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September 20, 2005

Team Colors

Kospats400

If you’ve been following the BAG, you know I’m interested in the way race relates to visual politics.  At the same time, however, I’m even more interested in the way politics relates to visual politics.

With Katrina suddenly inviting inspection of the “two Americas” (whether defined by rich/poor, white/non-white, white/black, or some other criteria), I’m wondering to what extent a serious examination is possible.

So, here’s “Exhibit One” (followed by questions for you):

DKos featured a post on Sunday attacking Bush for a White House photo op with the Superbowl champion New England Patriots.  The post, by a person called Troutfishing, pointed out how Bush was primarily grouped with the white players.  Although failing to venture an explanation for this, the author provides a statistical analysis giving the chances of the whites and blacks being this randomly separated as being under 1%.

The photo Kos posted is the one above.  This version just below is the one the Administration ran as part of a White House photo gallery.

Whsuperbowl400-1

So, here are my questions:

1.  How fair, possible or probable is it to explain the racial arrangement primarily in terms of politics?  And then, how would you go about doing it?  For example, as much as someone could say that Bush wanted the company of the whites, couldn’t you also assume that the black players were looking to keep their distance from Bush?

2.  How much might the distribution be the result of normative social and racial dynamics?  For example, is it reasonable to expect that the white and black players would be more co-mingled?  Don’t the races in America tend to cluster together?  And, if so, isn’t it as much by choice as by other factors (including economics or prejudice?)  (Or, is this incorrect?)  If this were the situation, could we expect to see the black guys more front and center only if the President was black?  (By the way, the owners and the coach are front and center — not the players.  Addressing their ethnicity, however, would open a different can of worms.)

3.  If the black/white distribution could not be random, might it be explained more by practical factors?  For example, how much could the arrangement be determined by height and/or what position the person plays and/or personality factors (shy in back versus outgoing up front, for example)?

Just to make things more interesting, by the way, I thought I’d throw in this photo as well.  Because the Patriots also won the Superbowl in 2004, here is the White House photo from last year featuring Bush with the same team.  If you notice, the black and white players in the 2004 shot seems more evenly distributed.  Of course, that could partly be the result of different personnel.  However, doesn’t it seem to argue for a more trivial explanation?

Bushpats2004-1

4.  Finally, I think it’s important to ask if this photo (from last April, by the way) is even a worthy subject for Bush opponents to devote attention to?  (I partly ask because a number of people emailed me the other day concerning Bush’s pastel-lit speech in New Orleans’ Jackson Square.  Specifically, I was asked to take a position on whether I thought Bush’s shirt was correctly buttoned or not.  …According to my eyes, by the way, I think it was.) 

If we are going to take a serious look at race in America, perhaps the first question we should be asking is exactly what it is we should and shouldn’t we be looking at.

(thanks to Dan)

(image 1: attribution unintellible. dailykos.com.  image 2: Eric Draper for The White House. April 13, 2005. image 3:  Paul Morse for the White House.  May 10, 2004.)

  • http://taleswapper.blogspot.com taleswapper

    Excellent. I’m glad to see this questioning of our knee-jerk reactions.

  • http://www.someoldguy.typepad.com/ PJ

    Hard to be sure with different elevations and angles, but it seems to me that there are at least ten more people in last year’s picture than in this year’s. You’d expect about fifty, with the 44 (?) man roster, the President, owner, and coaches. That’s what I get in last year’s picture; the most I can find in the 2005 pic is about 39. Am I miscounting, or were there some absences? If so, who and why?

  • Diane

    Presumably, the owners/moneymen are in front (tho I know nothing about football). That said, perhaps the back row gets paid less? Can somebody analyze this regarding relative star power on the team? Again, as with Katrina, might class be showing here, rather than race per se? I have an interesting story from my husband’s experience as a filmwriter. He was on some studio lot on one of his films. He went into the commisary at the beginning of shooting season, and found the extras for a sci-fi series all made up as aliens sitting together at a couple of long tables. He noticed as the season went by that the extras segregated themselves out by alien make up, and sat with their own kind! We must always keep this tendency in mind when humans (indeed all creatures, winged, footed and finned) gather. Just think of your own high school gym pictures…

  • JamieQ

    it seems the back men dont want to be near bush – and who can blame them?
    look again – bush’s shirt is buttoned wrong.

