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I’m not buying New Yorker Editor David Remnick’s defense of

his periodical’s incendiary cartoon as a satire of popular misconceptions

about Obama. That shocking and offensive  cover was no

sophisticated parody, but rather a scare tactic

prediction of America’s worst nightmare




New Yorker Cover Depicts the Obamas as Terrorists

            By Lloyd Williams


The closer Barack Obama gets to winning the White House, the more determined his adversaries have become to derail his campaign by any means necessary. Remember how Hillary refused to drop out of the race in May because she said that June was the month Bobby Kennedy was assassinated? Hint-hint. Or how one of her surrogates, former Senator Bob Kerrey, stated that Obama might be a Muslim Manchurian Candidate pre-programmed to hide his true anti-American agenda until after becoming President? Hint-hint.

Similar hateful sentiments have been echoed in the caricature of the Obamas contained on the cover of the July 21st issue of The New Yorker magazine which shows the couple sharing one of their famous fist-bumps in the Oval Office, ostensibly celebrating soon after his inauguration. What is disturbing about the controversial tableau is that Barack is depicted in Arab garb complete with turban, and looking suspiciously like Osama bin Laden whose portrait has replaced that of a prior president on the wall. The not so subtle suggestion being made here is that a vote for Obama is a vote for an Islamic radical terrorist.

Meanwhile, Michelle is attacked in a different way, being drawn with a big afro and a machine gun slung over shoulder in front of a fireplace with a United States flag burning in it. These images are designed to imply that she’s a Sixties-style black militant who hates her country and advocates a violent revolution.  

How dare The New Yorker put an automatic weapon in her hands! Are they trying to get her killed? What the heck is its rationale except to hint that she’s a traitor guilty of treason who deserves to be shot? And why link a natural hairstyle with anti-American sentiments, as if to say that African-Americans who don’t straighten their hair but wear it as God intended are automatically suspicious and unpatriotic!

Listen, this country has a rancid, wretched history of vigilante and state-sanctioned violence when it comes to dealing with black folks it deems a threat to the status quo. All I have to do is mention a few famous martyrs like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton and Medgar Evers to remind you of that long, ugly legacy of extermination marked by thousands of lynchings and assassinations.      

So, sorry, I’m not buying New Yorker Editor David Remnick’s defense of his periodical’s incendiary cartoon as a satire of popular misconceptions about Obama. That shocking and offensive cover was no sophisticated parody, but rather a scare tactic, a fairly literal prediction of America’s worst nightmare as defined by some race-baiting bigots.

Frustrated at failing to derail his campaign, Obama’s detractors have grown increasingly desperate. And desperate times call for desperate measures. The power elite has ostensibly declared open season on Barack and Michelle as they stand poised on the brink of becoming the first black President and First Lady of the United States with this thinly-veiled appeal to the redneck class to do polite white society a favor by putting a bullet in their heads.

Remember how Muslims all around the world reacted in unison to that Danish cartoonist’s drawing of the prophet Muhammad with a bomb tucked in his turban? Well, African-Americans ought to have sense enough to complain to the New Yorker and to boycott all of its advertisers for such an irresponsible, potentially devastating hit job one would expect from the Ku Klux Klan, not from a supposedly intellectual, Ivory-towered publication.     

Attorney Lloyd Williams is a graduate of the Wharton School and a member of the NJ, NY, CT, PA, MA & US Supreme Court bars.

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Other Responses to Cover

To the Editors of The New Yorker:

Whatever your intentand I do believe that it was done with malice and forethought--you have offended millions of African Americans, Muslims, liberals, and patriots by your senseless and tasteless fear-mongering and by your recourse, in the cover of the recent issue of The New Yorker, to offensive stereotypes that appeal to the baser instincts of human beings.Dr. Miriam DeCosta-Willis

