Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Understand Where I Am, Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my own experiences relative to racism and prejudice, entitled I Understand Where I Am. Today, while visiting Pharyngula, I ran into this nugget:

The publishing company that owns the Curious George image says it is considering legal action to stop the sale of a T-shirt depicting Barack Obama as the monkey from children's books.

The T-shirts are being peddled by Marietta bar owner Mike Norman at his Mulligan's Bar and Grill in Cobb County. They show a picture of Curious Georgie peeling a banana, with the words "Obama '08" underneath.

Curious George publisher may sue over T-shirt

Hmmm, bananas, monkeys, does this imagery strike anyone else as familiar?

Norman acknowledged the imagery's Jim Crow roots but said he sees nothing wrong with depicting a prominent African-American as a monkey.

"We're not living in the (19)40's," he said. "Look at him . . . the hairline, the ears -- he looks just like Curious George."

Curious George publisher may sue over T-shirt

It certainly struck me as racist imagery, and as my befuddlement over the reaction to Tony Snow's tarbaby remarks should demonstrate, I'm not always quick to pick up on these things. But one person's humor is often another's bad taste, so let's give Norman the benefit of the doubt here, and consider the point he makes.

Yes, it really would be nice if we could all just make good-natured fun of each others' differences - "Be careful out in the sun there, Paleface", that sort of thing. It would also be nice if we didn't live in a country where people are still shot at or harassed for being where they "don't belong" due to their ethnic makeup. It would be nice if we didn't live in a place where more African-American men are in prison than in college. But that's the place we're in today.

In short, we're not there yet, and on some level I understand why. Anyone attempting this sort of humor should be very sure of the ground they're standing on.

UPDATE (May 15): While it is dated May 13, this article was actually finished and published today. I wish Blogger had a better means of dating articles.

No comments: