Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama is My Slave T-Shirt

I had dedicated my day towards watching the law and order marathon, healing my knees and ankles and of course getting some work done... when i came across this article in my friend's google chat status message.

The article is about t-shirt "designer" Apollo Braun in New York City, who has now earned his place in internet infamy be producing "Obama is My Slave" t-shirts.

In an even more twisted plot turn, a New York free daily called the Metro published the following article about a 25yr old Manhattan student who allegedly was beat up by four black teenage girls for wearing the t-shirt.

Turns out, a week later the editor of the Metro was fired because the entire lawsuit was a hoax, concocted by Apollo Braun to get more attention for his t-shirts.

I'll leave it to you all to actually read the articles and to witness Braun's numerous racist statements.

What makes this story complicated is the way in which Braun is not only a Jewish immigrant, but ironically he got his start at a hip hop store in Soho....

In the context of the recent controversial New Yorker cover and The Assassination of Barack Obama art exhibition, one has to wonder about the insipid ways racism is now used in this country.

We've come full circle, from a rampant blatant racism that was found culturally acceptable, to an institutional racism that found "overt" racism something only for the "uneducated." Now we find ourselves back to a place where blatant racism is once again something to be entertained by.

To call somebody a "racist" in responses to these pieces of "art" or "satire" is to be accused of overreacting. Yet one has to wonder about the ways in which this artistic, educated and institutional racism, combines to disempower black communities from mobilizing.

If you complain about the New Yorker cover you are to sensitive (and if poor black people boycott would it really affect their subscriptions?). If you protest outside of the Assassination art exhibit you are not appreciating the artist's first amendment rights. And if you critique folks like Braun (or write blogs about them), then you are just giving them the stage they need to sell their product.

BlackSymthe alluded to this when he talked about the way Obama dealt with hecklers at one of his rallys. And I talked about this briefly when I talked about Mandela's Eight Lessons for Leadership.

Obama's ability to simultaneously tap in black community support without necessarily indicating that he has intentions of (or is able to) fulfilling their expectations. A cultural environment that labels todays racial climate as one where racial disparities no longer exist. And a political environment where racism is now called "satire" or "art"... seem to continue to point to the necessity of a new mode of black political organizing.

The question will continue to be... what does this new black politics need to look like?


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