More Tea Party Racism

As if we needed it, the white Tea Party folks have made it clear again how some/many of their members think in blatantly racist terms — straight out of the old white racial frame. The Los Angeles Wave (h\t Trevor) has this story about more racist imagery from an Orange County Republican official targeting President Obama:

A tea party activist and elected member of the Orange County Republican central committee said she will not heed calls to resign because she emailed a picture of President Barack Obama’s face on the body of a chimpanzee. Marilyn Davenport of Fullerton recently emailed a picture of Obama’s face superimposed over a baby chimp’s face with the caption, “Now you know why — No birth certificate!”

One Republican official called on her to resign and said that it was “dripping with racism.” Like many whites, her defense was the usual:

“I am not a racist. It was a joke. I have friends who are black.”

When whites do blatantly racist stuff nowadays, since they control the dominant white racial framing, they get to decide what is racist and what is not. That is, when they do even racist stuff like this, they get to define racism as not racist! One has to wonder too why she thinks she really has “black friends,” with racist framing like this. This is an old set of white defenses.

A sincere apology and self-searching about where such imagery comes from and why one thinks it is funny, that would seem to be the best response, not such defensiveness.

Another serious aspect of this is that Republican officials, including Davenport, are quite concerned about who released the racist “joke” to the media. This seems to be a greater concern than its brutal simianizing racism and revelation about the deeper thinking of some conservative Republicans. Clearly, if such blatantly racist “joking” incidents and events are kept in the white backstage, they are not considered serious at all. It is when that sordid backstage becomes public that whites must acknowledge and back off.

Davenport also claimed that she did not even know it was racist.

In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. … the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race.

Lack of awareness that widespread racist imagery is racist is an odd defense. However, presumably, whites can operate out of the old racist framing consciously or unconsciously. One Republican Committee member defended her as only “a polite, gentle grandmother.” He also added it was only “light-hearted,” and indicated that the committee members often send such “fun” and “motivational” stuff back and forth. (And he seems to think that older whites cannot be polite grandmothers and also operate — consciously or not — out of a white racist framing of society.)

So, racist fun in the backstage is OK and in their minds does not show us how whites with political power and influence really think negatively about black Americans, such as that they are connected to simians–a white racial framing that has been around for at least 250 years.


  1. Blaque Swan, previously No1KState

    Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant, a black NBA player, apologized for using a gay slur, saying he didn’t realize how hurtful it was, and vowed not to engage in the dehumanization and humiliation of the LGBT community. Plus, GLAAD and the Lakers have agreed to work to educate the players, fans, and community on LGBT issues.

    Of course, Bryant faced a lot of heat and pressure to change. Not that his apologize was insincere; just that he faced a lot of public backlash.

    After they do stuff that’s blatantly racist, why can’t white Americans do the same? How hard would it be to meet with civil rights groups and educate oneself? How hard would it be to give a sincere apology and not fall back on “intent?” Why is it that it seems like everybody can do that, even white people, except when it comes to white people and race?

    I’ll admit, I think the $100,000 league fine was excessive, and the whole bit was overblown. Had the camera not been following Kobe to the bench to film his reaction, they wouldn’t have caught his reaction. That said, who am I to say to someone those words don’t really hurt them or shouldn’t have hurt them anyway, right? That’s just plain old common courtesy and good sense. For the life of me, I just can’t fathom why common rules of decency are all of a sudden dismissed when it comes to whites and racism. I mean, I get that people like Davenport just want permission to continue being racist. What I don’t get is how people can argue otherwise and expect others to believe them.

  2. Brienne

    I am white and it really, really irritates me when white people get defensive and deny their blatantly racist acts and attitudes. I think it’s about time that we all own up to it! I think that I am racist and I think that the majority of Americans (Black, white, yellow, green) are as well. How can you not be racist if you are a member of a racist society (especially as a white member of a white dominated society)? I do however think that there is a difference between being racist and being a racist. In my own terms I define being racist as simply having any racial biases, which, let’s face it, we all do- positive and negative. While I feel that being a racist is someone who hurts or offends people based on racial bias. Regardless I agree, white people need to swallow their pride, admit their acts of racism, and apologize!

