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Online anger forces NYT to apologize for 'racist' cartoon

The New York Times apologized after facing criticism for its 'racist' cartoon

Anisha Dutta 

courtesy: New York Times

Only hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a much-lauded speech at Madison Square Garden, saying "There was a time when India was considered a land of snake charmers, thanks to you people and Information technology that the perception about our country has changed", the New York Times published a cartoon widely perceived as 'racist', showing a poor, half-naked Indian knocking at the doors of an ‘elite space club', cow in tow. Singapore-based cartoonist Hem Kim Song is known for creating provocative cartoons to depict international issues, but he could hardly have fathomed that NYT's editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal would have to personally apologize for his cartoon. Heng is a well renowned cartoonist who’s work as editorial cartoonist for Lianhe Zaobao , the largest Chinese-language daily in Singapore, has even been praised by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Facebook. Post by Lee Hsien Loong. The cartoon was published on September 28th in a opinion piece titled “India's Budget Mission to Mars". The cartoon depicts India as a poor, timid-looking farmer with a cow seeking to enter a 'metaphorical' elite club where two sophisticated-looking, well-fed men, representative of the West, are sitting and reading the news of India's Mars Mission looking visibly perplexed. Offended by the message shown in the cartoon the NYT was bombarded with thousands of angry messages, calling the cartoon racist. The offense taken was enough to make the Times’ editorial page editor issue a public apology. Post by The New York Times. As Rosenthal argued that Mr. Heng was in no way trying to 'impugn' India, he likely failed to realize that the depiction of India’s feat of successfully sending a Mars Orbiter in its maiden attempt by portraying an Indian farmer with a ‘cow’ as a necessary accessory is far from the truth.

As an article by Thinkprogress.com points out, “It’s not just the cow, which is, to be sure, a revered animal in much of India but by no means a must have accessory for the country’s top scientists.”

Post by Siby Mathew. "A paper like the NY Times should know from history that caricatures like this reinforce and perpetuate dehumanizing views in society. Shame on you, NY Times, " a user commented on NYT's apology on Facebook. While most criticized the cartoon for being ‘blatantly racist’ by pointing out the irony of the cartoonist’s claim of portraying the snobbery of the western world who ended up doing just the same, there were some who stated that the country needed to be more tolerant to humor at its expense and laugh it off.

First Published: Tue, October 07 2014. 15:16 IST
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