Planet of the Apes or the Obamas?

Recently in the opinions section of a Belgian Newspaper, one article, said to have been submitted from Russian President Vladimir Putin, shows the Obamas depicted as apes. On the picture it says, “First Black President, starts selling weed.” I thought this was a really interesting thing to bring up because it related to the Eberhardt studies that we looked at in class relating Blacks to Apes. Many people make the implicit association of blacks to apes and this cartoon is just reinforcing that stereotype.

One person commented on the cartoon saying, “This was in the satire portion of the newspaper, it was supposed to be funny, not racist and it is a shame that people can’t take a joke.”  And someone else agreed saying, “Yea, the word racism is thrown around so easily, not everything has to be racist.”  In this circumstance the picture definitely has some racist under tones, considering that people actually associate black people as less than human, and that they are more like apes.  When you are portraying the president of our country in this way, I am not surprised that it would raise some controversy.

It is also interesting that someone said, “White people are also portrayed as apes, look at recent pictures of George W. Bush. If you find it racist to portray people with black skin as such [sic] but have no problem with portraying people of other skin color like that, then I’d have to point out your hypocrisy.”  It definitely carries a different connotation when your demonstrate someone of color as an ape than a white man.  That is picking up on the implicit biases of blacks and apes, and it does not matter if they demonstrate a white president as an ape also.

The picture also draws attention to the association of black people and crime and drugs, stating that Obama is selling weed.  Regardless of this article was presented as satire or not, it is definitely a form of racism and I do not think things like this should be able to be published in a newspaper for everyone to see because it is only reinforcing these stereotypes to the public.  What are your reactions to the image? What implications could this have for Belgian readers and their impressions of the United States, and of black people in general?

5 thoughts on “Planet of the Apes or the Obamas?”

  1. Thanks for posting this, Chelsey. I think you make some really good points and noticed some really important things about the photo and article. First of all, you are completely right when you say that depicting a white person as an ape and depicting a black person as an ape are two very different things with very different connotations and messages. I also really like your point that ties the article to our discussions on associations of blacks with crime. You did a great job picking apart this article and wrote a great post.

  2. Being that there are countries in europe that sell weed and others that don’t fully criminalize the drug and addiction, like in Portugal; I think its so interesting that once a black president is in office and weed begins to be sold it becomes some ironic joke. The picture is truly appauling and the fact that Obama was set to visit the country right after shows how much respect people truly have. But the comments, I don’t understand. Things don’t always have to be racist? Take a joke? Then don’t say racist things, don’t joke about racial issues if you aren’t prepared to face backlash from the culture you are writing about. I personally think labeling anyone as an animal particularly an ape is disgusting and distasteful. The historical contexts behind this really does matter and it’s not something to joke about.

  3. This is a phenomenal example of a microinvalidation. Playing the cartoon of the Obama’s as apes as “just a joke” is a great example of someone ignoring racism as a factor in the situation. Another person stating that Bush also has been told he looks like an ape is another way of downplaying racism through invalidation of the comics that have very clear racist motives. The newspaper is also jokingly claiming that the cartoon is from Russia, what screams racism more than that?

  4. Good post! I absolutely agree with you – depicting a white person as an ape and depicting a black person as an ape are not the same thing. For some reason, people don’t seem to understand that history matters.

  5. Besides the picture itself being horribly racist and blatantly equating black people to apes, I have to say that I was almost more appalled at the comments and reactions than the article itself. I would think that an offensive article published like this, would receive a lot of negative attention and backlash. Reading the comments, yes there were some people arguing against the publication, but there were a significant amount of people making up excuses for the image. People were saying, lighten up its only a joke, or it was in the satire section, or racism is in the past so it is okay to joke about….the comment section was full of aversive racism, with people just making up excuses for why this picture wasn’t actually racist.

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