I have had the fortune of having lived, traveled and worked on all of the world’s continents with the exception of Antarctica. I have found that wherever there are differences between peoples—be these differences racial, religious, cultural or political in nature—there is always tension and sometimes open conflict. Some of those conflicts are horrific in scale. The United States, for example, was born with the stain of slavery and African Americans endured incredible hardship for much of our nation’s history. It would take victory by the North during a bloody and destructive civil war as well as another hundred years before full civil rights would be provided to all African Americans.
Let’s return to the world of today. In our most recent election, many people—both black and white—were surprised that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. I believe this should not have come as a surprise. America was ready back in 1996 and 2000 as General Colin Powell could have easily waltzed into the Presidency had he wanted. Be that as it may, President Obama’s election does show the world one thing: in America the dream is true. Regardless of race, color or creed, an individual can achieve as much as his or her ability and hard work will allow.
With all of this in mind, I turn to the recent furor over a political cartoon published last week in the New York Post showing two police officers after they have shot a chimpanzee. One comments to the other: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” Since this cartoon’s publication, Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and filmmaker Spike Lee, among others, have immediately cried racism. Demonstrators marched outside the Manhattan offices of the New York Post and its parent company, Newscorp, while Sharpton and others called for a citywide boycott of the paper.
Considering that America currently faces significant economic challenges and the world still suffers from dozens of conflicts marked by horrendous violence extracted against those least able to defend themselves, I can only shake my head in disbelief. While the cartoon was admittedly in terribly bad taste, there is no indication of who the dead chimp represents: Congress, the President, or perhaps the recently killed celebrity chimpanzee, Travis, who went on a violent rampage last week. If anyone should be offended or angry, it should be the police for being portrayed so poorly. Truthfully, none of us know what was in the cartoonist’s heart when he drew the picture.
What I do know, though, is that individuals—black, white, or of any other racial or ethnic background—who are concerned about racial justice and equality need to look across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa and the war, deprivation, disease and poverty that punishes that heartbreaking continent. Let us have a call to action from the National Action Network and remove Zimbabwe’s murdering psychopath of a president, Robert Mugabe, from power. In that nation, a racially-motivated government attacks white farmers and has caused the predominantly black population to suffer from mass starvation and disease. Greater intervention in the Congo would also save many innocent victims from the knife. In the last decade there, over two million people have died from violence making it the deadliest conflict since World War II. Dealing effectively with the Darfur crisis and the murder of black African ethnic groups by Sudanese Arabs is another task worthy effort. Speaking up and holding corrupt African leaders accountable would avert mass murder and genocide the likes of which we witnessed in Rwanda in the mid 1990’s.
I do not condone in any way, shape or form racism in America and will speak out and act against it when I see it. However, I recommend to celebrities and leading social movements that they focus their efforts on the real enemies, killers and despots—and not waste what little time we have in this life stalking cartoonists and midtown Manhattan newspapers.