chattering class is surely too caught up in their moral preening to care. It’s the old “infinite monkey theorem”: given enough time, a hypothethical chimpanzee typing at random would almost surely produce one of Shakespeare’s plays.

    The problem with the Stimulus isn’t that a monkey wrote it; the “Infinite Congress ” did.

  3. Glanetashu says:

    I am not going to speak my mind, I am a coward.
    And don’t wanna get sued, either.

  4. walkerdev says:

    Well Bernie, let me retort.

    Ignorant as hell, coming from someone who just made multiple blanket statements about a whole race of people. Who gave you the right to speak for all Black People on any subject. You sure as hell don’t have the right to speak for me. So I wish you would stop.

    Ignorant, really? All black people don’t support gay marriage. All black people are fundamentally Christian. Black people don’t believe in Welfare.

    I guess you are speaking for all the ignorant, homophobic, slef-hating black folks that you personally know.

    I don’t know if you are black or not. But ignorant, for you, well, that is pretty damn obvious.

  5. Macswain says:

    Yeah Bennie Keyes,

    I’m lovin’ it …

    You really won me over with the football analogy. I mean what the fuck were the Pittsburgh Steelers thinking in hire Mike Tomlin as a head coach; shoulda got Joe Gibbs like the Redskins did. Must’ve been to satisfy some quota ’cause there’s no way in hell that Tomlin could ever succeed.

  6. Timothy L. Pennell says:

    We SHOULD be talking more about race. Like, why are over 70% of Black Children born to Single Parent Households? -(Single Mothers)-Where are the FATHERS? I’m told, ‘It’s a CULTURE THING’. Is it the CULTURE of the Black Community, that Black Boys don’t care for their CHILDREN? I call them BOYS, because they’re NOT men. MEN take RESPONSIBILTY. ESPESCIALLY for the kids they bring in to the world. Animals procreate. PEOPLE have FAMILIES. MEN take care of thier KIDS.
    How is it that 15% of the population-(Blacks)-committ 53% of ALL VIOLENT CRIMES? Anyone? How come there’s so many BARS on the windows, in the Black Community? I don’t have any bars on my windows. I don’t KNOW anybody, with bars on their windows. Are they there to keep out The WHITE MAN?
    And why does JESSE JACKSON say, that he’s RELIEVED, when he hears footsteps behind him, while walking on the street at night, and turns around to find that it’s WHITE PEOPLE, behind him?
    See? I’m talking about RACE. And anyone out there who can answer my questions, feel free. Then, we’ll be having the conversation, that the IDIOT, Holder, says we should be having. Trouble is, NOBODY, espescially him, wants to discuss what I’ve brought up. So, what’s the point?

  7. It’s a one side conversation with the people like Al Sharpton yelling you’re a racist, you’re a racist. I that kind of atmosphere, who can discuss race? We can read our take on race at,
    http://stopthepresses2.blogspot.com/search/label/Race

  8. DBL says:

    Sheesh, get a life.

    If you lived in the NY/Conn. area, you would have known the story about the chimp killing the woman; it was on the front page of the NY Post and every local paper in Fairfield County. People who don’t follow politics, who don’t care about politics, knew everything there was to know about the killer chimp.

    If that context, it’s a bit of a stretch to say the cartoon in the Post was in any sense “racist.” The cartoonist was making a joke about the Democrats generally by tying them to the killer chimp that everyone was talking about. I suppose if the Post had run a cartoon with a chimp labelled “Obama” and the papers weren’t filled with stories about a killer chimp, you’d have a point. But it didn’t do that and you don’t have a point.

  9. gcotharn says:

    The chimp represented Congress. That much is clear.

    Yet, some readers/citizens would naturally misinterpret and assume the chimp represented President Obama. This could have been, and likely was, anticipated before publication.

    In the name of racial sensitivity; in the name of good taste: how much ought black persons be protected/insulated from possibly being offended by free speech which is misinterpreted?

    There is no black and white (ahem) answer. Making the distinction is an art.

