Wednesday, June 18, 2008

By request - the primate connection…

A certain Sydney from Charlotte asked this bitch to comment on the use of primate imagery and dolls to depict Senator Obama.

Shall we?

A bitch went on record years ago…right here on this blog…about the use of primates in connection with black people. Shit, I even had to post a response to all the responses!

I’m not surprised that it has emerged again now that America has its first black Presidential presumptive nominee from a major party.

I am, however, disgusted.

Pause…sip ice water…continue.

Since one of the more infamous uses of the primate connection was pulled by Nazis during the 1936 Olympics against the great Jesse Owens, this bitch thinks it is worth pointing out that using that kind if imagery puts the person using it in a certain kind of…ummm, group.

Too often people dismiss the use of primate imagery to represent a black person as careless or lacking insight rather than acknowledging it as part of a deliberate attempt to classify black people as lesser than full evolved human beings.

Life has taught me that these folks are not worthy of the benefit of the doubt. More importantly, why the fuck do people feel the need to give them the benefit of the doubt?

Is it because people are disturbed to think that there are Americans in 2008 who respond to a black person seeking high office by dusting off Racism for Dummies and pulling out stuffed primates then dressing them up in Obama 2008 t-shirts…rustle up a simple assed grin followed by a shrug and protest that they didn’t mean anything by it?

C’mon people…this is America, for the love of all that is built on a foundation of ig’nance towards others!

We are not post racial...we do not have a population that stumbles over racial imagery like fresh faced chil'ren who have never ever ever seen that shit used in a negative way and gosh, sure didn't mean to say what they said when they did it.

These primate doll and monkey t-shirt people are not making a perfectly understandable mistake.

They are using imagery that is easily understood by the population they seek to reach.

A discussion of the primate connection is not an opportunity to point out that we humans are primates and, as members of the superfamily Hominoidea, are just another primate species and blah followed by blah and another blah.

This primate connection shit is damaging and it is wrong.

For all the attempts to perfume it up with excuses and explanations, it stinks the same stink it did (insert last time some asshole used a primate to depict a black person who threatened their notion of racial superiority).

To argue otherwise is to devolve and trust a bitch - we haven’t moved forward enough on the ledge to be taking that many steps back.


Anonymous said...

Once again, my angry sister, you've nailed it.

You said: "They are using imagery that is easily understood by the population they seek to reach"

Oh. Most DEFINITELY that is the case.

I was recently browsing through my collection of kids' movies, when I sat down to re-watch Jungle Book.

Disney is so often waaaay wrong on so many issues and on so many levels, that it shouldn't surprise anyone that one particular scene in this "innocuous" kids' movie is so blatantly racist.

The apes are scheming to learn how to make fire (so they can be like humans) and they've kidnapped the Man Cub hoping to learn from him.

In a voice (Louis Prima, who is actually Italian) that way too closely resembles a Louis Armstrong impersonation, the leader of the Apes sings in an obviously black American scat style:

Now I'm the king of the swingers
Oh, the jungle VIP

I've reached the top and had to stop
And that's what botherin' me

I wanna be a man, mancub
And stroll right into town
And be just like the other men
I'm tired of monkeyin' around!

Oh, oobee doo
I wanna be like you (ooh ooh)
I wanna walk like you
Talk like you, too

You'll see it's true (ooh ooh)
An ape like me (ee ee)
Can learn to be hu (ooh ooh) man too (ooh ooh)

Monkey imagery being blatantly associated with black people is certainly not some new phenomenon. It is, unfortunately, as American as Disney, Baseball and Apple Pie.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

"We are not post racial...we do not have a population that stumbles over racial imagery like fresh faced chil'ren who have never ever ever seen that shit used in a negative way and gosh, sure didn't mean to say what they said when they did it."

Excellent post Black Lady!
Sometimes you come up with something that is brilliantly succinct and to the point.
I will credit you when I use the above.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. On a frivolous note, I think Obama would look terrible in a purple shirt and dog-collar, let alone the pointy hat.....purple (actually, magenta-purple) is just not his color.

(for the low-church types, that's Episcopal / Anglican bishop gear, the head of each national church, a bishop or archbishop, is called a primate.)


Unknown said...

Oh, I KNOW I will be upset about it, but I haven't seen the primate image used in connection with Obama. Do I head straight for Fox News for this travesty? If not please post a link so my blood pressure medication can do it's work.

Shark-Fu said...


A bitch shall not send you to that place where thought dies a painful death!

Try this, but take the meds first...

Unknown said...

