A Belgian newspaper is under fire for blatant racism. De Morgen, which is based in Belgium, portrayed Barack and Michelle Obama as apes. The caption above the photo suggests it was was submitted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Another photo, which was included in the article, says “First Black President of the USA Starts Selling Weed.”
Although the article was included in De Morgen’s “satirical” section, the racist tone was criticized as incredibly inappropriate. The article and photos have created a heated controversy, as they are being shared through social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit.
— chika unigwe (@chikaunigwe) March 22, 2014
As reported by Metro, several commenters have defended the photo and article. As some users suggest, former President George W. Bush was depicted as an ape on numerous occasions. However, as one commenter explains, the portrayal of Obama as an ape in the context of the article is quite different:
“Bush is compared with apes because he’s stupid – not because he’s white. The caption here specifically mentions race – the photo is directly implying that black people are comparable with apes and is, therefore, racist.”
A 2009 edition of the New York Post was criticized for a similar incident. Although the photo was not featured with an article, a political cartoon depicted President Obama as an ape. The newspaper received stark criticism for what many considered the promotion of racism.
While the newspaper eventually apologized, they defended their decision to print the cartoon, explaining that “sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon, even if the opportunists make it something else.”
Huffington Post reports that De Morgen issued a similar apology for their highly criticized photos and article:
“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… In this case, we plead guilty of bad taste.”
Representitives with De Morgan insist that the piece was not meant to be racist, and they “wrongly assumed that racism is no longer accepted.”
Twitter user Chika Unigwe, a 15-year resident of Belgium, has been specifically vocal in her criticism of the article and photos. She said “It is already a big step that De Morgen has apologized. But an apology is just the beginning.”
Unigwe suggests that “black people in Belgium have no political voice, no economic voice, so in a way society forgets that they exist.” She believes the photo depicting Obama as an ape underlines the racial inequality that still exists in Belgium.
[Images via OnSugar]