Sharon Denise Allison-Ottey
From My Heart To Yours

New York Post: Remedy; the Broader Issue-- Money Talks What Will YOU Do?

The cartoon which appeared in the New York Post has incited outrage in many of us (of all races and nationalities)  around the country.  We have taken this issue on with passion and many of African American (AA) leaders have called for boycotts, apologies and other remedies.  However, unfortunately many fail to see the big deal and think that they are "playing the race card", "over reacting" and being a bit too "sensitive". 

Whatever your opinion, this is America and you are allowed to hold that  opinion in the country which I love..  However,  I implore us to look a little deeper into the symbolism and history associated with Black people being compared to animals both consciously and subconsciously. I cannot begin to share the vast amount of historical medical data associated with this imagery and subsequent treatment or lack thereof which many Blacks had to endure as a consequence.  I ask that we wake up and not wait for a "cartoon" or incident to galvinize us to action. 

There are studies which have quietly been published which give us fuel to run on to combat racism, sexism and the other "isms" which plague our society.  It was not 100, 50 or even 10 years ago that a study was published in a credible medical journal which demonstrates the connection (conscious or subconscious) that many make between apes/monkeys/chimps to Blacks.  Consider the RECENT study highlighted below which was published in March 2008 (less than 1 year ago).

My challenge is for us to acknowledge that while the White House may be inhabited by a new diverse family; until we open our minds, hearts and indeed our homes to truly embracing diversity in humans that we will not have made the necessary strides forward. Racism,sexism and  discrimination is not just a "White" problem.   I challenge ALL Americans-- Whites, Blacks/African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Jewish, Asian Pacific Islanders and the rest of us which make up this great "gumbo" (not melting pot) of Americans to address our OWN racism and sexism. 

How many times do WE (AA) have to hear the "N" word from our brothers and sisters?  How many times do WE have to hear the word "Ho", "B", etc... hurled at a woman by a woman or man? How many times do we have to hear derogatory references by US which include "Blacky", "High Yellow", "Big Nose", "Big Lips", "Buckwheat", or "Tar Baby" before we get just as offended?  I am offended by ANYONE that promotes racism, sexism, discrimination, bigotry or belittling.  Words have power to hurt and heal.

I challenge us to be offended to the point of ACTION not just lip service to the Post but ALSO to each other.  I want racism, discrimination, sexism and all of the ugliness to end not just when we talk about the White/Caucasian community but even more importantly when we talk about US. I challenge us to really "rally" around issues both big and small associated with discrimination and racism.  However, not to just be reactionary but proactive in our daily lives and lead by example.

I do not discount one iota the insult hurled at by the New York Post cartoonist but more importantly EDITOR who allowed this to run; whether intentional or unintentional. However, given the insult/insensitivity (at best) I say let us use this as fuel to REALLY address the issue and begin the clean up in OUR house!  I know that I can do better--- can YOU? Or do we just want to talk about "The Man" beating us down?   Further, are we going to go buy the Post to read (and support) some half baked apology which will sell more papers OR do we say let's make an example of them and shut them down.  Money talks and I say keep yours in your pocket EVEN with a half baked apology-- I don't need it or want it.  The remedy is simple---JUST SAY NO! to any company, person or anything that belittles, denigrates, persecutes or discriminates against you based on  racial, cultural, gender or sexual orientation.  You don't need to hold a sign, just refuse to open your wallet or purse!  That will get you further than anything--- but will we do it!  I applaud John Legend's letter to the editor (see below) and now ask that we do follow the proper remedy--- MONEY TALKS, keep yours away from the Post.

Dr. Sharon (Sharon D. Allison-Ottey, MD

Read On.....

Subconscious mental connection between blacks, apes may reinforce subtle discrimination

March 5th, 2008 in Medicine & Health / Psychology

Many U.S. citizens may not hold openly racist beliefs today, but they still may subconsciously link African Americans with apes because people still use words and metaphors that subtly reinforce a less-than-human bias and endorse violence against Blacks, according to a new study.

"Historical racist images and books dehumanizing African Americans in the 19th and early 20th century relied heavily on the Negro-ape metaphor, which was used to stereotype Blacks as lazy, dim and aggressive," said lead author Phillip Atiba Goff, assistant professor of psychology at Penn State. "Such dehumanization and animal imagery have been used for centuries to justify violence against many oppressed groups.

"The images have disappeared from popular culture and from most people's memory," he added. "However, after completing six studies, we found strong evidence that Black-ape linkages still influence people subconsciously and impact their judgment particularly in the case of African American suspects and defendants."

The study's findings are published in the paper, "Not Yet Human: Implicit Knowledge, Historical Dehumanization and Contemporary Consequences," in a recent issue (February) of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

Goff and fellow researchers Jennifer Eberhardt, associate professor of psychology at Stanford University; Matthew C. Jackson and Melissa J. Williams, graduate students at Penn State and Berkeley, respectively, conducted six studies of college-age students. They found that participants – even those with no stated prejudices or knowledge of the historical images – were quicker to associate Blacks with apes than they were to associate Whites with apes.

