A Quick Remedial Course In Racist Iconography

Okay, once again for those in the cheap seats.

Monkey:

Cute, entertaining, educational, not racist.

Depicting black people as monkeys:

Ridiculously racist.

Simian depiction and derision of black people is nothing new.  Indeed, just the history behind such a practice is enough to ink it into the vast racist lexicon.  But the specific mechanics as to why it is such an abhorrent racist practice should be lost on no one.

In the universal present sense, it’s a matter of subjugation through dehumanization, a practice that has its historical roots that crawl all the way back to when the first white person saw the first non white people and called them savages.  In a way, such subjugation, the intellectual practice of reasoning that a person can be less than a person, partially justified invading a people’s land, butchering them, enslaving them, etc.

Why not?  They’re savages or monkeys.

Update the practice to a time when there are mixed societies, where laws should provide people of all color with the same rights and priveleges, again the imagery and the underlying intent behind it continues to justify heinous behavior against people of color.

For a slightly different perspective, if you ever take a stroll through some white supremacist sites, you’ll eventually pick up on one thing; the white supremacists who make it a matter of culture as opposed to species are the nice white supremacists (if there is actually such a thing, which there really isn’t).

All of this goes quite a bit more in depth, but this should give you the basic understanding that calling a black person a monkey, or depicting them through drawings or toys, is itself demeaning and wrong.  I really wished I didn’t have to explain this, but apparently I do.

The cheerful fella above is on sale over at The Sock Obama, or it would be if there were any in stock, and let me tell ya, they are just WILD about their little toy.  Whether the company selling the toy actually knows about their racial transgression is uncertain, given that emails for further clarification behind the intent of their product have thus far gone unanswered.

But a commenter at Plunderbund unearths some interesting information.  The owners of the company, David and Elizabeth Lawson, hail from Jordan River Utah, and apparently they’re big Mitt Romney donors, or at least David is, having contributed the maximum $2,300 to the Mitt Romney campaign.

Is it possible that the real estate player just wanted to put out a cute doll in effigy of a political opponent?  I suppose stranger things could happen, but I find it highly unlikely.  Far more likely this is either a truly racist push, or it’s a political play on racism.

Neither is particularly savory.

No, even if you aren’t a racist, stirring up racial tension for political gain makes you no better, possibly worse, than real racists in my book (and to be sure, I don’t think it’s possible to cynically use race in politics without harboring racism yourself).

(h/t Oliver Willis)

29 Responses to “A Quick Remedial Course In Racist Iconography”

  1. sorry but it looks more like Mitt than me LOL

  2. Ian Wood says:

    It’s dehumanizing and racist to portray a black person as a monkey, and such portrayals have a long history of racist thought behind them.

    It’s OK to portray George Bush as a monkey, though. Presumably because such portrayals do not have a long history of racist thought behind them.

    I suppose it’s not quite all about content of character yet, is it?

  3. Bad says:

    I’m not sure why it would be OK to portray GW as a monkey: it’s insulting and childish. The connotation is the same: the specific person in question is supposedly monkey-like and primitive. But in the context of African Americans, the connotation is not simply that the person themselves is stupid and primitive, but they are so because of their distinctive race and not anything to do with their character. That’s clearly a lot worse.

    Of course, neither “bad” nor “worse” are good and laudable.

    The taxonomy is, of course, terrible. All humans are apes, but none of us are, per se, monkeys.

  4. tas says:

    If Bush didn’t make stupid faces while being dumb as a fucking stump, then he wouldn’t be compared to a monkey.

    And seriously… If you think that the racism of calling black people monkeys is anyway comparable to this, then you’re out of your fucking mind. Or a troll.

  5. Factory guy says:

    A George Bush sock monkey would be an insult to monkeys everywhere….

  6. Joe Lentz says:

    Anyone who doesn’t know why the “sock Obama” is wrong is either an idiot or an ass.

  7. Yolo says:

    Since the white man is the youngest of all ethnic groups(10,000 to 50,000 yrs. old) It is most likely the black man who fist declared the white man to be a savage. Let us not forget that the African colonized Europe hundreds of years before Europe colonized Africa. Just a thought.

  8. Until and unless you folks on the Left are willing to renounce the use of monkeys to represent the current president, the use of monkeys to represent your preferred candidate for the presidency is a legitimate, non-racist move.

  9. Bandit says:

    Listening to liberals call other people racist is like listening to Manson call other people crazy.

  10. tas says:

    Just a thought, Yolo… A fucking stupid thought.

    Seriously, Africa “colonized” Europe “hundreds of years before Europe colonized Africa”… Uhm, what? Europe started colonizing Africa in the 1800′s. When before then did Africa colonize Europe? Did Africans take on the Roman Empire, Byzantines, Holy Roman Empire, the Mongols, the fiefdoms of the Middle Ages…? And with what weapons? Have we found the metal African cannons that the lugged across continents and use to take down Middle Age European castles? Do we have any evidence of the African navies that surely took on the British, French, and Spanish in the seas? Oh, I get it! Maybe the Africans first went to Iceland, then took over Britain around 1071! It all makes sense now!

