It shamelessly succeeded in capturing our attention. But the racist cartoon that ran today should spur us into action

It shamelessly succeeded in capturing our attention. But the racist cartoon that ran today should spur us into action

“I’ve never seen a cartoon more naked in its ambition to be discussed on TV. Its cleverness-to-offensiveness ratio is grotesquely out of whack which is a firm indicator of attention-seeking. Further discussion just generates clicks for shit work.”

Annabel Crabb’s summation of the cartoon in today’s edition of The Australian is 100 percent accurate. The cartoon is shameless in its mission to “shock and run”. Indeed, it elicits no other response and holds no other agenda. It’s not “clever” or “witty” “or “satirical”. It doesn’t make any poignant points or present any jarring metaphors or euphemisms. It is racist and sexist and that’s all it was ever intended to be.

But, despite this abhorrent MO, the cartoon still needs to be spoken about. It needs to be spoken about, because the editors who chose to run it need to explain and to make themselves accountable. It needs to be spoken about because advertisers should feel obligated to pull funding. It should be spoken about because readers should cancel their subscriptions.

If you haven’t already seen it and spat out your morning coffee, then lucky you. (Sorry, that I’m about to ruin your lunch).

The cartoon depicts Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden alongside his newly selected VP, Kamala Harris. The two at a podium, the caption reads (from the perspective of Biden): “It’s time to heal a nation divided by racism…so I’ll hand you over to this little brown girl while I go for a lie-down.”

Of course, you know a cartoon holds no credibility when you can’t work out the central tenet of it. Yes, it “cleverly” took the stirring words of Joe Biden out of context in which he referred to “little girls” and “especially Black and Brown girls who so often may feel overlooked and undervalued in our society — potentially seeing themselves in a new way: As the stuff of Presidents and Vice Presidents.” A tweet he sent upon his selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate. So is that it? Is the only tenuous point (aside from blatant racism and misogyny ) that Biden’s nomination of Harris was tokenistic? If so, then goddamn it’s a bad one.

Not only because Kamala Harris is beyond qualified for the position—she’s held some of the country’s highest legal and political portfolios and is well regarded as a fierce and popular agitator. But because Biden, who is now pushing 80 years old, wouldn’t have selected a running mate who wasn’t cut out for the White House when he likely resigns after a first term. Indeed, he’s signalled to aides on various occasions that his intentions as leader would be to do just that.

Just because a decision is made to bring in diversity and not fall back on the same, tired strategy of pale, stale and male (particularly when the two presidential running candidates fall directly into this camp), does not make Harris’ candidacy a token gesture. If anything, she symbolises the next frontier of American politics and leadership. And boy, do we need it.

The cartoonist’s sole intention was to project a feeling of bigotry thinly veiled as political commentary. It is a cartoon that harks back to a time Australia would do well to forget. We know that sexism and racism are still very much alive in this country, and in the U.S, but at least we’re attempting a stamp out. Most rational, empathetic, moral people acknowledge that we need to do better–sadly something that The Australian is still yet to grasp.

This cartoon shouldn’t be shared merely for the feeling of outrage it engenders. We know that’s the intention of the cartoonist and its publisher and they shouldn’t receive the reward of a high click-through rate. Instead, our outrage should galvanise determined action. all Australians should be demanding an explanation for how an editorial decision like this was made and put enough pressure on NewsCorp to ensure it doesn’t happen again; particularly true at a time when collective resolve toward progress has never been more critical.

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