Goff and fellow researchers Jennifer Eberhardt, associate professor of psychology at Stanford University, Matthew C. Jackson and Melissa J. Williams, graduate students at Penn State and Berkeley, respectively, conducted six studies of White college-age students. They found that participants – even those with no stated prejudices or knowledge of the historical images -- were quicker to associate Blacks with apes than they were to associate Whites with apes.

In the first three studies, researchers subliminally flashed Black or White male faces on a screen for a fraction of a second to "prime" the participants, who could identify blurry ape drawings much faster after they were primed with Black faces than with White faces. 

The connection was made only with African American faces; the third study failed to find an ape association with other non-White groups, such as Asians.

The fourth study showed that the implicit linkage can be subconscious for participants. In the fifth study, the researchers subliminally primed 115 White men with words associated with either apes (such as "monkey," "chimp," "gorilla") or big cats (such as "lion," "tiger," "cheetah"). Apes and big cats are associated with violence and Africa.

The subjects then watched a two-minute video clip, depicting several police officers violently beating a man of undetermined race. A photo of either a White or a Black man was shown at the beginning of the clip to indicate who was being beaten, with a description conveying that, although described by his family as "a loving husband and father," the suspect had a serious criminal record and may have been high on drugs at the time of his arrest.

The students were then asked to rate how justified the beating was. Participants who believed the suspect was White were no more likely to condone the beating when they were primed with either ape or big cat words. But those who thought the suspect was Black were more likely to justify the beating if they had been primed with ape words than with big cat words.

The sixth study showed that in hundreds of news stories from 1979 to 1999 in the Philadelphia Inquirer, African Americans convicted of capital crimes were about four times more likely than Whites convicted of capital crimes to be described with ape-relevant language, such as "barbaric," "beast," "brute," "savage" and "wild."

"While the explicit images of Blacks as apes have disappeared from the U.S. media, the images still may continue in coded language," the researchers said in the study. "Perhaps subtle metaphors that go largely unnoticed in the media continue to have great effect – and even be linked to life-and-death decisions."

As recently as the early 1990s, California state police euphemistically referred to cases involving young Black men as N.H.I. – No Humans Involved, according to the study. A police officer involved in the 1991 Rodney King beating had just come from a domestic dispute with a Black couple and referred to it as "something right out of (the movie) Gorillas in the Mist."

" If you look at some political cartoons of Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama and Colin Powell, you see that they are represented in ape-like caricature," noted Goff "It is not explicit depiction and therefore not seen as offensive.

"But not seeing Blacks as humans leads to implicit – or subconscious – bias, leading to support of stereotyping and other forms of discrimination again African Americans," he said. "Old-fashioned prejudice involves deliberate action and beliefs. By studying implicit knowledge and how it functions, we can study the mechanisms in hopes of remedying dehumanization's savage consequences."

Source: Penn State



Open Letter to the New York Post from Singer/Songwriter: John Legend

Dear Editor:

I'm trying to understand what possible motivation you may have had for publishing that vile cartoon depicting the shooting of the chimpanzee that went crazy.  I guess you thought it would be funny to suggest that whomever was responsible for writing the Economic Recovery legislation must have the intelligence and judgment of a deranged, violent chimpanzee, and should be shot to protect the larger community.  Really?  Did it occur to you that this suggestion would imply a connection between President Barack Obama and the deranged chimpanzee?  Did it occur to you that our President has been receiving death threats since early in his candidacy?  Did it occur to you that blacks have historically been compared to various apes as a way of racist insult and mockery?  Did you intend to invoke these painful themes when you printed the cartoon? 

If that's not what you intended, then it was stupid and willfully ignorant of you not to connect these easily connectable dots.  If it is what you intended, then you obviously wanted to be grossly provocative, racist and offensive to the sensibilities of most reasonable Americans.  Either way, you should not have printed this cartoon, and the fact that you did is truly reprehensible.  I can't imagine what possible justification you have for this.  I've read your lame statement in response to the outrage you provoked.  Shame on you for dodging the real issue and then using the letter as an opportunity to attack Rev. Sharpton.  This is not about Rev. Sharpton.  It's about the cartoon being blatantly racist and offensive.

I believe in freedom of speech, and you have every right to print what you want.  But freedom of speech still comes with responsibilities and consequences.  You are responsible for printing this cartoon, and I hope you experience some real consequences for it.  I'm personally boycotting your paper and won't do any interviews with any of your reporters, and I encourage all of my colleagues in the entertainment business to do so as well.  I implore your advertisers to seriously reconsider their business relationships with you as well.

You should print an apology in your paper acknowledging that this cartoon was ignorant, offensive and racist and should not have been printed.

I'm well aware of our country's history of racism and violence, but I truly believe we are better than this filth.  As we attempt to rise above our difficult past and look toward a better future, we don't need the New York Post to resurrect the images of Jim Crow to deride the new administration and put black folks in our place.  Please feel free to criticize and honestly evaluate our new President, but do so without the incendiary images and rhetoric.

John Legend