    E-fucking-gads… Yolo, you put to rest any notion of white supremacy.

    As for you, Rhymes With Right, you have me wondering what rhymes with “fuck you”.

  11. TerryVB says:

    “Europe started colonizing Africa in the 1800’s. When before then did Africa colonize Europe?”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umayyad_conquest_of_Hispania

  12. Shade Tail says:

    Sorry, GOPers, but sometimes a double standard is legitimate, because there are two things.

    Calling black people monkeys is racist because there is a long history of racists doing so.

    Calling Bush a chimp is, arguably, childish and silly. But it isn’t racist, because there is not a long history of racists calling white people chimps.

    Like it or not, that is reality. Deal with it.

  13. xoites says:

    I agree that calling Bush a monkey or a chimp is dehumanizing and i have never done it, but to pretend that calling a a black person a monkey is not racist is disingenuous at best. You have to question the moral fiber of anyone who says, “What you are doing is wrong so I will do it too!”

    Dehumanizing people is the first step in convincing yourself that it is ok to kill them. If they are not human then how can killing them be wrong? The Japanese practiced this during World War II. They called American and British POWS “logs” which made it a lot easier to throw their bodies onto funeral pyres.

    But killing people is wrong and so is dehumanizing them. It is far past time for our society to evolve beyond the ignorance that leads to destruction and get a grip on reality so that our future will be a better one.

  14. tas says:

    The Umayyads were from the Middle East, dipshit. And don’t get exasperated screaming, “But they had Berbers!” They took over the Berbers, but all of this started on the Asian continent. And attempted Asian invasions of Europe were not uncommon. So if you want to make a point that nomads and barbarians stormed the borders of different lands, go for it — but if you’re trying to imply that the classical, tribal, central African nations which we raided for slavery colonized Europe hundreds of years before the Europeans colonized Africa, then you’re out of your fucking mind.

    And even if this were true, you would then have to prove that the Africans were so racist against whites that the resentment lasted for 1700 years to the present day. You would have to prove this against the fact that most Americans don’t hold historical grudges and usually can’t even remember what they had for breakfast, for Christ’s sake.

    So thanks for playing, and nice try. Got anymore ridiculous talking points for us to laugh at, or are you sick of making yourself the butt of the joke?

  15. El says:

    Egyptians colonized Europe thousands of years ago.. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080212131300.htm
    Now, tas, would you like to argue that the Egyptians were not African?

  16. Jamey says:

    Tas:

    Did Africans take on the Roman Empire, Byzantines, Holy Roman Empire, the Mongols, the fiefdoms of the Middle Ages

    Yes, no, no, no, no, and no.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamilcar_Barca

    See also: Hannibal Barca; Carthage

    Your relative ignorance of history aside, the Obama doll is obnoxious, contemptible, and racist. Perhaps the only thing more insulting than the doll is the merchant’s “wha’?! Wha’d'I’dooooo?!” explanation: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2008/06/poseur-alert-1.html#more

    (and, ew, do I feel dirty for linking to Sullivan.)

    But really, Tas, you totally boned that one. Best to leave the history lessons to others.

  17. Batocchio says:

    I’m not convinced that particular monkey is that cute, but on the rest of your post, nicely outlined.

  18. Thanks B.

    And look, for all the argument going on here, I do wish I could have been more a part of it, I honestly didn’t expect it to get as much attention as it did. But I’ve been busy.

    Still, I see a lot of people going off track on this, and the Other McCain who linked in did as well. I can understand some of it. I was a little put off to find that a term I used frequently was sexist, and I didn’t like the way I found out, but the fact of the matter was, that I was in the wrong, and while I had my say, I also took my lesson and moved on.

    Why people are going back before the birth of America in history is absolutely beyond me. Whether the remark about the “First white people seeing the first non white people” was accurate or not really isn’t relevant because it doesn’t change the root intent of the practice, and in this instance, far more contemporary history, for instance, say, AMERICAN history, is more specifically suitable to this specific issue.

    That being that simian imagery has been often used to subjugate black people. It’s not that hard to understand, really. The Other McCain made the ridiculous point that no one would mistake the Obama’s for monkeys, and everyone recognizes that they were both educated in ivy league schools and were highly accomplished.

    But it’s not a matter of MISTAKING black people for simians, it’s a matter of intentionally delineating them as something less than human despite whatever achievements they have made. It’s essentially saying, “I don’t care if you got a fancy harvard law degree, and are a US Senator and are the Democratic presidential nominee, you’re still no better than a monkey that flings its poo and drinks its own urine.”

    And believe it or not, that is why I haven’t ever used the monkey imagery for Bush (I don’t think I ever have, anyway. I do welcome anyone to search the archives for an instance of me doing it). While I do not think that doing so is racist, just the fact that it would be racist if applied to a black person has always, at least in memory, made me uncomfortable.

    Finally, while I admit that the speech was a little condescending, my intent was to also be clear. I don’t like it when someone just flies off the rails and tells me that something I said was inappropriate without due explanation, and so that is exactly what I sought to do here. Whether the post angers people or not, my hope was that at the very least after people were finished reading it, even if they DIDN’T know that this practice was inherently racist, they do NOW so that they can avoid it in the future.

