10 September 2008

Emmett Till ~ Dangerous Tropes in Current American Politics

Republicans are a funny lot. They have their panties in a knot about Barack Obama's supposed slight of Sarah Palin. You can read the details here. The facts are clear. On this, the Republicans are trying to divert attention from a deteriorating economy, a failed war, and a weak ticket with no new ideas who are making a plethora of questionable claims. Obama is right to call them on this.

From my perspective, a couple of things are important about this. First, let's suppose that in his comment about lipstick and pigs Obama did mean to improvise on Palin's acceptance speech remark about pit bulls and and 'hockey moms.' That is not believable, but let's entertain the possibility just for argument sake. Once we make that assumption it is useful to remember, it was, after all, Sarah herself who first drew the analogy between she and an animal. At the risk of being un-PC, pigs are way smarter and more hygienic than dogs.

Second, and more seriously, if we want to play on unsavory cultural tropes, what are we to make of a bunch of white folks getting apoplectic about a black man insulting a white woman. Have none off these Republicans ever heard of Emmett Till? (Come to think of it, probably not. But before all my right-wing hecklers write in to complain, please remember that you were very likely in full support of Clarence Thomas when he invoked a very similar analogy during the Anita Hill fracas.) Here is our first black Presidential candidate having to defend himself against charges of besmirching the honor of a white woman. Who says we've transcended race? It is so deeply ingrained in American culture and politics that we don't even see it.

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Blogger Public Squalor said...

Initially I think it was the Obama camp that was pushing the image/idea of transcendence of race. You know, try to make white folks feel like it's OK to vote for a Black guy.

But you're right about the Palin flap. It's both amazing and disheartening to witness the rhetoric and images that resonate among the American electorate.

BTW - I really appreciate the posts on Martha Rosler's work. I know the content of her work is political, but how do you think her work functions politically with her audience?

peace -

10 September, 2008 19:52  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10 September, 2008 20:18  

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