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"Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. French. Pascal. The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing."— Madeleine L'Engle

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Racist Editorial cartoon of State Senator as Aunt Jemima (updated)

This is a sad story involving race, representation and local politics, but I'm hoping it will have a satisfying conclusion. A little over a week ago an Ohio newspaper, the Call & Post ran an editorial cartoon depicting African American Ohio state senator Nina Turner as Aunt Jemima and saying in broken English, "I be’s da new leader." Just as disturbing, the newspaper is Black owned. 

This cartoon clearly exploits demeaning 19th century stereotypes for political retribution--Turner supported a ballot initiative for county government reform that the Call and Post opposed. It's not the first time this paper has punished African American leaders that challenge them, and a broad based coalition of Clevelanders and friends have joined forces to say this is unacceptable. A few people have written letters to the editor. Over 1200 people have joined the Facebook group my friend, Robyn Minter-Smyers started to demand an apology.

Here are a few key links for more information:
Facebook Group: http://bit.ly/7OWlH2
Cleveland Scene http://bit.ly/8qyTi1
Cleveland Plain Dealer column - http://bit.ly/6SAHH7
Deborah Plummer on the Huffington Post: No Confusion When It Comes to the "Isms" http://bit.ly/88HEV2

12/7 update. There are now over 1300 members of the Facebook Group and Crain's Cleveland Business just published a great piece on this issue entitled "Call & Post sparks collective outrage." The article quotes Brian Hall, a local African American business leader who is demanding a strong, clear community response: "if this (Aunt Jemima cartoon) were published by a white institution, it would be national news and we would be in the streets in protest. We cannot let a black man destroy the fabric of two great institutions (the local NAACP and the Call & Post) that have served our community for over a century.”

Cleveland Magazine editor Erick Trickey also has a fascinating post detailing the fierce power struggle behind the cartoon. Definitely worth reading. Key quote: "Some people are just incensed that the paper would use an old racial attack to try to enforce political conformity."

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