    I don’t understand why people don’t get this.

    But as a staunch defender of free speech, people are free to defend it, do it, whatever, but I’m also free to call them racists, and I and my friends are equally free to boycott the sale and production of such items, and take what steps are necessary within the confines of our free speech and expression to discourage such behavior.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel I’m supposed to be working on.

  19. tas says:

    Your relative ignorance of history aside … Best to leave the history lessons to others.

    History lesson: Carthage got about this far in their efforts to colonize Europe before being defeated. And by defeated, I mean crushed, destroyed, annihilated, what have you. It’s kinda tough to be a colonizer after you just had your ass handed to you. To use this example to defend Yolo’s statement, and I quote, “Let us not forget that the African colonized Europe hundreds of years before Europe colonized Africa,” is pretty ridiculous. What’s even more ridiculous is you insulting my knowledge of history afterwards. You people have got to be fucking kidding me with this shit.

    The slim amount of territory that northern Africans claimed — who were essentially part of the modern world during the times of the Romans and beyond; and were sometimes prompted by rulers in Asia — is nothing compared to the colonization that Europeans took part in. This is the comparison that Yolo made which you and other people have ridiculously defended. And as I have mentioned before, we’re not even discussing the tribal, central African nations which would be referred to when one talks of traditional African culture. Those are where the slaves came from. hence the prejudice and racism that followed, and hence the reason for Kyle’s post and this comment thread. As I asked before, show me the armaments and navies gathered up by these people and marched across a couple continents to support Yolo’s statement that Africa colonized Europe. You can’t because that shit never happened.

    But thanks for your attempt at a history lesson.

  20. Chuck says:

    “show me the armaments and navies gathered up by these people and marched across a couple continents to support Yolo’s statement that Africa colonized Europe. You can’t because that shit never happened.”

    The human race began in Africa. When humans first appeared in Europe, they were Africans who migrated northward from Africa. Therefore, Africans colonized Europe.

    There’s no navies and armaments to show you because it has all since turned to dust.

  21. tas says:

    Chuck, Yolo said that Africans colonized Europe “hundreds of years before” Europeans did the same to Africa. Not thousands of years; not eons. This isn’t a march of mankind out of Africa issue. If you wish to give such a broad definition, though, that means we’re all Africans. Somehow though, I think a lot of people would disagree with my white ass being African.

  22. mary says:

    Don’t you know that all of mankind has been proven that it started on the continent of Africa?

  23. Pablo says:

    Tas, you’re fucking hilarious! Thanks man for being so amusing. I love Republicans!

  24. MikeB says:

    Where can I buy me on of them obama Sock monkys??

  25. RustyRed says:

    I am saddened that in the 21st century, in the ‘New Millenia’ we still have ignorant, small-minded people that think that depicting a black man as a monkey is not racist but “cute” and “cuddley”. I am ashamed for these so-called ‘Americans’. We (true) Americans are better than that. Hate is the cancer of the soul. And, of course I am not surprised that “Fixed Noise” is using the sock puppet as a mascot as they are one of the leading broadcasters of racism, disinformation, and hate.

  26. Chuck says:

    In a sense, we >are< all Africans.
    I’ve got fair complexion and green eyes but my mother was half East Indian.
    What skinhead neo-nazis don’t understand is that racial purity is an illusion. Their message of hate is self-defeating in more ways than one, and that makes people like MikeB, who buy into that message, losers.

  27. Bronze says:

    Though the idea sounds offensive, the actual design is quite cute.

    And incidentally I went to the seller’s link and found a message saying:

    An Apology

    We are very apologetic to all who were upset by our toy idea.

    We will not be proceeding with the manufacturing of this toy.

    Thank you.

    GD

  28. Bronze says:

    there are two David J. Lawsons in Utah

    PARK CITY, Utah (ABC 4 News) — When a sock monkey doll dressed up to look like presidential candidate Barack Obama was offered for sale on the web by a Utah couple, it caused a cyberspace firestorm. Writers on “progressive” blogs and forums decried the racial implications and urged readers to flood the responsible party with emails and phone calls.

    Unfortunately, many of those calls and emails were directed at the wrong guy. You see, there are two David J. Lawsons in Utah. The man who came up with the “Sock Obama” doll is David J. Lawson of West Jordan. The man who got a good share of the hate mail was David J. Lawson of Park City.

    David J. Lawson of Park City is a real estate agent. He has nothing to do with the controversial doll. The Park City Lawson said, “The problem is with the internet. Once it’s out there in cyberspace, it’ll be there for 100 years. My picture from my website ended up in these blogs saying that it was me. I don’t know how to take that off. The damage has been done.”

    It is a case of mistaken identity that may never be completely wiped away. Worried about his reputation and his business, Lawson has been responding to every email with a letter that his attorney helped compose. In essence it says, “You got the wrong guy.”

  29. johnP says:

    Does the real David Lawson have a lawyer yet? Apparently this doen’t have anything to do with the sock politician site, nor Binkley Toy (New York) either. This is confusing.

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