  3. cordoba blue

    With all due respect Brienne, what you are trying to do is separate the “nice racists” from the “mean racists”. As in it’s a mean racist who is a white nationalist, but it’s a benevolent racist who is afraid to open the door when a black salesman rings the doorbell. Or it’s a kind-hearted racist who locks her car windows when she sees a black man passing too close to her car in a parking lot. Or it’s a basically tepid racist who simply keeps an extra eye on a black person who just entered her place of business.
    Whites are constantly trying to pass the hat when it comes to who the genuine racists are. If you feel any of the above reactions, you are a racist. That’s not to say your post wasn’t trying to be empathetic to anti-racism. It’s just that claiming one is not a true racist is like saying you are a little bit pregnant. You either are, or you’re not.
    Also, the definition of which white people are racists can depend on which black person is doing the judging. To some
    African Americans, if you don’t monitor every word you breath to precisely fit into their idea of what’s politically the Full Encyclopedia of anti-racist memes, then you’re a member of the KKK. The “check list” is infinite. If you pass 45 anti-racist tests, they hit you with 48 new tests.They keep changing the targets.
    You can’t really blame them. If you experienced a tragic history in America, you would be defensive also. Other black people will allow you more latitude and come to a conclusion that not every thought you entertain is about de-moralizing black people.It all depends on the individual.
    Some black people align themselves with whites based on occupation and goals, and not on whether you are white. Commonality of goals can bring blacks and whites together quite in teachers uniting in what’s the best course of action regarding teaching techniques.
    I live in North Carolina. In my city, basically half the teachers in the public school system are white, and half black. Black and white teachers MUST work hand in hand on a daily basis. That means, what’s the best approach to accomplishing your teaching goals for the day for ANY COLOR student, takes priority over attention to race. Students are students. Period. To keep order in the classroom, to keep the day running smoothly, prepare lesson plans, present the material to the children, prepare homework, correct homework, keep parents informed of progress, attend grade-level meeting, attend PTA meetings, keep up with putting in orders for needed teaching materials..that’s a FULL LOAD. And black teachers are just as likely to reprimand a black student as a white teacher. I speak from experience. If black and white teachers weren’t on the same team, at least in the city where I live, chaos would reign in the classrooms.
    And still, if you harbor the slightest bit of bias/fallacious thinking..and that goes for inter-racial team teaching, in your heart, regarding another race besides the one you belong to, you are a racist. That applies, as you say, to blacks as well as whites.
    It’s a question of completely blending into the “other” race. Dating the other race, even marrying the other race does not exempt you. It’s a goal that one must constantly re-negotiate and analyze. Did I think that because he/she was black? Did I feel that way because he/she was black? It’s a PROCESS, albeit an extremely rewarding one, because it unites us as all as human beings.

    • Brienne

      Cordoba, you are right. I think that I am only separating the “nice racists” from the “mean racists” but I do think there is a difference. As I said in my post, I think we are all racist. There are different degrees of racism and I do think they are all wrong (but maybe not equally wrong). But I think that the only way to overcome it is to own up to it and to (as you said) question how your own thoughts and decisions have to do with race. I also think its great that you can overcome racism to work towards a common goal, and while I think that racism is a huge problem in our country I do think that there are lots of examples of this throughout the country too. I also think you are right when you say it’s a process that has the potential to unite us all as human beings. We certainly have a long way to go though . . .

  4. cordoba blue

    I don’t know where to put this, so I guess here would work. I’ve been reading on Yahoo news, articles such as the following regarding President Obama’s visit to England:
    “Gift giving: Obama’s gifts in 2009 to Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Gordon Brown were not well received by Brits, who cast them as tacky and impersonal. Brown was gifted 25 DVD’s–a seemingly odd choice for a man with no known background as a movie buff. There was much overheated speculation over whether the discs in question would be compatible with English DVD players. Likewise, the president’s gift of an iPod to the Queen also left many scratching their heads.”
    Then Obama was criticized for drinking a beer at a pub. Then he supposedly flubbed some tribute to the Queen last night when he was toasting her. Then he was even criticized for playing ping pong at a boy’s school with the prime minister. I actually forgot what was so offensive about that. I certainly know there was no logic to it whatsoever.
    The point is I feel terribly HURT by all this. It’s as if someone said these things about a member of my family. It’s not about being an American. I think it’s because I just sense this very cruel racism in this utterly STUPID and senseless nit-picking. Why is the press so cruel to this man? I never saw this kind of minutia directed at any other president’s visits abroad.
    The Obamas are such lovely people. They are trying so hard to rise above all this microscopic bullying. And I do see it as such. I absolutely don’t know how they can keep their cool given the nauseating attacks they’ve been exposed to during President Obama’s term.
    If this isn’t racism, I don’t know what is. It’s so obvious it makes me heart-sick. I just hope the Obamas don’t totally lose their faith in human beings after he leaves the White House..although if they did I wouldn’t blame them.
    The press that publishes this bull and the people who are making judgments based on this petty nonsense should be ashamed. Anybody else notice this undue “analysis” of the Obamas visit to Europe?

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