Last week the New York Post, owned by multi-billionaire Australian-born Rupert Murdoch, carried a highly inflammable cartoon that shows two White cops just after they shot and killed a chimpanzee that essentially represented President Barack Obama, America’s first Black president. Not only was a racist connection between a Black man and a beast being made, the cartoon was a veiled endorsement of White cops in New York who have a history of unprovoked high profile shootings of unarmed Black males. Critics say that it’s bad enough that Rush Limbaugh wishes failure upon the President, now Rupert Murdoch apparently wants him dead. “Instead of ‘rest and relaxation,’ Rush & Rupert give R&R a diabolical, deadly meaning!” says a Black man from Compton who wishes to remain anonymous.
Barack the “Beast?”: Historically, racist Whites have considered Black males to hover somewhere between the White man and lower primates. In his book, Black Skin, White Masks, French-speaking social-psychologist Frantz Fanon, a Black man, writes: “It has been said that the Negro is the link between monkey and man—meaning, of course, white man.” In French, the Black man is sometimes associated with a bête noire, or, “black beast.”
Twelve years ago in my book Wicked Words: Poisoned Minds—Racism in the Dictionary (1997) I called attention to a stunningly racist book entitled The Negro A Beast (1902). In connecting the beast with the Black man an Oxford English Dictionary (OED) reference from 1922 England reads: “Black Beast Burned in Omaha, Ga. A lot of Deadwood Dicks in slouch hats [fired] at a sambo [another derogatory term for a Black man] strong up on a tree with his tongue out and a bonfire under him.” In plain English, this refers to white racists shooting at the dead body of a black man hanging from a tree with a fire lit under him. The dead man was referred to as a “Black Beast”; French, bête noire.
Not everyone agreed with this characterization. In the very same year as The Negro A Beast was released, Charles Taze Russell—a well known White minister—countered with the article, “The Negro Not a Beast,” which appeared in the July 15, 1902, issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. But, over nine decades later, not much had changed. In September 1993, American telecommunications giant AT&T printed an offensive cartoon in its employee magazine, Focus. It depicted a caller on each continent of the earth—all human—except for Africa, which had a gorilla standing on it.
Of course, the etymology of “gorilla,” according to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, is “believed to be the name of an alleged African tribe of hairy women”; some dictionaries say, ‘African man.’ The Washington Post, in its September 17, 1993, issue, carried an apology for AT&T in the form of an article entitled, “AT&T Apologizes for Racist Illustration.” Then there’s the Greek word “pygmy.” OED says it all. “Formerly applied to the chimpanzee and other anthropoid apes as the assumed originals of the pygmies of ancient story….Of [Black] persons and animals…often used in the names of species of animals.”
NYPD & Blacks: On Saturday, November 25, 2006, Sean Bell, a 23-year-old African American male attending a bachelor party in Jamaica, Queens with two of his friends was killed in a hail of 50 police bullets, just hours before his wedding. The incident impacted me in a special way since I had just lectured in Jamaica, Queens two weeks prior. Thirty years ago on the same date yet another White New York City police officer gunned down an unarmed Black teenage male who had done nothing wrong. On November 25, 1976, Randolph Evans, a 15-year-old unarmed innocent Black 9th grader from the Cypress Hills Housing Projects in Brooklyn, was killed by Robert Torsney, a White New York City police officer. Though initially arrested, two years after Torsney murdered Evans he was released and walked away a free man. These are two of a plethora of examples.
Obama the “Hero”: Though Murdoch and those of his ilk want Obama out of the way, most people see him as a hero according to a Harris Poll conducted January 12-19, 2009. The 2,634 people representing a cross-section of America listed Barack Obama, Jesus Christ, and Martin Luther King, Jr., respectively, as their top three all-time heroes. (Respondents answered spontaneously. For instance, they didn’t choose Obama over Jesus since they weren’t shown a list.) Ironically, of these three Men of Color, Obama is the only one who hasn’t been murdered. Impale the President? Ominously, three of those in the top 15–John F. Kennedy (8), Abraham Lincoln (6), and Mahatma Gandhi (15)–were all assassinated. Given these sobering realities, some are saying that not only is the New York Post cartoon racist, it’s also “un-American,” “unpatriotic,” and even “treasonous.” When the “hero” Poll was first taken 2001, yet again three Black men topped the list: Jesus Christ (1), Martin Luther King, Jr. (2), and Colin Powell (3). After veiled and direct threats on his life Powell declined the offer to run for president.
Murdoch & Me: Mr. Murdoch appears to have an aversion toward Black men who are perceived as intelligent, talented, or successful. He has no problem with them as long as they’re subordinates with White task masters. The powerful, extensive, ever-expanding Murdoch Media Machine–including Fox News–was engaged against me when I defended Michael Jackson against false child molestation charges. A writer from the New York Post called me and was ready to twist my words before I threatened to expose him. After the tide of public opinion began to turn in Michael’s favor, the Empire Struck Back. Murdoch had teams of researchers go into high gear as they performed detailed background checks on me. He then sent the ruthless Nazi-like Gregg Jarrett (Fox News Channel) after me personally and primarily, and then Michael Jackson secondarily.
After Jarrett was embarrassed in one of our exchanges on national television (some of his Fox News colleagues even applauded me), the desparate and diminutive Geraldo Rivera (At Large With Geraldo) took aim. After firing blanks, he fell to the wayside. When these attorney-turned-journalists ran out of ammo, the Big Guns began to circle. Bill O’Reilly, cable television’s top gun-slinger, cowardly fired a shot over my head when my back was turned by referencing me on his show, but declined to take me on in a faceoff. And, conveniently, the now deceased retired White House spokesman and former Fox News commentator Tony Snow did a feature on me in my capacity as Jackson family spokesman (complete with video of me at a news conference), but would not face me either. He was substituting for O’Reilly at the time. The collective actions of Fox News prompted former heavy-weight champion Mike Tyson to say to me, “Man, they’re really trying to get you!” (In the interest of fairness, I will acknowledge that, at the time, Fox News’ Debra Norvell was indeed ‘fair and balanced.’)
And, yes, Mr. Murdoch did apologize. But his track record makes such a belated apology ring hollow. When the smoke clears, it is my sincere hope that God keeps President Barack Obama safe. (Luke 4:28-30; 1 Tim. 2:1-4) Instead of hearing the ring of gunshots, or the ping of Murdoch’s Monkey Media Machine, let’s brace our ears to hear freedom’s ring. Being receptive to this good news is a song we can all sing….Amen.