Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Obama Bucks" & "The Birth of a Nation"

The Angryindian (who like me is not an Obama supporter) sent the racist story behind this image my way.

The story and its implications goes a little like this: The Chaffey Community Republican Women, a womens group affiliated to John McSame's party in California produced the image to press the racist point that Obama's face is most likely to appear on foodstamps rather than any other US currency.

Foodstamps (for those of you outside the befokde US) were once distributed to poor Americans to purchase food at grocery stores (credit-like cards are used now instead of actual paper foodstamps).

Racist whites often assume that most Blacks live off foodstamps because they are lazy, unemployed, and insolent wards of the state. Many of the same racists also believe that Blacks have a great fondness for fried chicken, ribs, and watermelon.

It is for this reason that the "Obama Bucks" image contains depictions of these foods (and Kool Aid of course!).

Characterizing Blacks as lazy folk who eat fried chicken and watermelon is a mainstay of racist American popular culture. The 1915 silent film by D. W. Griffith called "The Birth of a Nation" highlights these racist themes while also celebrating the rise of the Ku Klux Klan as an agent of white supremacy.

In one part of the movie Black political leaders (played by whites in blackface) are shown eating fried chicken and watermelon while sitting in a chaotic government chamber.

Griffith in 1915 was speaking to white fears (inclusive of the rape) about Blacks and their political position in the era of Reconstruction. A major question in this era, and one Griffith's movie answers in the negative, was whether freed Black slaves could be integrated into white society.

The "Obama Bucks" image is perpetrating much of the same kind of thing, with a twist of course. Like Griffith's film, the image implies that a Black president cannot be trusted to advance the 'civility' of whiteness in politics (and society).

The image (and the intention behind it) is racist and disturbing exactly because it purposefully mobilizes this historically worn denigration of Black folk.

The not so silent implication is that an Obama presidency will advance a chaotic and bestial 'blackness' that will amount to the kind of stealing from whites that Griffith crudely depicts.

And so like Griffith the women who circulated the "Obama Bucks" image are asking whites whether Blacks (and Obama) should be trusted as integrated equals and political leaders.

The answer is obviously based on the course of American racism and McSame and his cronies are counting on whites to rise up in 'patriotic' whiteness and vote against Obama.

It is sad that 93 years after Griffith's film there are still many white Republicans and other klans folk who find it hard to come to terms with Blacks as integrated equals.


Image Credit for "The Birth of a Nation"; Image Credit for "Obama Bucks".


Dade said...

Well, Obama supporter or not, Ridwan, surely you can see that if Obama wins it will say something good about how racism has diminished in America. No?

Ridwan said...

Hey there Dade. I have accepted Obama's 'post-race' posturing as a main feature of his thinking.

In that context his run for the presidency is not racialized and he won't claim to be a Black president.

Whites who will vote for Obama are not likely to vote for him if he was more truthful about race and racism.

He is the 'in-service' coloured man who makes whites feel less responsible for racism.

In these terms, an Obama presidency will not mean that racism has diminished. It merely means that its character is shifting or rather, adapting.

Racism will not end with a Black president in the White House.

Still, I still believe that Obama will not win this election.

Thanks my friend.

Peace and respect,

Professor Zero said...

Don't forget the Democrats who will vote against Obama for Griffith like reasons.

You're right that an Obama win will just mean racism is changing in its form of expression, and that many whites wouldn't vote for him if he were more truthful about race.

Check out my conversation last night.
Republican: I will not vote for Obama because I do not believe he sincerely disagrees with Jeremiah Wright.
PZ: I *will* vote for him precisely because I hope that is true.
Everyone: (in plural now): [MAJOR SHOCK]

They also went into this whole thing about how it was sexist not to be pro Palin, etc.

STILL I DO think it will be some form of advance if Obama is elected. It will be an advance because it will mean we as a group are at least awake enough to realize we don't want things to get even worse. Given the self destructiveness of the last little while that is already so much.

Ridwan said...

Thanks PZ for your insightful comment. Just today I was thinking that you and Dade may have called this one right.

I listen to folks here in SAfrica talk about Obama and there is hope that his presence is better than staying stuck.

I am off to your spot right now.