OH Gods Above! A toy!?

To introduce children to the political process? How DO you folks sleep at night?

I did ask, but I didn't really understand to the depths some people will sink.


EHR said...

There are people who think this is innocuous??!! I have tons to learn about how racism manifests in this country yet I understood it (and how utterly wrong and evil it is) the first time I ever heard about it. How can people be so dense?

Chode-en-freude said...

Thank you for writing about this; people who say this is innocent are either out of it, or full of it. I can't decide which is worse.

Anonymous said...

Damn straight! I'm not sure what kind of closet dwelling idiot a person would have to be to not pick up on the blatant racism in such a doll....

The irony that strikes me is that the same person who is likely to create such a doll is also likely to be a proponent of Intelligent Design....

Unknown said...

I can't believe that anyone with two brain cells to rub together would give this shit a free pass.

Anonymous said...

"If George Bush can be compared to a chimpanzee, then why....?"


Anonymous said...

Shark-FU you are so on point here!
I detest the use of that imagery and the simple-assed grins and gestures of "what did I do wrong?" that goes with it.

Thank you for these comments!

Anonymous said...

"Devolving the other" is as old as dirt, kids. The immigrant Irish were depicted as grinning, filthy, combative gibbon monkeys in broadsheets and newspaper cartoons that Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty had to beat the snot out of (a caricature that exists today - for everyone who rightly decries Chief Wahoo, have you taken a look at the friggin' Leprechauns leaping all over the place at Notre Dame?)

Anonymous said...

That is true, Rileysdtr. I remembered that and tried to google some of those images.

Reminds me of a memorable quote at the end of "Blazing Saddles", too.

Still doesn't mitigate the offense in these supposedly more enlightened times, though, does it?

midwesterntransport said...

damn straight.

Click said...

Well said! Here's another example of just what you've said and couldn't agree with you more.

I realize it's old and maybe you've seen it, but resonates more today than it probably did then!

But...don't judge a video by it's title, I promise!

adamson said...

I DO agree with the connection to symbolism in King Kong...

But I have a question, though:
Do you think Curious George is about the same?

Shark-Fu said...


The character or the doll?

I'd have to revisit the books before I could comment on the character.

Jon said...

Right on. President Obama is forcing the racist fifth column to show its ugly head, and face, a face that many many USofAers refuse to acknowledge when they look in the mirror every morning.

I saw an image of Mt. Rushmore the other day--and for the first time I saw it differently. I thought, "What in the hell were we thinking, carving out monuments to dead northern Europeans in the heart of the Sioux nation? Now it makes me sick.

Love your blog.


Mayra said...

I guess I'm out of it, because I honestly don't get it. No racist alarms are going off in my head. Does this mean I'M racist? Because it would seriously suck to be a racist black Hispanic.

Anonymous said...

I love Obama and I love biology. I am angry that he is portrayed in classic racist tradition as a non-human primate.

Any image of any hominid depicts a primate.

Much love Sisters!

Shark-Fu said...

Yeah that would suck (wink).

I'm not in the business of diagnosing racism, so I can only suggest that you do some research on the use of primate images during WWI, WWII, in film and in cartoons/comics - also the Mutilated Darwinism used to twist science to fit social ideas about race.

Seeing this has a lot to do with having seen it before...

Anonymous said...

Have you noticed the print's just as bad. Obama is often if not always (which is more the case) in the shadows, dulled and darkened or even made to look grey and McCain is always in the light. In sid by side images it's even more apparent with McCain looking refreshed (as much as someone a hundred years old can), pleasant and optimistic while Obama, still in the shadows is pictured with a near scowling frown and a grimacing brow. I saw one photo recently that had altered Obama's image so much it ultimately looked like a cartoon.

Anonymous said...

(shaking my head...) -- I had not seen the sock puppet. I guess I shouldn't be shocked to see that in 2008, but I was!

You mentioned not being 'post-racial.' Do you think that that is only true for people past a certain age?

Me, being a Southern, white guy nearly 45, immediately understood what the primate image was supposed to convey.

Do you think people under 25 would have that same understanding? It just seems to me that younger folks don't have as many of the same historical and cultural hangups as people my age.

The Truffle said...

I'm curious about those "Obama as Curious George" tees. Curious George is a copyrighted character, yes? Surely this would be grounds for a lawsuit? Or am I being a humorless white liberal?

Anonymous said...

I just turned 26, am white, and I lived in NYS and now Western Washington State... (There were like 5 black kids in my high school class of 200 or so).
But I got the primate thing.

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