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VIA AOL BLACKVOICES:

Phillip Sciarello, a publisher and part owner of the Smithtown Messenger in Long Island, is defending his newspaper after a picture appeared that some believe to be a racist stereotype of the First Family. The picture depicts President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama as characters from “Sanford and Son.” The public backlash has led the paper to announce that it will issue a retraction in its next edition.

The picture is part of a “before and after” sequence of the last six presidents, showing how much they age once they get in to the White House. The “after” photo of the Obamas shows Barack Obama as Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) and Michelle Obama as Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page). The characters are standing ready to fight, as was typical on the 1970s television show.

The pictures led the Brookhaven town board to remove one of the company’s sister publications, the Brookhaven Review, as an official newspaper. This means that the paper will no longer publish town government notices.

“The reference to racial stereotypes is where the line was crossed,” Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko said to Newsday.

Hazel N. Dukes, president of the state NAACP conference, stated that the county should pull advertising from any publication that runs the photo.

“It is simply shocking and outrageous that such a blatantly racist ad would run in any paper, much less an official paper of Suffolk County,” Dukes said. “New Yorkers of all races and ethnicity are disgusted by it and reject it.”

When it comes to the Obamas being depicted as characters from the show, “Sanford and Son,” it can be difficult to ascertain the motives of the newspaper. Racism is such a subtle demon in our society that we can have a difficult time understanding it, fighting it and identifying it. If we are not careful, we can get to the point where any reference to our race will lead to accusations of bigotry and discrimination. Being a fan of free and fair expression, I remind all of us to be careful in how we respond to things that insult us.

In this particular case, however, the picture was highly inappropriate. Of all the presidents and first ladies presented on the editorial page of this newspaper, none of them were portrayed in a satirical way. To show every other president and his wife in a dignified posture and then show the only black first family as two comical television characters was out of line, and not surprising from a publication that leans to the political right.

Throw the book at this newspaper. They deserve it.

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