Earlier this week, Rupert Murdoch and the New York Post were forced to apologise for a cartoon many saw as racist for its apparent depiction of President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee shot dead by police.
It’s astounding, then, to see that the Post ’s stablemate the Herald Sun has published a racist cartoon of its own today.
The topic is yesterday’s announcement of the departure of Sol Trujillo as CEO of Telstra. Prominent in the op-ed section of the paper, cartoonist Mark Knight has drawn Trujillo as a sleepy-eyed, sombrero-wearing cliched Mexican, riding off from a Wild West hick town (with one of the buildings bearing a Telstra logo) on a donkey laden with moneybags, as loose notes flutter about in the desert air. He is dressed in a mariachi band outfit with spurs on his boots.
And on page two of the paper, a largely positive review by Terry McCrann of Trujillo’s achievements while at the helm of Telstra was not-so-subtly undermined by the headline (presumably the work of a sub-editor) “Si senor”.
Regardless of what you think of the job Trujillo has done at Telstra or of his bonuses and golden parachute arrangements, the use of racist imagery to depict anyone should be just as unacceptable in Australia as it is in the US.
As I wrote in 2006, portraying Trujillo in terms of Mexican racial stereotypes — either as some kind of poncho-wearing, siesta-taking buffoon or as a moustachioed, pistol-toting “bandido” — is intentionally demeaning and not even based on fact. Trujillo was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, is a US citizen, was educated in the US, and has never lived or worked in Mexico.
Why should we consider these images of Trujillo as any less racist than depicting an African-American as an ape?
Imagine the uproar if a Murdoch paper ran a cartoon of Lebanese-born ex-NAB executive and now Rudd Bank head Ahmed Fahour wearing a tea-towel on his head or riding a camel, which would be directly analogous to what they’ve done to Trujillo. There was, of course, no mention of Fahour’s ethnicity or place of birth in how The Australian reported his appointment.
Nor should there be in reporting about Trujillo.