Cartoon arouses race dialogue

Did Eric Holder somehow know of Sean Delonas’ cartoon before making his speech Wednesday?

‘Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,’ Holder said in an address to the Department of Justice commemorating Black History Month.

Holder knew these words would be controversial, using the phrase ‘in too many ways’ to essentially distance and cushion the blow his label of ‘coward’ would deliver.’

After all, this is 2009, we have a black president, and the barriers to achievement on the basis of race have clearly been eroded.
Sadly, this is not entirely true.

Former Ku Klux Klan member Elwin Wilson’s apology to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) is unique in Lewis’ history.’

‘I’m sorry for what happened down there,’ Wilson said to Lewis, shaking his hand.
Wilson attacked Lewis while he was a freedom rider for Martin Luther King Jr. in Rock Hill, S.C. May 9, 1961, nearly 48 years ago.’

His remorse seems real, and perhaps because of the public nature of the apology, Wilson has since become a target for racists.’

Ever since his appearance on ABC News, Wilson has been harassed by racists who feel betrayed by his actions.

‘Well, I got one phone call from a boy at Rutgers college (who said), ‘Here you are with the KKK, took a oath, and here you are going back on your word and against the white people.”’

Wilson called the police, but the threats persist.’ ‘

Add in the Delonas’ cartoon in the New York Post on Thursday, and Black History Month seems far more topical. Delonas’ piece depicts two police officers standing over a dead chimpanzee, one with muzzle smoke coming from his gun as the other says, ‘They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.’

Regardless of what the intentional allusion to the bill was, Delonas’ piece provoked heated response from those who remember old racist language and resent allusion to it.

‘At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Others believe it compares the president to a rabid chimp,’ notes Huffington Post’s Sam Stein.

‘Either way, the incorporation of violence and (on a darker level) race into politics is bound to be controversial,’ he said.

The University is a racially and culturally diverse institution.’ Although racial tensions have become rare on campus, we still exist in an age where we are touched by these disturbing echoes from the past.’

‘Black history is extremely important because it is American history,’ Holder said. ‘Given this, it is in some ways sad there is a need for a Black History Month,’ he said.

UH is less than 150 miles from Jasper, where James Byrd Jr. was dragged to death a little more than 10 years ago and less than 100 miles away from Vidor where cross burning occurred well into the 1980s. Brandon McClelland’s body was found brutally mangled in Paris in September.

Closer to home, the 2006 attack on David Ray Ritcheson was also racially motivated.’ There have also been issues that touch down here at UH, such as racial backlash in comments in the wake of UH basketball guard Aubrey Coleman’s flagrant foul against Arizona forward Chase Budinger in January.

Racist violence still exists in Texas. It should come as no surprise that racist thought and rhetoric do also.’ ‘ ‘

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) sponsored house bill H.R. 256 this legislative session in memory of Ritcheson, titled The David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.’

David’s Law was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime Terrorism and Homeland Security on Feb. 9. The resolution amends federal code and empowers judges during sentencing to create harsher penalties for racially motivated attacks.

This year’s Black History Month began quietly enough, but it is clear there are still deep rifts in the country that must be addressed.’

‘It says something of the power of love, the power of grace and the power of people to be able to say, ‘I’m sorry.” Lewis said to Wilson.

Race is the elephant in America’s living room. It is hoped we can move further toward healing the breach.

‘You’ve come here today, and maybe others will come forth, because we need this healing,’ Lewis said.’

Shaista Mohammed is an anthropology and communication sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment