mirrorshard: (Autumn skin)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
If you haven't seen this appallingly racist cartoon in the Times, I recommend it for sheer did-they-actually-publish-that value.

Edit: please read the comments before leaving "helpful" corrections. If someone else has already said it, I don't need a "me too". Thank you.

I can't find an address specifically for complaints; comment@thetimes.co.uk gets autorejected. I've sent the following to online.editor@timesonline.co.uk as the apparent next most appropriate thing.



Sir,

I should like to register a complaint about Peter Brookes' cartoon dated 21st March 2009. It clearly depicts Barack Obama as a coconut, which is of course a strong racial slur - a derogatory term meaning "black on the outside, white on the inside".

I am disappointed that a respectable newspaper would publish such slurs, and further disappointed that a respectable newspaper can find nothing better to say about a prominent world leader so soon after his election than to comment on his race.

Yours sincerely,
[livejournal.com profile] mirrorshard

Date: 2009-03-23 02:21 pm (UTC)
ext_15802: (berk)
From: [identity profile] megamole.livejournal.com
Um, I thought it was supposed to be a bowling ball, actually. I agree "coconut" is racist but didn't get that meaning...

Date: 2009-03-23 02:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
Can't even remember when the last time I saw a bowling ball was, but it sure looks like a coconut to me.

Date: 2009-03-23 03:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hellison.livejournal.com
I thought it was a bowling ball too, after his very stupid comment on some show or other about how is bowling is like 'something from the special olympics', and that was why the 'doh' as well...

Date: 2009-03-23 02:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emperor.livejournal.com
Are you sure it's not referring to this bowling-related gaffe? (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7955842.stm)

Date: 2009-03-23 02:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
Probably, but I had no idea about the reference beforehand, and the "coconut" reading is still extremely unfortunate to say the least.

Which is to say that what they intended doesn't matter in the slightest; it's how it's read that matters. I'm sure a lot of people will take the bowling-ball reading (or an assassination reading, as soneone else has pointed out) but that also trivializes and denigrates the racial-slur aspect - a classic invisibilization effect.

Possibly I'm just a congenital non-bowler.

Date: 2009-03-23 02:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emperor.livejournal.com
I showed the cartoon to the IRC channel I inhabit, and they all said "bowling ball", even though several of them hadn't heard of the incident I noted.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] angoel.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 02:55 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 02:58 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 02:59 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] randomchris.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:11 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] ashfae.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 09:29 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] emperor.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:11 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 04:30 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:13 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-03-23 02:42 pm (UTC)
ext_15802: (Default)
From: [identity profile] megamole.livejournal.com
what they intended doesn't matter in the slightest; it's how it's read that matters

I have particular issues with this. If that is true, then in theory everything I write, despite my efforts at clarity, can be labelled with whatever the reader wants to attach to it.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 02:51 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] megamole.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 02:58 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 02:59 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:39 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] the-alchemist.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 05:23 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] blue-mai.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 05:53 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] blue-mai.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 08:51 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: (Anonymous) - Date: 2009-03-23 10:24 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 10:27 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-03-23 02:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com
Coconut - yes, clearly that would be racist. But, er, with the added "doh" (a Homer Simpson remark if ever I saw one) I think it's pretty obvious that it's a Balling Ball reference.

I think it's right to point out that it could be read as racist and thus that it is possibly ill-advised. But I don't think it's right to claim that it is hideously offensive.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 02:52 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] naath.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 04:17 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 04:21 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-03-23 02:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cjwatson.livejournal.com
There's standing up against racist slurs, and there's attempting to ensure that nobody can ever say anything negative about a black person for fear of being accused of racism.

Obama's presidency has generally been a good thing - but in this case, Obama made a comment that was highly offensive to people with disabilities, and he deserves to be called on it. There's a long tradition of newspaper cartoons actually being vaguely related to current events and expecting you to keep up with them in order to understand them.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 02:57 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] cjwatson.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:15 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] cjwatson.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:23 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:25 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] cjwatson.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:44 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-24 02:05 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-03-23 09:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ashfae.livejournal.com
Which is to say that what they intended doesn't matter in the slightest; it's how it's read that matters.

I'm sorry, but I must passionately disagree with this. Intentions count for a lot and should be respected. Verify them by all means, but credit them. Also, if "it's how it's read that matters," the implication is that if even one person is offended, then the original should be eradicated. But it is IMPOSSIBLE to some up with anything that someone won't find offensive.

I saw your comment below about it being the creator's responsibility to be clear about meaning. But the reader has responsibilities as well.

(admittedly, I looked at the cartoon, wondered why Obama had been drawn as a bowling ball, and just didn't get it because I was unaware of the bowling gaff; the coconut thing did not occur to me at all, and I still think it's very unlikely to have been intended)

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] ashfae.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 09:34 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-24 02:32 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-03-23 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] makyo.livejournal.com
I didn't know about that (or, for that matter, the use of the word 'coconut' as a racial slur) but my first thought was "bowling ball?" and my second was "shot three times in the head by an unusually precise and symmetry-conscious assassin?"

After reading the article you linked to, I'm inclined to go for the bowling-related analysis too.