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What's Up With the New Yorker?With images of a painting of Osama on the wall, the American flag burning in the fireplace, while Michele (with a huge Afro and an assault rifle strapped on her back wearing combat boots) and Barack (dressed as a Somali Islamist) fist bump. In all fairness, I do not go along with The New Yorker's claim, "the cartoon is intended as a satirical comment about some of the distorted right-wing attacks on the Democratic senator." In itself the cover is a right wing attack on Barack and Michele. The New Yorker went over the top to attract attention and support the Republican party and especially right wing racists, especially with the added images of Osama  and "fist bumping" while the American flag burns in the fireplace.  Was it malice of forethought? That's likely.  Was it senseless and tasteless fear-mongering? Indeed!!! I join others in denouncing The New Yorker and its cover.Rudy

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I encourage Michelle Obama to show this cover to her two daughters so that she can teach them that no matter what African American women aspire to, no matter their accomplishments, no  matter their patriotism, they are all considered by the "liberal" white press to be a bunch  of nappy headed, mean spirited, rifle toting thugs who are a threat to the "American way of life."  That is the message that you sent to the American people. And, we should never forget this atrocity against us.     I will never purchase the New Yorker again and will encourage all those I know to do the same.  The trumped up explanation by the author of this garbage is the epitome of a transparent lie.  You have no shame.Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr.Ph., Ph.D.

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JOE SIXPACK is probably not even aware of the existence of a magazine called The New Yorker, and is certainly incapable of reading any article in it.  I actually thought Michelle Obama looked good with the Angela Davis hairdo.  As a good mom, looking out for her kids in an obviously racist country, she has good reason to exercise her second amendment right to cling to her assault rifle. 

The flag burning in the fireplace was even more offensive to me than the picture of Osama above it.  The New Yorker has a first-amendment right to engage in symbolic flag-burnings, but must not, even in jest, attribute the practice to anyone else. 

This is the second time The New Yorker has crossed the line.  (See below.)Wilson

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Thank you for the forward on the New Yorker cover. Like you, I'm not swayed by the emotion or politics of Senator Obama even though he is the better choice of the two senators simply because the change that he suggests can at least be proven by his lack of time in Washington. However, the gall of the media to make Candidate Barack Obama their exotic sock puppet is beyond reproach.  Did they ridicule the "angry white male" of 1994 by cloaking him in a Klansman's robe, burning a flag with the Star of David while gazing at a photo of Bull Connor on their mantle? The exaggerated features of Michelle remind one of the Hottentot or at least Pam Grier, so for whose gaze are these caricatures? I agree, this isn't satire, but it is sad . . . and tired.—Raymond

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Hmmmm, I DO at least sort of 'get' the message behind the cover, but the problem of satire such as this achieving the exact opposite of what was intended is as old as the hills. As a Briton dare I mention, in this context, that equally old stereotype that Americans don't 'do irony'? Therefore, trying to pull anything like this off may be considerably riskier in the U.S. than in the UK. —Chris. 

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So when I got the call from 23/6 early this morning, asking me if I could take on a caption job for their site, I had not yet seen the New Yorker's latest cover and did not realize what I was getting into. They sent me the cover and asked me to give it my magic touch. I studied it for hours and then responded with something I never thought I'd hear myself say. "Fellas, I'm stumped." . . . Seeing the Obamas in Muslim and military garb just doesn't inspire the kind of fleeting, amused chuckle educed by the best New Yorker mini-masterpieces. . . . I mean, a picture of Osama bin Laden on the wall? How is that funny? . . . Sorry, New Yorker art department, but this misguided "commentary" has alienated a nation of readers who can't be bothered to think about the nuances and repercussions of political media, and just want a funny picture to laugh at, preferably one of a dog wearing a king's crown. Barry Blitt just didn't have it this week. So I'm afraid there's only one caption I can come up with for this. "I don't get it."Gordon Weinfarb

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When Joyce King gets back, join us in asking her to update her piece on "dysconscious racism."  The New Yorker cover and their editor's excuses are examples.Rhonda and I are definitely going to try and find out if it's been updated because a lot of our folk need to read and get to an understanding of its pervasiveness, particularly among those who are "liberal" and would never think that they were perpetuating a systemic problem of major import.—Chuck

