Stranger Fruit

obamonkey

Some conservative nimrod by the name of Mike Norman in Marietta, Georgia is selling these t-shirts and what is more is claiming that he’s "not a racist". Quoth the nimrod: "Look at [Obama] . . . the hairline, the ears, he looks just like Curious George". There’s a poll over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution which has 6,509 people (51.27%) claiming that the t-shirt is "fine". No it’s not, you racist idiots, and irrespective of your party affiliation you should realize it’s not.

And I’m sure Houghton Mifflin’s lawyers will want to have a word with someone …

DrugMonkey and Kevin weigh in.

Comments

  1. #1 deang
    May 13, 2008

    Whenever someone says “I’m not a racist, but …,” be prepared to cringe at the racism.

  2. #2 Karen
    May 13, 2008

    I’m reminded that my mother, in the ’60s, tended to refer to African-Americans as “jungle bunnies”. At least Mom was willing to examine her own racism and wrestle with it later in her life. Given the amount she had to overcome, she ultimately did pretty well (though she never caught on to the idea of white privilege).

    These people who are okay with the t-shirt seem frozen in time, like some excavated mammoths. I’m disappointed that they can’t even manage the anti-racism of a little old white lady from rural Minnesota.

  3. #3 Alex, FCD
    May 13, 2008

    Whenever someone says “I’m not a racist, but …,” be prepared to cringe at the racism.

    I used to frequent a forum that was cursed with a Nazi supporter who went by the handle “ImNotRacist”.

  4. #4 Jim Thomerson
    May 13, 2008

    Well, at least they spelled his name right. If the man had wanted to be really mean, he could have spelled it “Osama”.

    When I was fairly young, my mother said, “A black man who works for you should eat good food like everyone else. Of course, he would eat out in the yard.” Some years later, she made the same comment, except she set a table on the back porch. Then again, some years later, she had him eating at the table just like everyone else. People do moderate their views.

  5. #5 Pete
    May 13, 2008

    Racist or not he has the right to think, say, or illustrate whatever he wants. We have to learn to ignore these incidents, agree or not and move on.

  6. #6 Dunc
    May 14, 2008

    Racist or not he has the right to think, say, or illustrate whatever he wants. We have to learn to ignore these incidents, agree or not and move on.

    Bull. Free speech cuts both ways. If somebody wants to make astonishingly offensive racist statements in public, they need to learn that people will call them out on it. Like school-yard bullies, they will not go away if you just ignore them.

    The right to free speech is not a right not to be criticised.

  7. #7 Keith
    May 14, 2008

    poll is now running at 59.8% rascist, over 11,000 votes.

  8. #8 Ian
    May 14, 2008

    It would actually go better if it said “Bush Out in ’08”. I mean, he does share the name and there’s nothing more curious than how George Bush has behaved in the White House….

  9. #9 Apuch
    May 14, 2008

    One works so hard in and out of school all ones life believing that everyone is making an effort to better themselves then you grow up and find that many people are just too lazy to try or care. This story is just plain sad. It seems for many of us our growth is limited in to a few lines instead of the sphere growth was intended to be.

  10. #10 Richard
    May 14, 2008

    So we have found something we interpret as being racist{probably is}and the best we can do is to reinforce the stereotype by looking at this as something to be protested instead of simply brushed off for the small minded humour that it is. We would seek maybe to legislate that people must not have these points of view?
    This reminds me of the uproar over a certain cartoon Mohammed though we have not yet got to the point of rioting.

  11. #11 Aaron
    May 14, 2008

    So … people comparing george bush to a chimp because of his facial features is hilarious and not racist. But comparing Obama to a monkey because he too has similar facial features (he really does) is racist. Because he’s black? That alone seems like a racist statement. Equality would argue we can make fun of him just like we make fun of Bush.

    I understand how you may perceive it to be racist considering the connotations, but if you let those racist connotation die, this joke is no longer racist. In fact, I see the only racism exists in those who claim this joke is racist. It may be droll, but it is funny.

  12. #12 John Lynch
    May 14, 2008

    @ Richard

    So is anyone here suggesting that he and his kind should be legislated against? No. What people are saying is that he and his kind should expect to be vociferously disagreed with and called what they are … racists. Norman should just man-up and admit what he is.

    @ Aaron

    *head explodes*

  13. #13 sevenchange
    May 14, 2008

    Technically nothing you are talking about here is “racist”. The shirt may reflect prejudice. It may even be considered the work of a bigot. But racist? No. I don’t think so.

    It bothers me that any discussion involving color immediately gets defined as racism. Racism is evil. This shirt and the thoughts behind this is just stupidity.

  14. #14 Mike P
    May 14, 2008

    @ Aaron:
    What the hell is wrong with you? Comparing black people to apes and monkeys has long been a favorite epithet of racists. White people, not so much. So, yes, comparing Obama to a monkey is not the same thing as comparing Bush to a chimp because of the historical context of these things.

    Total equality is the goal, sure, but it’s sure not the reality at the moment, so you do have to take context into consideration.

  15. #15 Aaron
    May 14, 2008

    I had no idea it was a favorite epithet of racists. Therefore, the shirt held no racist power for me.

    Ask a little child if Obama kinda looks like a monkey and odds are they’ll say yes. Little children in my experience are completely immune to racism.

