In March 2014, a Belgian newspaper that published a Photoshopped image of Barack and Michelle Obama looking like apes in the name of satire had to apologise.
After being accused of racism, De Morgen admit that they made an error in judgement and published a statement saying:
When you consider the fragment apart from its context, which is a properly worked out satirical section, then you don’t see the joke but just a picture evoking sheer racism. That was a risk we didn’t consider enough beforehand.
We wrongly assumed that racism is no longer accepted and that, in this way, it could be the subject of a joke”, the statement continues. The editors say that overlooked the fact that in the United States, the comparison between blacks and monkeys is still something that pops up regularly today.
De Morgen therefore apologises to everyone who may feel insulted by the cartoon. “In this case, we plead guilty of bad taste. We continue to be on the side of those that are battling any form of racism. Don’t hesitate to contact us if we would go too far on a different occasion.
De Morgen published the doctored image days before President Obama’s planned visit to the country to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War.
The paper dedicated a whole section to Obama’s visit in its weekend edition. The weekly satirical page “The Daily Herald” was completely devoted to the American president and was baptised “The Obama Herald” for the occasion.
The page contains fictitious tweets by Obama, and some articles, including an ‘interview’ with Sasha Obama claiming that she “hates Beyonce” and “that ugly man of hers too”.
The offensive picture was presented as if it were an opinion piece coming from Russian President Vladimir Putin with the words: “Vladimir Putin is the president of Russia. He sent us this attachment at our request, and chose to send pictures instead of text ‘because he doesn’t have a lot of time’.”
This apparently made it funny.
When shit like this hits the internet, black folks have to come out swinging against those who question why we can’t take it as a joke. It’s also an opportunity for keyboard warriors to add their own racist statements. I don’t have the time for them.
I’m passed the stage where I feel I have to explain what is racist and to defend why I feel offended. I don’t give a crap that a newspaper has depicted George Bush as a monkey before; it’s not the same damn thing!
According to the Independent, this is not the first time a newspaper has portrayed President Obama as an ape. In 2009, the New York Post issued an apology after printing a cartoon with a similar theme. It added: ‘Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon, even if the opportunists make it something else.’
With apologies like that, we’re not going to win.