Thursday, January 26, 2012
Racism Chasing? Republican Mark Oxner's Campaign Ad Features a "Slave Ship" the USS Obamaboat
I will let you all arbitrate the semiotics of this ad.
At least Mark Oxner's people had the good sense to make sure that the enslaved children on Obama's "ship of state" (with its upside down U.S. flag and crossed out "United States Constitution") were a diverse group. We can count that as a small measure of progress in the post-racial age.
In a political moment where campaign commercials have featured Islamic terrorists, demon sheep, and gangster rappers who penetrate white women with their guns, this ad is par for the course.
Is race an element here? I am not sure. This anti-Obama campaign commercial could be one more example of the "benign" myopia that is common to the white racial frame ("how could anyone be offended by a boat, an allusion to slavery, and a black captain whipping his crew? How shocking!). Alternatively, the racial ideologies at work here could be more sinister, as any reference to "white slavery" has historically done potent political work from the Revolutionary War to the present (with the Tea Party faithful using that very same phrase to oppose the Obama administration and play on white racial resentment and anxiety).
I am hoping that there will be an expert on naval history who is also a racism denier that will post a defense and explanation of Mark Oxner's ad. That could be good fun.
I will sit this one out and see if any of you want to put on the racism chasing shoes this evening. Who knows? Perhaps, the ghosts of Jack Johnson and the Barbary Pirates will show up and give us a real seminar on white slavery and poor Billy Budd.