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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Filibuster: A note to Tea Party activists from the NAACP

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J.J. McCullough writes:

The NAACP, one of America’s most eminent black civil rights groups, came out swinging at conservative Tea Party activists this week. In a resolution at their annual general meeting, the organization blasted the Tea Party for containing “racist elements,” and demanded the group fully repudiate the bigots within their midst.

“The time has come for them to accept the responsibility that comes with influence and make clear there is no space for racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in their movement,” declared NAACP president Ben Jealous after the resolution passed. Much of the racism allegations swirling around the Tea Party center on the sorts of protest signs many of its members have chosen to bring to their rallies. The NAACP website presently contains a little gallery of some of the most offensive ones, under the heading “don’t let hate divide America.” Among other crimes against humanity, we can see depictions of President Obama as Mr. T, or that jolly black chef from the cream of wheat box.

As a visual satirist myself, I have to say I find all of this a bit dopey. Unflattering visual analogies do not presuppose racist intent. Depicting the President of the United States as a witch-doctor or monkey is hardly new; practically every president has faced similarly unflattering analogies. I can particularly recall a lot of witch-doctor related parodying directed towards George Bush Sr., a man who coined the term “voodoo economics” to describe his own party’s fiscal philosophy. And of course we all remember how frequently his son was depicted as some sort of slope-browed chimpanzee.

We’re only reading more into this kind of stuff today because the president is black, so every bit of teasing that used to be regarded as innocuous is now scrutinized under the racial microscope.

While genuinely racist caricatures are obviously hateful and ignorant, I reject the premise that Obama’s race is completely off grounds for mockery. A public figure’s appearance is always a healthy source of material for satire. Again, we can think of all the times Dubya was teased for his vacant facial expressions, or the many grotesque caricatures of John McCain’s hideous neck-flesh. When making parodies, you compare people to things they look like, and the fact remains that Obama does look a lot more like the cream of wheat guy than Bush or Clinton.

Seems to me that a truly a non-racist political culture would see parody as parody, and not get excessively flustered trying to constantly find “hidden agendas” motivating everything. Sometimes a poster is just a poster.

J.J. McCullough is a political cartoonist from Coquitlam, British Columbia.

Posted by westernstandard on July 18, 2010 in Filibuster, U.S. politics | Permalink

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