"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)



I taught campaigns and elections today in my UT class. As part of that lecture, we talk about political advertising, its goals, and the fact that most ads can be classified as either positive or negative. I also show a few ads in class, including Reagan's famous "Morning in America," and ads from the current campaign. I'd previewed this one before class, but didn't notice the racial subtext until I showed it in class:

Is it just me, or does this ad meant subtly suggest that Obama is coming for your white baby, or at least that he's going to make your white baby poor?


Blogger Roger said...

From my days with Dr. Stan Campbell in the Baylor history department and with 8 years of working with the Mississippis racial reconciliation task force, I can guarantee you that it screams racism...it is not subtle...I would be interested to know what African-American readers of your blog would say...

Thursday, September 18, 2008 3:45:00 PM

Blogger Michael said...

I'm not buying as racism. If Biden was the Presidential candidate and this ran would anyone say racism? No. It's only because Obama is black and the baby was white that this race is even a question.

Does it make it look like Obama is coming for you baby? Yes. Does it look like Obama will make said baby poor? Yes. Racist? Stretching it just a bit.

Thursday, September 18, 2008 9:31:00 PM

Blogger Roger said...

Imagine yourself as an African-American who has encountered such "subtle" slights all of their life,FAR beyond what anyone who is white can imagine....and see if such identification will change your perspective at all....

Thursday, September 18, 2008 9:42:00 PM

Blogger Michael said...

Just because it is perceived as a "'subtle' slight" doesn't mean it was meant to be. It's kinda like the stupid lipstick on a pig comment. It wasn't meant to be sexist, but it was perceived that way.

And what is the standard here? If someone has encountered these "'subtle' slights" their entire life, what are we allowed to say that doesn't possibly offend someone? I mean do we have to have all black children in political commercials now since Obama is a black guy? Do we now have to mold political campaigns in a way that no one anywhere can say that the ad is racist, sexist, anti-religion, anti-gay, etc? I mean really. People are too easily offended in this country for us to live life like that. People are going to read into the ad what they want to regardless of what it is trying to say(see the lipstick on the pig comment).

Thursday, September 18, 2008 11:12:00 PM

Blogger CharlieMac said...

This ad is only racial if the viewer is thinking about race.
A person who thinks about racial
differences every time they see someone of another race is racist, like it or not.

The glimpse of the baby represents family. Sleeping babies are totally absolutely completely neutral and lovable. What race was the baby? All you could tell was that the baby's skin was light in color. It could have been any number of light skinned races.

My answer to your question is that the ad is racist if the viewer is racist.

Who uses lipstick other than women and gays? Who are called pigs other than gluttons, women and cops? So it seems that logically the lipstick/pig remark/joke was sexist in nature.
Charlie Mac

Friday, September 19, 2008 7:27:00 AM

Blogger Roger said...

Let me get this straight: you are a racist if you see a racial insult in the ad? That is confusing logic to me. I am not suggesting that we find "racism" in every corner; but that is often how people in power (usually white, often male) dismiss the pain that people of color and quite often, women of any race experience. How can I, a white, middle-age male, see a (not so) subtle, racist implication in the ad apart from trying to view it through the eyes of how an African-American might see it? How can I, a white, middle-age male with a decent income, with power and influence at my disposal, ever understand the pain of discrimination directed at all minorities and quite often at women, regardless of race, without attempting to view the world through their eyes? And how can this happen without my listening carefully and suspending my attitudes of superiority born of long-held patterns of thinking and acting and privilege? When I go out to eat with my African-American friends and fellow church members, even in the supposed progressive city where I live, I AM a person of privilege and I treated with preference. I suspect that most who read this blog are as well. Therefore, it behooves me to be careful before I dismiss this ad and TIA's question without first attempting to view it through the eyes of someone who has experienced racism in a way that I never will.

Friday, September 19, 2008 10:10:00 AM

Blogger CharlieMac said...

I watched the ad several times. It is not racist unless I am looking at it from a racist angle. Period!

Now let's talk personal experience. I have worked closely with black fellow workers in both white and blue collar jobs.

When I treated blacks as my father taught me, that is, as a race of humans different to me, and expected a different work ethic, none of them ever once accused me of being racist. This was/is not my natural way of looking at people.

On the other hand when I have treated black fellow workers as equals and expected the same amount and quality of work from them as everyone else, I have been accused by some blacks as being extremely racist. This has created stress and problems with job performance and management. This way of treating people is my natural way until it causes problems, then I revert to my father's way and we get along fine.

Case in point, I did not see anything about the ad that was racial in tone until someone pointed it out from a racist point of view, which is the way you argue we should look at it.

When you eat out with all whites do you look for and notice whether you are treated differently? Check it out next time. Or do other things enter into the evaluation such as how you are dressed and or how your hair is parted or your warts?

I believe that if people of all races were to quit thinking about race and racial issues all (100%) of the time, racism would go away within a generation, if not overnight.
Charlie Mac

Friday, September 19, 2008 2:40:00 PM

Blogger MamasBoy said...

To say this is racist sets up an extreme PC standard. No longer can McCain tie Obama's liberalism to the future state of America without using a minority baby because using a white baby is considered racist?!? The people who think this way are not in the mainstream of America. Most Americans, and I would even bet most black Americans, see nothing offensive or racist in the ad.


Saturday, September 20, 2008 12:37:00 PM


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