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Judging The New Yorker by Its Cover—A certain amount of post-cover introspection is important at this point. Perhaps your next cover should depict New Yorker editors discussing/arguing about political cartoons with its cartoonists. That might be a nice Manhattan-style, oblique apology. Many of us would have seen your cover as satire against Obamaphobes had you not placed Osama bin Laden over a fireplace where the American flag is burning. But the larger questions are: Why an oblique cartoon? Why exactly did you feel it more appropriate to scapegoat a Black woman and her mate? Why does Barack look ofay while his wife is sketched as the one with more cajones? Do you imagine you could have been any Whiter in your subconscious, cartoonish decisions regarding the Black male? And more importantly, Why didn't you have the cajones to satirize and to caricature the Obamaphobes directly?Mackie J.V. Blanton

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I live in Carrollton, TX and read The New Yorker regularly, especially when articles by Seymour Hersch are published. (This will change  immediately.) I write to express my disgust and disappointment with this month's magazine cover. While I understand and love satire, I do not think the magazine accomplished the goals stated by your editor in a CNN interview two days ago. One of the strengths of satire is timing, but the timing of this offensive cover is totally off. There are many uninformed voters who do not know Sen. Obama and many voters who do not want to know him. This magazine cover will be used by those who relish in the use of fear, negative stereotypes, outright lies and racism to defeat candidates worthy of consideration and to elect incompetent ideologues like George W. Bush. The Senator has spent so much time, effort and money working to dispel  incorrect information about himmuch of it unnecessarily disseminated by the news mediathat it has been harder for him to focus on solutions to problems he feels he can resolve as President. The New Yorker is not helping to solve any problems, especially the biggest elephant in the room—American ignorance and racism.Rhonda

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The New Yorker's Auto-Reply

Thank you for writing. We appreciate your comments and, if you have a question, we’ll do our best to respond. However, owing to the volume of correspondence, we cannot reply to every e-mail individually.  About this week’s issue: Our cover, “The Politics of Fear,” combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are. The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall— all of them echo one attack or another. Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover. In this same issue you will also see that there are two very serious articles on Barack Obama inside—Hendrik Hertzberg's Comment, The New Yorker and Ryan Lizza's 15,000-word reporting piece on the candidate's political education and rise in Chicago The New Yorker.

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To the Editor

As journalists and human beings we all understand that public life is not a kindergarten and that politicians and others in the public eye are always at risk of hard rough challenges. We also believe that journalism has the right and the duty to expose falsity and corruption wherever they are found.

That being said, we believe there are certain bounds within which responsible journalism must find itself constrained: we have no right to rob people of their dignity, their privacy or their reputations. And, as your Justice Holmes once said, Freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to shout "Fire" in a crowded theatre.

Your editor, David Remnick is quoted by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post as defending the Obama cover as a 'satire' – as a way of making fun of all the rumors. We confess that we and everyone to whom  we have spoken,  must have missed the point of the satire. We see no 'fun' in it. What we see appears to be  a clumsy, maladroit drawing which is obviously directed at the Obamas personally and not at 'rumors'.

Satire – if it is satire – requires wit and point, it requires art, in turning the obvious on its head to illustrate the truth hidden beneath. Satire does not need to be amusing, but it should be able to provoke an insight, a glimpse of a larger truth and the recognition, wry or rueful, perhaps, that we have been led, perhaps even tricked, into a new point of view, a perspective hitherto unnoticed.

Your plain, bald posterisation of the major untruths circulated against Barack and Michelle Obama does not provide any of this. In the present state of race relations in the United States and round the world, this is incendiary stuff, the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

It seems  calculated to provoke hatred and contempt for Barack and Michele Obama and other people of colour,  and like, the Danish cartoons featuring the prophet Mohammed, likely to incite violence. All of us have been readers of the New Yorker over the years and none of us can remember anything so patently inhumane or  propagandistic ever appearing before anywhere in the magazine. We think you owe the Obamas and  the world, an apology. We are three senior journalists from the Caribbean with over a hundred years of experience between us.

posted 16 July 2008 

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#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.

Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. Jamie Byng

Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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Incognegro: A Memoir of Exile and Apartheid

By  Frank B. Wilderson III

Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson's stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who've accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela's rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela's regime deems Wilderson's public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness.

Wilderson's observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid's last days.Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Related files:  Monkeys and Stimulus Bills   Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African-Americans   Nappy Headed Women   Something Out of Kilter  Obamas as Terrorists