That is, once again, the question. The NAACP wants me and you and everyone else to boycott The New York Post.
This is why:
I hadn’t heard anything about it. I don’t read the Post except over people’s shoulders on the subway. And I wasn’t trawling for editorial cartoons last week to use in class, so I’d missed it. My mom emailed it to me under the subject line “This is horrible.”
I was pretty surprised by it, I admit. But really, how surprised should I let myself be, should I be surprised at all? I mean, it’s the Post, guys, what do we expect? I did some checking to see what others were saying about it and saw comments running the full gamut from ‘oh, you people see racism everywhere,’ to crazed, violent outrage at the slur. I recently had a back and forth in comments on the blog of a young man from Pakistan who had written that Mr. My New President looks like a monkey … and seemed not to realize that there could possibly be anything, um, upsetting in that comment. He was, in fact, quite shocked and hurt that commenters accused him of being racist. He, of course, swore up and down that he isn’t a racist. He has, after all, experienced racism himself, how dare we accuse him … Yes, and the Post swears up and down that they didn’t think the cartoon had anything to do with the President and blah, blah, blah.
Reminds me of Jay’s excellent vlog about the “what you did” and the “what you are” conversations. Do I think this cartoonist is a racist? Well, ok, I probably do (because, you know, I see racism everywhere), but that’s not the point. Maybe he’s not a racist, but is the cartoon he drew racist? Yes. You can go on all day about how Mr. My New President isn’t the author (or the sole author) of the stimulus package, that somehow this cartoon is about congress and the bill itself, not about MMNP. Of course that’s right. Because there isn’t a history of this exact imagery being used in slurs against black people. Because we didn’t just see some jackass make t-shirts during the election with Curious George’s face over MMNP’s name.
Sorry. Let me take a breath. Here’s what Jay had to say about it:
As always, Jay makes a lot of sense to me. So, to boycott or not to boycott? Well, for me it’s kind of a silly question. You could say I’ve been boycotting the Post my whole life. So not buying it now represents no change for me. Should people who actually buy the paper stop? I don’t know. My students and I have been reading and talking about the Montgomery bus boycott. Much of our conversation has centered around the fact that it went on for so long — over a year — which none of us can really imagine. It would be interesting to see what impact a boycott would have on the paper, but I’m not sure this cartoon is issue enough to draw the line in the sand that sparks a boycott.
Maybe the paper and its history are boycott-worthy, so the cartoon could be ‘the last straw’ that pushes us all over the edge and forces us to stop reading … but most of the people who are clamoring for this boycott aren’t Post readers to begin with — a thing they are quick to point out. So what message does it send if the people who are already not buying the paper keep not buying the paper?
I’m offended by this cartoon on so many levels. And I think that was the point. I’m the other audience the Post was trying to reach. There’s the audience that enjoyed the cartoon and its unintended racial slur. And then there’s the audience that got upset. I have to believe the editor who decided to publish that cartoon wanted to reach us both. And, while that leaves me with unacceptable answers to the question of why someone would make that choice, why someone would want to offend in this way, I still can’t decide if a boycott is the answer. Maybe Jay’s right I and the best reaction is no reaction.
Maybe the reason the boycott doesn’t appeal is that I’m not sure what the point of it would be. When the people of Montgomery boycotted, there was a clear desired result: freedom for blacks to sit anywhere on the bus without risk of violence or police involvement. What would be the desired result of a boycott against the Post? If we don’t like that paper, there are at least half a dozen others we could read. What, exactly, would we be hoping would happen to the Post as a result of our cold shoulder?
Obviously, I’m continuing my own life-long boycott. What will you do? And what pushed you to that decision?