Thursday, July 3, 2014

Racist Anti-Black Editorial Cartoons from the Reconstruction Era are a Perfect Fit For Fox News and the Tea Party GOP of Today

I hope that you all have some nice and restful plans for the upcoming 4th of July weekend.

I have been processing the feedback and consequences of my viral piece on the Hobby Lobby debacle (which has settled in at about 65,000 Facebook shares).

On one hand the practical results from my "winning the Internet" for day, have been anticlimactic and unspectacular. It is nice to get the traffic and the exposure. But, those interactions constitute a type of drive-by casual engagement--that may or may not translate into growing our group of commenters here on WARN. Thus, the momentary blip is a reminder that your established home base is what ultimately matters.

However, my Hobby Lobby essay has also opened the door to some additional opportunities...more details will be forthcoming.

[In my best Kosh from Babylon 5 voice, "The truth points to itself."]

I am saving two of the pieces which I have been working on regarding Obama, and the vicious and racist assault on his legitimacy by the Tea Party GOP and John Boehner, for next week. There is also a very compelling new article on game theory and racism which I will share next week as well.

The recent commemorations of the Civil Rights Acts and Freedom Summer--and the Hobby Lobby decision--have provoked my reflecting on Howard Zinn's incisive and wise observation that "history is a moving train".

Old battles are still being fought; the present contains many echoes of the past; and how much of what we are witnessing with the White Right at present is just history playing itself out again?

While trying to put Boehner and the White Right's assault on Obama's legitimacy in context, I decided to look through Reconstruction era editions of Harper's Weekly and other publications for images of African-American congressmen and senators.

I was not been able to find the editorial cartoon that I originally sought. However, I did discover several cartoons that would perfectly at home on Fox News, a Republican Party official's wall, or as a cartoon shared via the sewer that is the Right-wing media echo chamber.

The first cartoon smears the Freedman's Bureau by depicting a lazy former slave who is a burden on the state because he "steals" money and resources from good hard working white people.

The second image "Colored Rule in a Reconstructed (?) State" by noted cartoonist Thomas Nast is a racist caricature (intended as scolding and cautionary) of African-American elected officials as incompetent because they are "apeing" the behavior of the "lowest whites".

The third set of images, also by Nast, entitled "The Odor of the (Nigger) Republican is Offense But" depicts white southern Democrats, the predecessors of the Neo-Confederate Republican Party in the post civil rights era, courting black elites in private while showing disdain for black people in public.

Shades of black conservatives and the Republican Party? The recent Cochran and McDaniel "harvesting black votes" election in Mississippi?

In all, the assault on Obama fits within a long tradition by white elected officials, the media, and the general public to discredit African-American representatives and other officials. The United States is a society which for most of its existence was quite literally "white by law". The election of Obama--twice--and the forced expansion of the polity to include black and brown folks is a system shock.

Consequently, the racist attacks by the White Right on Barack Obama (and black people en masse) should not be surprising: they are the status quo ante for American life and culture.

White bigotry towards people of color is the American way. Likewise, the efforts to expand corporate power, and the desperate power grab by Christian theocrats as exemplified by Hobby Lobby, is the American way too.

Once more, and again, there is little new in the game. The questions remains, what shall "We the People" do in response?


chauncey devega said...

Bouie did some smart work there. Again, this is old hat. It is not new. But Americans don't have a memory last Tuesday so matters are often presented as novel or unprecedented.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

The memory part has always been something that bugged me about politics. Is it the 24 hour news cycle that generates this fleeting feeling of yesterday or something more endemic?

After reading Bouie's essay the notion of black voter irrelevance in America really solidified for me. They used to say that black people were bought out by the Republican Party. Same hat same trick, different party.

Buddy H said...

The second image looks like it could have been drawn by R. Crumb, a man who compulsively rendered AAs as monstrously as possible, and then when asked about it, said his work came from deep inside himself.

A few years ago Fox news was caught manipulating the images of two critics. Did you see the before & after pictures? The men had their skin darkened and their noses widened.

Things are more subtle nowadays but Nast's ugly legacy survives.

joe manning said...

If there's any good news its that now that the right is emboldened, their new found candor is jarring to polite sensibilities. Their hubris is over bearing and imbecilic and they don't even know it. Legions of Paula Deens and Phil Robertsons think they can spew their hate with impunity---but not immunity, as they prove to be their own worst enemies.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you drew this back to Reconstruction. The torrent of anti-African hostility that has been spit up over the last 6 years was completely predictable and many credible voices forewarned about it. The president's willful minimization and avoidance of the increasing virulence of anti-African racism during his time in office and his vapid playacting as if this period is the happy pinnacle of African power in the US is central here. The Reconstruction era is part of the unmistakable pattern in the US of increasing anti-African hostility and criminality in reaction to visibly and significantly rising African American power. That the president (and especially his African American staffers and inner circle) didn't go in with plan in hand ready to counter and punish the predictable reactionary response has only emboldened and enabled the racists. It is sick and shameful what he and his team have done, especially since it's everyday African American men and women (and too often boys and girls) who are bearing the brunt here while the president, his family, and his staff are protected by dozen-man deep security details.

Also, great point RE: the cartoons fitting in at fox news and tea party rallies. But they'd fit in on the Cartoon Network's The Boondocks and on the albums of so many Hipster Hop rappers too. And they're not far off from Zappiro's caricatures in South Africa, which so many Euro American reporters hold up as a testament to free press in South Africa, an exemplar for the whole world emulate to hear them tell it. This stuff is part and parcel of entrenched, persistent, and global anti-African racism. If it were only the rednecks and right-wingers, we'd be doin okay.

Miles_Ellison said...

The problem is that too many of "We the People" are uncritically buying in to the current state of affairs.

chauncey devega said...

Great and smart comment. Thanks for sharing it. I have something for next week that I have been thinking about some months, but really came into focus w. Boehner's lawsuit. I think you will agree w. it.

Do comment in the future. But do pick a name to use as we generally don't do anonymous comments here on WARN.

Anonymous said...

No, anonymous is working well for me man. If you're concerned about my comment the other day RE: slate, no worries. I'm content to read along quietly. Keep up the good work.

chauncey devega said...

You don't have to register w. disqus. Just pick a name and sign it under the post.

As I said, we have had a problem following conversations here w. random anonymous folks who couldn't be identified.

You have some good stuff to offer. I do hope you comment in the future.

Anonymous said...

Okay, sounds good. Will do.

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