February 19, 2009, New York – Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), issued a statement today in response to yesterday’s New York Post editorial cartoon depicting two white police officers standing over a chimpanzee they had just shot making a comment that suggests the chimp is a stand-in for President Obama.
I could not believe what I saw when I looked at the cartoon by Sean Delonas that appeared in the New York Post yesterday. It crudely depicts two white police officers standing over the fresh corpse of a monkey they have just shot with one of the officers declaring, “They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” The monkey is supposed to be President Barack Obama – the first African American president and the 44th president of the United States of America.
The cartoon has three clear messages. First, Delonas and the Post apparently believe it is acceptable to refer to Black men as monkeys. Second, they believe that it’s okay for white police officers to shoot and kill Black men on the street for no discernable reason. The third and most deeply disturbing message is that whether you are the President, the Attorney General or a Black man on the street, white people and police officers have the right to knock you down to size, dehumanize, and humiliate you, all under the guise of comedy.
If you don't think it's funny, some will insist that it's “First Amendment” funny or “it's satire, stupid” funny or it's “lighten up” funny. But there is nothing funny about this cartoon. It wasn't funny in 2006 when police shot Sean Bell 50 times. It wasn’t funny in 1999 when they shot Amadou Diallo 41 times. And it wasn’t funny in 1984 when they shot the elderly Eleanor Bumpers. Rather, this cartoon is indicative of the futility of “post-race” discussions in 2009. It also shows that while a majority of Americans tried to look beyond race and envision a just future for this country in the last presidential elections, we can always count on the New York Post and its editors to remind us of “The Birth of a Nation.”
Inevitably some people will put this comic up in their office cubicle, locker, restricted club house, or even in staff lounges. But they won't put it up because they think it’s funny. People will put up this cartoon for the devastating message it sends to their Black colleagues and peers: dead monkeys.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is currently suing the New York City Police Department for the racial disparities in its stop-and-frisks. CCR issued a report last month with police data never before available to the public showing over 80 percent of NYPD initiated stops are of Blacks and Latinos, at a disproportionately higher rate than Whites who comprised only 20 percent; that Blacks and Latinos are more likely to be frisked after a NYPD-initiated stop than Whites; and that Blacks and Latinos are more likely to have physical force used against them during a NYPD-initiated stop than Whites. The lawsuit, Floyd v. City of New York, stems from CCR's landmark racial profiling case, Daniels v. City of New York – filed in the wake of the Amadou Diallo shooting – that led to the disbanding of the infamous Street Crime Unit and a settlement with the City in 2003.
Copies of the report and the complete data are available at CCR's report on stop and frisks. For more case information, visit the Floyd, et al. v. City of New York, et al case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.