    Do many persons truly believe the NY Post cartoonist and editors acted out of racist motive? Surely not. Instead, the argument is over where – in the name of good taste and reasonable sensitivity – the artistic distinction should be made in this case.

    To me, it’s clear the cartoonist and editors believed the vast majority of their readers would get the reference to Congress, and only a small and mistaken minority would misinterpret. If the cartoonist and editors miscalculated, theirs was not a miscalculation founded in racism. If anything, the cartoonist and editors were crediting black Americans with having the shrewdness and intellect to properly understand the cartoon. If the cartoonist and editors were racists who believed black Americans were stupid, then they would not have risked the cartoon at all – for they would’ve been confident the cartoon would be misunderstood, and thence create a backlash against the newspaper, the cartoonist, and the editors. Publishing that cartoon amounted to an acknowledgment that black Americans are smart and shrewd.

    Is Al Sharpton attempting to disprove that working thesis, i.e. that black Americans are largely smart and shrewd and clued in? What, really, are white people saying if we protest that the cartoon is insensitive? Are we not saying that black people are too unsmart and unshrewd to understand what the cartoon was clearly saying, i.e. Congress wrote the bill as if they were an enraged, out of control ape.

    Maybe the more proper perspective is to examine the mission of the NY Post: isn’t it proper for the NY Post to be concerned about what their readers might misinterpret, and to be mostly unconcerned about what their non readers might misinterpret? The NY Post is written for the people who pay for the newspaper. I expect the people who pay for the newspaper – whether black, white, or whatever – vastly understood the reference to Congress, and vastly did not misinterpret.

    I was, originally, completely bored with the cartoon brouhaha. Now, it is becoming more interesting to look at.

  10. Macswain says:

    Here’s the media coverage of the stimulus plan … “Obama’s stimulus plan” … “Obama will own this stimulus plan” … “Obama’s stimulus plan” … “Obama will own this stimulus plan” … “Obama’s stimulus plan” … “Obama will own this stimulus plan” … “Obama’s stimulus plan” … “Obama will own this stimulus plan” …

    Yet, anyone who interpreted the cartoon as having the chimp as a symbol for Obama is nuts.

    The New York Post specializes in stirring up these types of “dual interpretation” controversies. Its the papers life blood. I have no doubt the editors knew full well that a lot of people would see the chimp as a symbol of Obama and that they would then feign a different interpretation once the racism was pointed out.

    But even accepting their spin that the chimp represents Congress or Reid/Pelosi, the violent rhetoric used is disgusting, offensive and certainly not funny to anybody other th3an rightwing nutters ala O’Reilly/Goldberg.

  11. Bennie says:

    WALKERDEV – MCSWAIN:

    Mike Tomlin was a coach in the NFL before he got the head coachng Job. Defensive coordinator is a lot closer than 1/2 term senator you jokers.

    (Prior to joining the Steelers, Tomlin spent the 2006 season as the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator after spending the previous five seasons (2001-05) as defensive backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.)
    (Tomlin was a three-year starter at wide receiver at William and Mary (1990-94) and finished his career with 101 receptions for 2,046 yards and a school-record 20 TD catches. A first-team All-Yankee Conference selection in 1994, he established a school record with a 20.2 yards-per-catch average.)
    (Before becoming Minnesota’s defensive coordinator, Tomlin was defensive backs coach for five seasons for one of the NFL’s top defenses in Tampa Bay. Tomlin’s defensive backs earned numerous honors for their play during his coaching tenure. In 2005 Tampa Bay led the NFL in total defense, allowing 277.8 yards per game, and finished 6th in the league against the pass (183.1 avg.).
    OK, NOW THAT WE HAVE THE TOMLIN – OBAMA COMPARISON CLEARED UP!!!!!
    This article seems to say all blacks are hypersensitve to any criticsm. This is more nonsense from the ignorant left who don’t understand handouts keep people down. You teach them to fish, not give them a fish. You earn what you get, not a handout.

