My reaction to the cartoon in the New York Post reflected my position as a member of the press. It is my contention the freedom’s articulated in our Constitution must be protected at all cost. As much as the cartoon stirred painful emotions, I stand by the papers right to publish it. As much as I desire the head of the cartoonist and editor who allowed it to be printed on a silver platter, I will stand on the paper’s Constitutional right to publish the thoughts and opinions of those who work for the newspaper.
My hope has been that our modern day press would break free from the limits imposed by the demands of the machinery that fuels our economy. I’ve hoped for a press that would stand outside the restrictions caused by the pursuit of advertisers to maintain the business of informing the public. The press protected in our Constitution regarded the press as the watchdog of government. In many ways the press was seen as an arm of this enterprise we call freedom. The role of the press was to evoke a variety of perspectives. Some of them we like. Many we don’t like.
This is what John Stuart Mills advocated in his classic book “On Liberty”. He pressed for a nation where a variety of opinions would be heard in what he termed “the marketplace of ideas.” That cartoon, as offensive as it is, is an idea. I fight for the right for it to be printed. Why? I do so because it is reflective of an emerging “idea” within our American marketplace of ideas.
What is that emerging idea? That Barack Obama, and the countless others who look like him, have more in common with ‘monkeys’ than humans. As painful as that is for me to hear, I’ve been around the block enough to know it is true. I’m not shocked, nor should anyone who is black, that there exists in America a segment of the population angry that a black man has been elected to hold the highest office in our land. We all knew they would be pissed at that.
We shouldn’t be surprised that monkeys keep popping up. At issue is what do we do when a monkey shows up? I have an answer to that question-nothing. Why feed the flame of discontentment. Why march in opposition when a carton appears? Why boycott Barnes & Noble when a book appears in the middle of others that celebrate our first black President? What difference does it make when we draw more attention to the insanity of those who believe black people are monkeys and don’t deserve the power they have been given?
To protest in this season minimizes the victory of this moment. There’s no need to go back to those days of marching and singing freedom songs. Doing so robs us of the victory won on January 19, 2009. There’s no need to protest and march when the battle has been won. There’s no need to fight the people at Barnes & Noble. They contend it was a prank of one of their customers. I have no reason to dispute that claim. More important than all of that is the truth of my own identity.
No, sir. No ma’am. I am not a monkey. I am a man. I am a black man. I’m a proud black man. As much as you would love to reduce me to the image of your own imagination, I have no time to play your game. The class has been dismissed on that old strategy. Play monkey see, monkey do. As for me, I will merely laugh at you and pray.
What will I pray? I pray that you will grow up and see the truth. You can’t change what we have chosen as a nation. Call him a monkey if you want. If that’s your truth I have a suggestion for you. Go rent the movie “Planet of the Apes.” Watch it close, because in that world the monkeys rule the humans. So, bow down to the monkey.
In the meantime, remember one thing.-“Sticks and stones may break my bones but….” You know the rest.