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.