I just don’t see the racism. I mean, I see it, but I have to sort of squint. My first thoughts on looking at the image are 1) it’s always funny, to see a man shining the shoes of a woman who’s wearing a skirt, since it’s so unlikely to happen in real life: the guy would be able to look right up it. That’s why it was so funny when the informant/shoe-shine guy in Police Squad had Dr. Joyce Brothers in those seats, wearing a skirt.
Then 2) Obama should be shining Sarah’s shoes: she’s got more class than he does. Who, after all, shuts the streets of Manhattan down so he can go on a date with his wife—when he’s got access to all the best at the White House, every day?
Only then does one think 3) shining shoes is often considered a menial job, as mopping floors can be. Has it been associated with black people in the past? Perhaps. After all, not everyone watched Police Squad.
One would hope that in between seeing that image appear in one’s in-box and hitting “forward,” one would get to thought #3.
Certainly, the average Republican would have.
But, really: the catalogue of negative associations I’m supposed to remember that have to do with black people is becoming overwhelming: water buffalo? Monkeys? Why monkeys? I think the people who read racism into monkey-like images of Obama, but were okay with similar images of G.W. Bush, are themselves racist, because they think of blacks as unintelligent or something.
Maybe I need to see more movies from the 1930s or whenever; perhaps that would help me to acquire all the cultural baggage I’m supposed to be carrying around.
But it would help if there were some sort of filter one could apply to criticism of black leaders that would serve as a “racism check”—a database of negative stereotypes from the past 200 years.