Visual Racism in “Historical” Photo

image0012-300x246A couple of weeks ago, an administrative assistant working for a Republican elected official  in the Tennessee state legislature sent around an email with this image (from here) and the caption,  “Historical Keepsake Photo.”

As you may or may not be able to tell from the image, it depicts all the presidents of the U.S. through to the current one, and in place of a portrait of President Obama, there is only a dark square with two eyes peering out.    The image evokes the racist blackface iconography characteristic of the Jim Crow era.

Just as we witnessed during the campaign, racist imagery has been a consistent feature of the white response to Obama’s emergence on the national political scene.

The fact that this came from a state government office suggests that this sort of white supremacy is not relegated to some marginal, fringe element of the population, but rather resonates within the mainstream of elected politicians.

If there’s a bright spot here, it’s that someone – an unnamed administrative assistant – thought that the image was wrong and forwarded it to someone outside her office.      It’s these kind of ‘race traitors’ that can work to disrupt the persistent repetition of the drum beat of white supremacy.


  1. Pim

    I see we have lost the ability to laugh, Obama is protected from such humor?
    I am bi-racial, as is most of my extended family,and all of us laughed at this e-mail when it first made it’s rounds, months ago.
    Obama is in the White House,and everybody prayed this would happen one day.
    But now that it has people are still calling others racist. Who cares?? I don’t care if whites like me, and I don’t care if Africans-Americans like me.(most of the racism I have experienced has come from African-Americans, and Latinos.)
    I saw this picture with Clinton pictured with a long nose, when he was in office.
    I saw pictures of Clinton with a black face,
    couldn’t that be called racist???
    Bush has become the foundation of many jokes,and yet the public find nothing wrong with that??
    My point is, you waste to much of your short time on earth,if you constantly have the racism issue in your head..
    My grand dad said it best….”You were not put on this earth by God,to make others happy.Happiness comes from fulfilling Gods desire..Kindness to those who hate you will soften their hearts, and color is only skin deep,has nothing to do with your heart and soul..You are a child of God, you just got the prettier skin, but, don’t make others feel inferior because they’re white.”
    hundreds of African- Americans in the entertainment field have made jokes of African-Americans for years and nobody called them out on that. I do not buy into the idea that it is ok to joke about some one of your race,yet it isn’t ok for a person of another color to use the same joke……we hear and see so many redneck joke with whites as the brunt of the joke, but it might surprise some of you to know there are a lot of black rednecks where I come from. Tobacco chewing, beer drinking, gun clinging,4-wheeling rednecks.. So how is it that we have stereotyped rednecks as being uneducated whites that drink beer, hunt, chew tobacco,and cling to their guns??
    and the crying over the term “Pot can’t call the Kettle black” has nothing to do with race! it has everything to do with people who think it is ok for people of one race to make fun of their race, yet it’s a crime or racist, if a person of another race does the same. That is the pot can’t call the kettle black. or One man stands up in church and is critical of another who has committed adultery , and this very same man has just committed adultery in his private office..
    Please stop whining about racism, the only people who benefit are those who make money off of it. Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson have made millions. They have to keep the word Racism alive and on the minds of people, it only pays if it is in the lime light.. I am better than that. I refuse to allow Al,Jessie, and Oprah to use me to make their millions.


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