Are we keeping around old stereotypes just to have a hammer against people who might use them?

There’s an apparently racist photoshop pic floating around the web that depicts Barack Obama shining Sarah Palin’s shoes. 

Obama Shines Palin Shoes

My first reaction is that it’s really a pretty poor photoshop job; in this day of great workmenship, you’d think they could have made it look a little bit more realistic. 

My second thought is that I don’t really get it.  I assume that the maker was going for a play on the idea that President Obama is not fit to shine Ms. Palin’s shoes.  But here, he is shining her shoes, so that doesn’t really work, now does it? 

My third thought is, of course, RACIST!!  Shoeshine boy = Black and that’s racist!!!  No, actually, my third thought is somewhere more along the line of the idea that the person who created it and the registered democrat who got in trouble for forwarding it at work should have known that it would be taken that way, intended or not. 

But then, I have to think, why is the image of a shoeshine boy associated with racism in my head?  I don’t think that I have ever, in my life, seen a shoeshine boy, girl, man, or woman, so I certainly can’t have my own preconceived notion of them being a certain race.  (I seem to recall that some airports had shoeshine stands, but I’ve only ever seen them sit empty.  And I want to say that they were automated, anyway.  And I don’t think I’ve even seen one of them in years.) 

My only association with shoeshiner as a racial stereotype comes from the musical Hair, where one character lists off just about every black racial stereotype, chanting “So you said.” 

I’m a
Colored spade
A nigger
A black nigger
A jungle bunny
Jigaboo coon
Pickaninny mau mau

Uncle Tom
Aunt Jemima
Little Black Sambo

Cotton pickin’
Swamp guinea
Junk man
Shoeshine boy

Elevator operator
Table cleaner at Horn & Hardart
Slave voodoo
Ubangi lipped

Flat nose
Tap dancin’
Resident of Harlem

And president of
The United States of Love
President of
The United States of Love

Judging from the rest of the lyrics, it looks to me that these stereotypes were seen as out-of-date even in the late 60’s when the musical was penned.  Elevator operators virtually don’t exist anymore, cotton pickers and slaves had been gone for almost a century at the time.  I must confess to not getting the “Horn and Hardart” reference, but table cleaner, which I assume is what I would call a busboy (or busser, in a non-sexist restaurant), doesn’t raise a bit of a racial stereotype in my mind. 

There’s simply no reason to hold on to this stereotype, just to use it as a stereotype against someone.  Let’s stop it. 


2 Responses

  1. hehe, I have had a similar idea before. I think that if the institutional racism that dominated not so long ago, could be de-emphasized for a while we would have a real chance at moving past the personal racism that still lingers. As it stands, they start throwing slavery and segregation in our faces as soon as we are old enough to identify ourselves as a color, and well before we are old enough to understand it, if it is ever understandable. The education system emphasizing these things (not education cuz kids can’t understand it) only serves to perpetuate/reinforce the ‘black’/’white’ identity divide and in doing perpetuate racism that the kids might not have picked up elsewhere.

    I’m not saying censor history, I am saying maybe let it wait a little longer.. oh no wait, if they do that they can’t indoctrinate us with nationalist propaganda from age5 and up, and oh noes we might not need parties to think for us then!?!

  2. […] that’s another story.) And the image of “getting coffee” for someone is hardly a go-to racial stereotype; it’s much more associated with sexism than racism. Doesn’t it seem more plausible that […]

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