  • Marysz

    Bush and the men on either side of him are standing on a raised platform that elevates them and makes them appear taller than the actual athletes. You can see the platform in both the second and third pictures. Both the black and white players are secondary to Bush and his “have-more” cohorts. Bush is the quarterback here, he’s the one who holds the football. This photo shows that athletic skills and professionalism are less important than money and political power.

  • gleex

    Disclaimer: This photo is pretty poor quality, I am sorry if I have missed, or mis-identified anyone in the photo(s).
    In the front row are mainly: Brady (QB), Robert Kraft (owner), Scott Pioli (in charge of getting players) or perhaps Jonathan Kraft (a good executive) – they both look the same, Coach Belichick, the POTUS, and Teddy Brushchi, and three World Champion (Vince Lombardi) trophies.
    Also it looks like maybe Vrable, Light, and an extra VP or so.
    They are all “white” (defining race is not an exact science)
    I think the first row is set up based on image that has nothing to do with race, it tells a good story from someone’s point of view. In my view the story is missing a few chapters, for example Deion Branch the Superbowl MVP, who is African American. Here is the basic front row “story” :
    - An owner, chairman, and CEO (Kraft) that turned the franchise around and is winning (see this months cover of Forbes).
    - A QB (Brady) who always seems to say the right thing, is a 2-time Superbowl MVP, undefeated in the post season, and attended one of this Bush’s State of the Union address.
    - The owner has his arm around the VP of player personal (Pioli) as a mark of respect, that’s the guy who shops for the groceries. (Or it’s his son Jonathan, the Vice Chairman and President)
    - Coach is obvious, called a genius.
    - POTUS is obvious
    - Teddy Bruschi is the player who suffered a stroke after the Superbowl and is not playing this year, and perhaps never again. He is a great guy and the one seen playing with his kids on the field before the game.
    - I think Matt Light is there as well (not sure he is very into politics, but think he is pro-Bush – especially after 9/11 as all Americans were.
    - Oh and I think Vrable is there, and he is an Ohio state Buckeye… and Ohio is a swing state.
    The second and third row center seems to be a bunch of VP types. They are white; one could debate the reasons for having so many white executives and owners. The picture is grainy, and I am not great with all the people, but that might be Pepper Johnson the Defensive Line coach in that group.
    The folks in the wings in the 2 – 4th rows are largely white non-players.
    It is fairly obvious that the folks in the back make up the vast majority of the African Americans in the picture. Why we do not know.
    I do not like the photo selected on the White House photo site though, it clearly reduces the number of African Americans in this photo (I checked and of 3 pictures this is the only one that even has a single African American player) – it makes it appear they are barely there. Perhaps it’s because Bush appears to have a stupid gaping smile in the pic taken front-on – but I have to imagine they took 10 or 20 of them. I am thinking they set up the front row, and then everyone else was allowed to “fall in”. Then after the fact any trickery or preference with regard to race might be in the selection of this photo from the rest (it is clearly not the best – and in fact cuts the trophies out, and on the site there is another close-up photo of golf’s “Presidents Cup” trophy – so it’s not like they don’t want to show the bling)
    I think both the selected photo and the missing trophies are a pity. While both are likely oversights the shame of it is that the trophies are the hardware that represent many 1000’s of hours of toil by the team. Countless of those hours were put in by African American players and you can barely see them in the photo. I pray it has nothing to do with political calculus and trying to put a “white” face on winners & patriots.
    Other Notes
    The official roster during the season is 53 players, many people are missing from this photo. In addition about 20-30 people will not been on the team’s roster in consecutive years.
    Notable African American players not in this picture include (as far as I can make out in this picture): Cory Dillion (running back), Ty Law (no longer a Patriot), Rodney Harrison (veteran defensive player), and more. I can not tell if Deion Branch is there, I think he is – if so, and if he was not invited to the front row, that is a regrettable oversight – he was the MVP of the Superbowl.
    Notable “white” players not in this picture include: Adam Vinitari (Kicker, he “won” many playoff games and Superbowls with last minute field goals)
    Note: The Patriots have 3 of 15 coaches who are African American, and 1 of 9 executive (of those listed).