    Anyway, walkerdev your argument is the same as mine is in many ways: as in for any survey, or article written about what “black people” think, I always think about how they never asked me. I am not a victim anymore!!!! This piece of crap certainly does not speak for me. And like I said, we as blacks in America a generally god fearing folks and don’t support a lot of the liberal agenda but we think we do! You are ignorant, as in you just don’t know what you don’t know my friend.

    AND I ALSO NOTICED YOU TWO GENIUSES THAT SAID I WAS IGNORANT NEVER EVEN TOUCHED THIS “What was historic was for the first time in modern history, we have elected a President who hasn’t run a business, or served a complete term in the legislature, who hasn’t led – A TOWN, A CITY, MADE ANY BUDGET FOR A TOWN OR CITY and/OR GOVERNED anything! ” (OK I ADDED A BIT)…

    ANYWAY, ENUFF SAID! (YES I KNOW I MISSPELLED A FEW THINGS) 🙂

  12. Bennie says:

    Also, like Will Smith relayed in a story about telling African Jokes to a group of Africans….THEY’RE JUST JOKES MAN, JUST JOKES!

  13. gcotharn says:

    @Macswain

    If you were speaking of me: I didn’t say anyone is nuts. I said misinterpret.

    Pres. Obama vigorously pushed for passage of the stimulus. He might therefore “own it”, and be associated with it, w/o having written it.

    If you believed the stimulus were a haphazardly cobbled together grouping of long-hoped-for Democratic programs and perks and pork-like projects(“we must not waste a crisis”), then you might find it funny to joke that a crazed wild animal wrote the unwieldy thing.

  14. Macswain says:

    “If you believed the stimulus were a haphazardly cobbled together grouping of long-hoped-for Democratic programs and perks and pork-like projects(”we must not waste a crisis”), then you might find it funny to joke that a crazed wild animal wrote the unwieldy thing.”

    … and deserved to be gunned down with big fucking bullet holes peppering his/her body.

    Yeah, that’s fucking high-larious!

    I’d also add that your hyper-technical definition of who “wrote” the stimulus bill is silly and nonsensical. I guess the cartoon was really just aimed at the bureaucrats who typed the thing up. It contained ideas that came from Obama, Democrats and even numerous Republicans though none of them technically “wrote” it.

  15. gcotharn says:

    Many persons did contribute ideas to the stimulus. However, you are a making a “depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” argument. We cannot slice meaning, and slice meaning, and reduce words to nothing, and still flourish as a society. Words either mean something, or chaos ensues. Pelosi and Reid and Dem cohorts wrote the stimulus just as Shakespeare wrote MacBeth – even though Shakespeare’s friends might have contributed ideas during drunken discussions.

    Re: bullet holes

    Is our nation’s sensibility so delicate that we cannot now look at an animal being killed w/o fainting dead away? Where is our manhood? (even the women?)

  16. Macswain says:

    Give me a break. You and I both know the supposed “misinterpretation” is obvious to anyone with an IQ over 50 and the New York Post purposefully creates these types of controversies.

    The “animal” you refer to is supposedly symbolic of the authors of the stimulus bill, those being actually humans. So the fact that you feel your “manhood” requires you to laugh at such violent rhetoric really does say a lot about you …

    As for me, I’m not above laughing at sophmoric jokes, but just don’t get the sense of humor in a joke about killing those with whom I disagree.

  17. gcotharn says:

    The joke is about a stimulus which is so horrible it must have been written by a crazed and wild animal. The joke is not about the murder of human beings – be they Pelosi or Reid or Pres. Obama or anyone.

    I don’t keep up w/NY Post cartoons, and do not opine, either way, about a pattern of intentional controversy.

    I didn’t say my manhood requires me to laugh. My manhood requires me to not faint or be horrified at the existence of guns; to not faint at the killing of a raging, dangerous animal which needed do die. That animal didn’t deserve to be in that situation. I have compassion for the animal. But the animal did need to die, via bullets, and I will not waste energy being horrified over that event. If I’m to be horrified, it’s over the fate of the woman the ape attacked, and over the callous inconsideration – to her and her family – of using the ape which brutally maimed her in a humorous cartoon. THAT is inconsiderate, and possibly over the line of good taste. No one seems to notice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook