How can this even be a question?

CNN poses what they seem to think is a really tricky question: “Is it racist to depict Obama as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose?”

The witch doctor imagery is blatantly racist, critics contend.

Others remind that presidents get made fun off all the time, and the election of a black president has only made racially charged political satire more sensitive.

And they seem to take seriously the following defense: “Posters portraying President Obama as a witch doctor may be racist, organizers of Tea Party protests say, but they reflect anger about where he is leading the country.”

Now, there are of course interesting issues about whether racism is a property of an image, an image-maker, one who uses the image. Perhaps one could even imagine a far-fetched case in another possible world where the witch doctor image would not be a racist one. But in this world, no. And the question CNN is asking is not a sophisticated philosophical one. Instead, it’s one that shows that journalists have gone to far in trying to treat both sides of every issue with equal respect. (As if we didn’t know that already.)

2 thoughts on “How can this even be a question?

  1. Jender, I’m so glad you took this up.
    I wonder if the following could be going on:
    1. Trusting introspection, reported R is unaware of own unconscious bias/racism.
    2. R actually thinks the picture is amusing and neat.
    3. Since R is surely not racist, people who do cannot thereby be racist.
    So the picture is a problem, because clearly non-racists can think it is just amusing.

    The problem is of course that the racism is unconscious. I am not sure I have heard ever before in my life as many people as I hear these who are clueless about their own racism. And it’s being made worse by interviews that basically suppose people know when they are.

  2. There’s a simple syllogism at work here:

    1. Racists are horrible people.
    2. I am not a horrible person.
    3. Therefore, I am not a racist.
    4. Only racists like racist pictures.
    5. I like this picture.
    6. Therefore, this picture is not racist.

    It’s completely self-serving and blind but very difficult to dislodge.

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