A 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.