Mocking President Obama: Fox Story on Gorilla Precipitates Much Racist Stereotyping

A few weeks back a blogger over at posted a note that

Today on the Fox Nation web site, they posted a story on the popularity of some new videos of a gorilla walking upright like a man.

Then the DailyKos blogger notes some of the comments in posts underneath the Fox story:

1preacher: Yea, I could see where this Gorilla evolved from obama’s family.

amveteran: This is a true knuckle dragger. Reminds me of Al Sharpton.

winterhawk: Just as I thought, that’s buckwheat’s daddy.

flyinjohn23: Not only that….He got himself one of those Hiawian Birth Certificates over the internet all on his own too.

1preacher: Because I said that this was obama’s mother, that is racist? Not following that one.

hawk1052: Shelia Jackson Lee, comes to mind.

armed: is the one in the background carrying a teleprompter and throwing tater tots at the other one.

And the Fox Nation site then noted that at least 13 comments were flagged for their content, which presumably meant they were even worse. One can still find these very old ape-imagery examples in discussions of President Obama many thousands of times across the Internet today–as a quick use of google search will demonstrate. This ape/animal imagery has been central to the old white racial frame now for centuries.


  1. Tessa and Kimberley

    Thank you for this exceptional post. I’ll be asking my Introductory Sociology students to read it, along with excerpts from your superb book “The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Racial Framing and Counter-Framing.”

    I had planned to show the film entitled, “Race. The Power of An Illusion” (Episode 1) in my Introductory Sociology class next week. The film includes, for example, a discussion of the ape-like stereotyping of Jesse Owens, following his victory at the 1936 Olympics:

    “How could a society steeped in the science of racial inferiority reconcile itself to Owens’s four (Olympic) gold medals? By conceding innate athletic superiority to African Americans while denying them so-called civilized capacities. In the words of American team coach Dean Cromwell, the Negro athlete excelled because he was ‘closer to the primitive…it was not so long ago that his ability to sprint and jump was a life and death matter to him in the jungle.’” (FROM: RACE – THE POWER OF AN ILLUSION. Episode One: The Difference Between Us).

    By citing your current blog, and your book “The White Racial Frame” (e.g., your discussion of ape-like stereotyping & the visual racist imagery and mocking emotions set in a “humor” framework), I can more effectively communicate to students that this white-centered activity, with its assumptions of white superiority and virtue, is very much with us today (long after the 1936 Olympics in Berlin when Owens won his four gold medals).

    RacismReview adds immensely to my students’ social awareness and critical thinking skills. This forum is much appreciated by my students here in Canada and much needed. Thank you.

    • dyford

      ‘looking’ like an ape and ‘acting’ like one are different things. When you enslave others (past and present) and continue to view yourselves as superior, your intelligence and ‘humanity’ are questionable and less than human!! Hiding being these blogs brings out the ‘beast’ in racists. This is one more example. So who is the animal?

      • Seattle in Texas

        dyford, hello. This is supposed to be an antiracist website, and I wasn’t sure on who you were responding to (Tessa and Kimberly, Joe, the website in general, etc.) but I think I may understand what you are getting at. It’s a serious problem scholars need to face and address, but for whatever too often do not. It has to do with elitism, power, privilege, and essentially reproducing the very (classist, sexist, and racist) structures that scholars claim they are out to dismantle. Too often communication patterns and behaviors serve to maintain hierarchical social structures that ultimately reinforce inclusion/exclusion group dynamics, segregation, and so forth–the very things scholars claim they are opposed of. If you are a scholar, than what am I? If you have a higher level of education and I come from oppressed social ranks (especially the group in which you are speaking of), then whose words matter? I come to speak to you, but because you are in a higher SES you have the choice to either listen and respond or ignore me and stay within the safe confounds of the scholarly elite. Who really matters? Whose words really matter? My words will matter and my voice will be heard momentarily if it’s collected for data and then later communicated by a scholar.

        The issue you raise is important for scholars to address if they are truly sincere in the words they speak and the missions for which they claim to stand. And maybe for some it’s the case they are sincere but it’s not communicated that way. I don’t know. The world of academia is one in and of itself and one that is not studied enough…. I think all settings that reproduce power structures and inequality need to be studied critically, including the world of academia. Just my own thoughts.


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