Date: 2009-03-23 02:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hungry-pixel.livejournal.com
I'm not sure how 3 holes in the head looks like a coconut. Not the coconuts I've seen anyway. They tend to be hole-free. I was just confused by the cartoon, which is nothing new...mind you, I did think it was depciting Prince Charles...!

Date: 2009-03-23 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
If you poke around in the bristly end, there are three depressions arranged around it, where there's skin but no hard shell - that's how you get the coconut water out without cracking the whole thing open.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] shuripentu.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:14 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] hungry-pixel.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 04:16 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 04:18 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-03-23 03:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] randomchris.livejournal.com
Sorry, it clearly *is* meant to be a bowling ball rather than a coconut. It's not a very good cartoon, but the holes are very clearly bowling-ball finger holes.

The resemblance to a coconut would, I suspect, be totally impossible to see if Mr Obama had longer hair. It's only his hair's unfortunate similarity to coconut hair that makes it at all possible to see the coconut resemblance.

Date: 2009-03-23 03:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
I'd probably have seen that if I had seen a bowling ball at any point in the last goodness-knows-how-many years, but I have a coconut right here!

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 03:21 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] harald387.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-23 04:46 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-03-23 03:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com
I think it is a bowling ball, and I think the racist implications are thus accidental.

I also think The Times should be more bloody careful.

Date: 2009-03-23 03:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] psych0naut.livejournal.com
Before reading your cut and the comments, I must confess I had no idea what was (inferred to be) so racist about this cartoon. It seemed pretty obvious to me that it was a reference to the President's bowling joke. However, even if he were depicted as a coconut, and if that depiction were meant to convey "black on the outside, white on the inside", I still don't see how that qualifies as racist. There are lots of people who don't conform to ethnic stereotypes, or who adopt lifestyles and mannerisms of a particular ethnic group, and I don't see any problem with making reference to this (unless it's done to ridicule or otherwise deride the practice). I know several asiaphiles who jokingly refer to themselves as "eggs" ("white on the outside, yellow on the inside"), and also some people of Chinese descent who use similar metaphors to indicate (neutrally or jocularly, but never pejoratively) that they've assimilated into Western culture.

I think you're reading way too much into this cartoon. Are you sure you aren't just looking for an excuse to be offended?

Date: 2009-03-23 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lizw.livejournal.com
"Coconut", "bounty bar", "oreo" and the like have a history of derogatory use, so I think they're better avoided, especially by white people.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-24 02:35 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] lizw.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-24 02:44 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-24 03:10 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-03-23 04:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mirrorshard.livejournal.com
I'm fairly sure. I'm feeling spiky in any case today, but that would have set me off even without that.

The "coconut" thing ties into issues of cultural abandonment, marginalization, invisibility, and all the painful so-you-think-you're-too-good-for-us stuff.

Cultures are very much not symmetrical - it's one thing to move from a culturally dominant system to a less-dominant one, but quite another to do it the other way around. (There's also the issue of safe-for-white-people, not-safe-for-others.)

It can be very much an "I can use any word I want, but what the hell did you just call me, PAL?" issue too.

Date: 2009-03-23 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] purplepiano.livejournal.com
Apart from any racial overtone, I think that cartoon's just a bit rubbish! Not very funny, a bit obscure and doesn't make any sort of serious point. Though I often find political cartoons smug and annoying anyway. I guess Obama is still at the un-satirisable stage.

Date: 2009-03-23 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
Frankly, I'm not sure what to make of that cartoon, but if a racist reading is at all likely then the publishers need to take that into consideration. I wrote about this with the chimpanzee Obama cartoon (http://elettaria.livejournal.com/70360.html) the other week.

He is not depicting him as a coconut

Date: 2009-03-23 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bloggingit.livejournal.com
He is depicting him as a bowling ball because of his dumb comment on Jay Leno...

Date: 2009-03-24 02:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] neonchameleon.livejournal.com
One more "That's a bowling ball" here. For one thing, the two close together eyes and one separated one are characteristic of a bowling ball - but a coconut has its eyes almost equidistant. And they are shallow depressions not deep holes to stick your fingers in. (And I don't think I've bowled in the last eight years).

It's a pretty lousy cartoon. But it's not a subtle one. And there is a certain point beyond which you can say that things are being read into a text due to the prejudices of the external observer rather than due to the text. I don't know whether this hits that line, but it comes remarkably close. (Actually it's a matter of cultural knowledge and lack of it here.)

Date: 2009-03-24 09:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elettaria.livejournal.com
Yes, but you can't assume that everyone reading your cartoon has the same level of cultural knowledge as you. Readers are allowed to be ignorant. That doesn't completely invalidate their responses. It's not an academic article, it's a newspaper, it's meant to be read by absolutely anyone, and also note that it's for a British audience rather than an American one.

I didn't see the cartoon as looking like anything, to be honest. I have no idea what bowling balls look like, and I don't think of coconuts as looking that way either. I got the Homer Simpson reference and then stared at the cartoon wondering why it showed Obama with holes in his head. I'd read about the disability gaffe, but even after I was told it was a bowling ball I didn't connect it to that.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] randomchris.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-25 10:38 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] mirabehn.livejournal.com - Date: 2009-03-25 03:35 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2009-03-24 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
Erm, it's meant to be a bowling ball. Hence the Homer Simpson 'Doh!'

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags