That picture is from a t-shirt printed and sold by a bar owner in Marietta, Georgia. The homies over at Too Sense have the whole story on the bar owner and the shirt at their blog. Basically, this asshat thought it would be funny to compare a black presidential candidate to a monkey, and then feigned surprise that anyone would find his actions the least bit racist. Here's a quote of him expressing his surprise:
Marietta tavern owner Mike Norman says the T-shirts he's peddling, featuring cartoon chimp Curious George peeling a banana, with "Obama in '08" scrolled underneath, are "cute." But to a coalition of critics, the shirts are an insulting exploitation of racial stereotypes from generations past.
Norman said those offended are "hunting for a reason to be mad" and insisted he is "not a racist."
Why picture Obama as Curious George? "Look at him . . . the hairline, the ears, he looks just like Curious George," Norman said.
I've found that growing up black in America often means you have to become an expert at observing and documenting the behavior of white people. Now, some black people who grow up in extremely segregated neighborhoods often are ignorant of all the intricacies of white life because of their surroundings, but even they can learn a lot about white people just by watching television. Those of us who actually went to school with white kids and now work around lots of white people have an even broader knowledge base.
During my informal study of white culture, what I like to call my "pale safari", I've learned a lot about what white folks like and don't like when it comes to racial issues. Some of you have learned these things as well, and we could probably develop a pretty comprehensive list of the dos and don'ts for black and white relationships.
One rule that has become ingrained in my mind is that white folks don't like being called racists. In fact, many white people seem to view the word "racist" the same way many black people view the word "nigger." It's cool if they use it towards other people, but it's a fighting word if somebody uses it towards them.
However, in contrast to black folks, white people do not even feel comfortable using the word racist among themselves. For a whole host of reasons, many black people (like myself) use the word nigger as a substitute for "dude" or "man," it's just another word when we're saying it around folks we're cool with. But, because of their irrational dislike of the word racist, white folks hate to use that word to describe any other white person who is not wearing a Klan hood, or etching a swastika into their foreheads.
The most white folks will do is imply the possibility of racism in other situations. That's what the article's writer did with this bar owner, and then once that happened, the bar owner was allowed to spout a whole bunch of tripe about how he could never be a racist. That's another weird thing about white folks and racists, white folks will allow easily identifiable racists to make the most ridiculous arguments to try to justify or minimize their racist actions or comments. It would be the equivalent of this conversation taking place:
Man 1 The sky is definitely blue. There is no way you can deny this.
Man 2 You are wrong. The sky is only blue if you open your eyes and look at it really hard.
Seriously, it's like many white folks lose all trace of a backbone and the ability to think critically when race and racism are introduced into a conversation. This does not apply to all white folks, but as this election has shown us, way too many white people lack the ability or desire to have an honest discussion about race.
I've heard many theories about the source of this difficulty white people have with the term racist, and most of them have validity. Some theorize that white folks fear the stigma that comes along with being labeled a racist and are loathe to be responsible for burdening someone else with that title. Others say that white folks just subscribe to a different definition of racism because to subscribe to the same definition as black folks or other minorities would force them to condemn the actions of too many people they admire or love. One of the most ridiculous theories is the idea, usually promulgated by racists, that white folks try to view racial issues objectively, and are much less likely to use unfair labels than black folks.
Whatever the reason is for this failing of white people, it's something that needs to be addressed. It's impossible to have a meaningful and productive discussion about the realities of race in this country without being willing to clearly delineate between racists and non-racists. More importantly, there can by no equivocating for white people when it comes to dealing with white racists; they must be as swift to condemn and marginalize them as they are to attack minorities they feel have hateful views.
Finally, it is imperative that white folks be willing to except that their definition of racism is not necessarily accurate, and that they be willing to defer to groups who have had much more experience dealing with racism when these discussions jump off. The simple truth is that most minorities have a much higher level of expertise when it comes to racism; white folks need to accept this and behave accordingly.
Yes, the word "racist" is powerful and dangerous. Yes, there are black people and other minorities who have used it to hide their own deficiencies and to benefit their causes. However, the majority of the time, when minorities call someone a racist, they deserve it, and white folks need to take notice and take the appropriate actions.
And somebody get Pat Buchanan's ass off television.