Friday, October 24, 2008

Not so subtle racism

By DeWayne Wickham

When you get right down to it, Diane Fedele and David Duke are kindred souls.

Fedele, the president of a California conservative Republican women’s group, resigned Wednesday after being harshly criticized for sending a racist depiction of Barack Obama to the organization’s members. Duke is the former Louisiana state legislator and Ku Klux Klan leader who makes little effort to disguise his racist contempt for the black presidential candidate.

The offensive image Fedele circulated appeared in a recent newsletter of the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated organization. It showed Obama’s face on a fake $10 food stamp bill surrounded by a slice of watermelon, a bucket of fried chicken, a rack of barbecued ribs and a pitcher of Kool-Aid.

“I do not think like a bigot, and because of that fact, I did not view this as racial, because I do not have a racially discriminating point of view,” Fedele wrote in her resignation letter, the Inland Daily Bulletin reported.
Well, then what was the point of linking Obama to food stamps and the welfare imagery which that government handout invokes? Why tie him to watermelon, fried chicken and ribs in this way? Was it because Obama has promised to give federal subsidies to hog and chicken farmers, and watermelon growers, if he makes it into the White House? Or did the newsletter’s depiction of Obama have another, more odious, connection?

In his 1986 book “Sambo: the Rise & Demise of an American Jester,” Joseph Boskin talked of how such imagery has been used to ridicule blacks, whose meals during slavery often consisted of pork scraps, chicken and watermelon. One early 20th century post card carried the picture of a black man, with a watermelon tucked under each arm, looking longingly at a chicken. This caricature of a black man struggling to choose between watermelon and chicken had the following caption: “Dis am de wurst perdickermunt ob mah life!”

More recently golfer Fuzzy Zoeller stumbled over his tongue in 1997 after Tiger Woods became the first black to win the Masters golf tournament. Winners of this prestigious sporting event get to pick the menu for the Champions Dinner the following year. Tell him not to serve fried chicken, Zoeller said to reporters following Woods’ victory. Zoeller apologized the next day, saying his comments were not meant to be racist.

Like Zoeller, Fedele should have known better. That she thought she could get away with branding Obama with such racially offensive imagery puts her in the company of Duke, who now heads a group called the European American Unity and Rights Organization. Shortly after Obama wrapped up the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Duke posted a commentary on his website in which he said the Illinois senator’s victory should be a warning sign to white Americans.

“Now the dreams of our forefathers have morphed into our own living nightmares in which anti-white racism and white self-hate dominate the political and media landscape,” Duke wrote. If elected president, Obama “will be a clear signal for millions of our people. Obama is a visual aid for white Americans who just don’t get it yet that we have lost control of our country, and unless we get it back we are heading for complete annihilation as a people.”

The warning that Duke sounded is different only in degree from that which Fedele circulated. It was only when there was a loud public outcry that Fedele pulled back – though not far – from what she did. She had tried to make an “ideological statement, not a racist one,” Fedele explained. But for all but the most na├»ve, the images on the phony money contradicts that assertion.

While she lacks David Duke’s shrillness, Diane Fedele was speaking in a similar voice when she tried to sound an alarm about the looming possibility that Barack Obama might become the next president of the United States.

1 comment:

Vetda said...

I rarely disagree with you because as a general rule, I love the way your mind works. However, this time I disagree with your premise that the new “Powell Doctrine” will not have a significant impact. I think it is evident from the polls that immediately followed Powell’s Meet the Press interview; Obama broke the 50% lead status. His lead spiked to 52% or 53% in some polls depending upon which one you refer to. While not significant in terms of percentage points, it is quite significant to those voters who were having difficulty seeing Obama in the White House. I strongly believe Powell’s move is directly attributable to those "on the fence" voters that wanted to vote for Obama, but needed an "unbiased" voice to say it was ok to do so... General Powell was that voice. From my perspective, his timing was perfect… close enough to election day to be meaningful, but not far enough away to be forgotten…. Just my 2 cents...