    However, if the INTENT of the shirt was to make fun of Obama’s race and not the fact that he really kinda does look a bit like Curious George, than that is inexcusable. Too bad its impossible to judge intent. Too bad also that everyone automatically assumed the latter. Its like a sad witch hunt.

  16. #16 Richard
    May 14, 2008

    @Aaron writes

    What people are saying is that he and his kind should expect to be vociferously disagreed with and called what they are … racists.

    It may be just that the attitude that we allow the image to portray is what makes the item racist in the first place.Like naughty words they only hold power based on the people viewing them. And since Obama is the one who is the butt of the T-shirt then it seems to me that we should allow the man himself to show whether “sticks and stones can break his bones” or if he is beyond ridicule as most mature people are. Good god, man, He is a politician. If such things are of consequence to him he certainly made a poor career choice didn’t he?
    Besides that, we only strengthen racism by acknowledging their infantile musings with more than a cursory glance.

  17. #17 Aaron
    May 14, 2008

    So lets put this in simple terms so I can understand.

    Saying George Bush looks like a Chimp = Funny
    Saying Barack Obama looks like a Chimp = Racist

    Gotcha.

    Personally I think lots of people look like chimps. You’d think we evolved from them or something.

  18. #18 John Lynch
    May 14, 2008

    @ Aaron

    I suggest you read some of the historical studies of how Africans and African Americans were explicitly compared to apes and monkeys. One good place to start is PerryCurtis’ book Apes and Angels which mostly discusses the Irish, but which also documents how the iconography of the ape was used to stir up fears about the freed slaves in ante-bellum America. Then go and read some of the writings of the likes of Gobineau and Morton. Then you’ll see the difference. History matters … learn some.

    You’d think we evolved from them or something.

    Epic fail on that.

  19. #19 Paul Hutchinson
    May 14, 2008

    Houghton Mifflin is pissed off about this copyright/trademark infringement.

    Also the Muscular Dystrophy Association is not happy about him associating their name with his stunt. I sent them an email last night with a link to the story. Today I got a nice response from the MDA saying they have declined to take his money. They also said that their lawyers have sent him a cease-and-desist order so he doesn’t use their name again.

  20. #20 mike stahl
    May 14, 2008

    I think it would be falsely naive not to understand the iconography of apes as representative of Africans as specifically racist. The US has 150+ year establishment of that image.

    If we really want to imagine that “lots of people look like chimps (or apes etc.)” then we will see it just as we will see people who look like dogs or lizards…you know what I mean. If we believe first and foremost, the evidence we derive is really apt to conform with our belief.

    On the other hand it is not remotely racist to compare GWB to Curious George. No one would imagine that GWb has African heritage. The commander in chief appears less curious than dumbfounded but he does wear that innocent sort of dumb expression of the Curious George that most of us know so well. When GWB is not fed his lines by handlers he says some sort of stupid thing that will be memorialized in one of those daily tear off calenders that have made a cottage industry out of GWB.

    Personally, I am convinced that the intent of the creators of Curious George were letting us look at our own children as they matured from tot to toddler to elementary school kids. They all wore “dumb” expressions that did not reflect their IQ but rather their surprise at DISCOVERY!

    I hope to wear that same face and discover something new for the rest of my life. I hope the next commander in chief will at least occasionally be surprised to learn something new.

  21. #21 anthony c
    May 14, 2008

    Aaron, I think you do not understand how concepts and words evoke emotional response, you have to remember the context of these things. Words and concepts are not absolute, and cannot be applied unilaterally in every case.

    I think you have a good heart and you’re trying to see the world from the point of view that all are equal, but this is not the case in this instance. Its all about the context, and you’re trying to remove that. It makes your point invalid.

  22. #22 Bill
    May 15, 2008

    What this bar owner did was fine. If some black or hispanic person did this about a white person there would be no mention of this what so ever in the media.

  23. #23 John Lynch
    May 15, 2008

    I’ll note that the AJC article is now stating that:

    The publishing company that owns the Curious George image says it is considering legal action to stop the sale of a T-shirt depicting Barack Obama as the monkey from children’s books …

    Rick Blake, a spokesman for publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which owns Curious George, said Wednesday that the company didn’t authorize the use of the character’s image, but hasn’t been in touch with anybody selling or manufacturing the shirts.

    “We find it offensive and obviously utterly out of keeping with the value Curious George represents,” Blake said. “We’re monitoring the situation and weighing our options with respect to legal action.”

    and the poll is now running:

    It’s racist 66.43% 22875
    It’s fine 33.57% 11561

  24. #24 typey
    May 16, 2008

    i read an interesting bit in Freakonomics about how most people are willing to distance themselves from appearing to be racist. so it is fitting that the curious george company would be against this. not to mention this guy is trying to make a buck off their icon.

  25. #25 TSL
    June 18, 2008

    I saw this on TV a while ago. The sound was off and the caption read, “Obama likened to Curious George” and picture of the t-shirt was shown. I have a 16-month-old and I immediately said to myself, “Cute, i do see the resemblance!” I wasn’t cued yet that it was being attacked as a racist action, and I didn’t make the connection because while I think monkeys and humans share a handful of similar characteristics, I do not equate this with skin color. After all, they have fur!

  26. #26 klshf
    September 1, 2008

    doesn’t matter. freedom of speech. so quit crying.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.