By now–particularly if you live in or around New York City–you're aware of how much sh*t the NY Post stepped in by publishing the above cartoon by cartoonist Sean Delonas earlier this week.

While there's been a lot of coverage on the cartoon and the subsequent uproar, two items in particular stand out to me and are really worth sharing.

First, over at Jack & Jill Politics, Baratunde Thurston talks about the work of UCLA psychologist Philip Goff, who has studied the link between seeing blacks as apes, monkeys, etc and treating them brutally."  He writes:

In short, what Dr. Philip Goff and his colleagues have found is a clear connection between the psychology of racism and real harm to black people. Further, they have been working with police departments across the nation to study their records, analyze their people and adjust their training in order to save the lives of black people and improve the effectiveness of policing. This is truly where the academy meets the streets.

While it's not the same, it makes me think of the process that the military uses to get soldiers to think of the enemy as sub-human.  All the easier to kill them, right?

At the same time, I came across this post on diversity by Dr. Lester Spence:

There are at least two reasons why affirmative action, or programs that increase diversity “for diversity’s sake” are beneficial even when there are no substantive differences in the outlook between the various “diverse groups.”

The first is psychological. I don’t think I’ll ever forget my middle son’s response when I asked him why he was going to vote for Obama in the mock election:

Because white people need to know black people can do it too.

He understands at 8 what it takes years for some to understand–this isn’t about black self-esteem, at all. Whites need to routinely be exposed to non-whites (and women) in positions of power, regardless of attitudes, so their conception of power, their conception of (in this case) what it means to be American can change and grow. And we need to see this too, so our own conception of what our country is capable of can change. Note this has nothing to do with US. We routinely accomplish without the need for “role models.”

But the second thing is material. In order to stave off societal death as long as possible, we need to have our cultural and human capital distributed as widely as possible. Having non-whites in positions of power and authority does that–regardless of the attitudes and policy stances those non-whites take. We cannot solve our current crisis if we continue to rely on a subset of our population for answers to our problems, just as we cannot hope to win any modern war if even 10% of the eligible population is sitting on the sidelines.

So, in the first case, I think it's important to point out a clear link–in case anyone was wondering why this was a big deal–between the dehumanization of Blacks and increased levels of police violence against us.  And it's unconscionable that the NY Post didn't get that the culture has shifted, that our first African American president has basically tied his presidency to the "stimulus bill," and that any reference to "stimulus bill" and apes would be seen as a reference to Obama.  Moreover, it's unacceptable that with one cartoon, the Post seems to be giving encouragement to the assassination of a President.

But, see, this is where it would've been extremely helpful to have a diverse workforce among the editorial staff of the Post, as Dr. Spence points out.  If there were more people of color involved in this kind of editorial review, somebody could've flagged this and caught it before it went to press.  It's stupid not to be more aware of the cultural landmines that are out there if you're a big-city daily newspaper.  Not that it wouldn't have happened, but I suspect the chances would've been significantly lower if the Post had its "cultural and human capital distributed as widely as possible".

Finally, why should I live in the most diverse city in the country and be insulted by one of our major newspapers?  It just shows how, even though much as changed, there's still a lot of work to be done.

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