  • bg

    There must be people who read sports blogs who perhaps would be more able (as gleex) to give insight on these photos.
    I am concerned as a non-sports “white” person that my view on this offers of little real value. I wonder how much of the race issue we can really know and how much we are interpreting the race issue based on our assumptions after Katrina about how African Americans see these things. Do people (any people at this point) but maybe more particularly African Americans feel used by the Presidency to prop up the President?
    It would be great if some readers would contact people who are into sports (just one subgroup who probably do not read this or comment) and ask them to weigh in. For all we know, there are a lot of white people missing (as gleex notes) who may or may not have attended based on what they may or may not feel about the President at this point. Not to mention why and who are pictured/not pictured from a race point of view.

  • George Myers

    It seems he’s trying very hard in the photo not to look like the Texas peerage. In “Debrett’s Texas Peerage” by Hugh Best, Coward-McCann. Inc., New York, there’s a funny photo where all the nouveau-rich oil people attended a gathering and sat on these newly painted benches in their white and seersuckers I imagine, “Sunday best” only when photographed from behind, they appeared to have been in the prison uniform of the time, stripes! Apparently there’s only one “Bush” in the whole book of 385 pages, a “Mrs. Marsh was the former Wendy Bush, granddaughter of cattle king William Bush. Her mother was the daughter of Joseph Glidden, the inventor of barbed wire.” – p. 212.

  • http://dearauntnettie.com/ dancinfool

    Just when I think maybe you’re right to bring up the question about how we look at images in terms of race in America, I come across THIS.
    Could Bush be climbing any farther up this poor man’s butt? (He’s the guy who saved 20 people on his own, a real hero, Jerry Darden.)

  • Michele KCMO

    I may be over-simplifying this, but could it be a matter of height? I know, as a taller (and wider) than average woman, I get put in the back of photos quite often.

  • Sarah B.

    The placement of African-Americans in the referenced photos? The pics speak for themselves.
    Whatever might be the reasons or explanations for the way in which these jovial, collegiate, macho, back-slapping group photographs were posed, the photos themselves reveal that the handful of African-American males who appear in the photos are, for the most part, pushed to the margins of the group of white males.
    Consequently, the African-Americans are, in a word, marginalized!
    Art imitating life in America in the age of Bush, perhaps?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • A. Nonomus

    Sarah:
    “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
    - Anonymous

  • http://www.supertrevligt.com John E Thelin

    Part of the problem is this: discussing “race”, rather than ethnicity or color. As far as I know, the USA is the only Western nation that keeps discussing and dividing people by race on a regular basis. In Europe, only racists and other unsavory types even consider black and white people (and inuit, arab, etc.) different races.
    There’s one race: the human one. I think until that thought really takes hold, it’s going to be hard to get things to work out in the US.

  • rabbit

    Comments
    Excellent. I’m glad to see this questioning of our knee-jerk reactions.
    Posted by: taleswapper | Sep 20, 2005 at 05:37 AM
    Hard to be sure with different elevations and angles, but it seems to me that there are at least ten more people in last year’s picture than in this year’s. You’d expect about fifty, with the 44 (?) man roster, the President, owner, and coaches. That’s what I get in last year’s picture; the most I can find in the 2005 pic is about 39. Am I miscounting, or were there some absences? If so, who and why?
    Posted by: PJ | Sep 20, 2005 at 06:39 AM
    Presumably, the owners/moneymen are in front (tho I know nothing about football). That said, perhaps the back row gets paid less? Can somebody analyze this regarding relative star power on the team? Again, as with Katrina, might class be showing here, rather than race per se? I have an interesting story from my husband’s experience as a filmwriter. He was on some studio lot on one of his films. He went into the commisary at the beginning of shooting season, and found the extras for a sci-fi series all made up as aliens sitting together at a couple of long tables. He noticed as the season went by that the extras segregated themselves out by alien make up, and sat with their own kind! We must always keep this tendency in mind when humans (indeed all creatures, winged, footed and finned) gather. Just think of your own high school gym pictures…
    Posted by: Diane | Sep 20, 2005 at 08:08 AM
    it seems the back men dont want to be near bush – and who can blame them?
    look again – bush’s shirt is buttoned wrong.
    Posted by: JamieQ | Sep 20, 2005 at 08:36 AM
    Bush and the men on either side of him are standing on a raised platform that elevates them and makes them appear taller than the actual athletes. You can see the platform in both the second and third pictures. Both the black and white players are secondary to Bush and his “have-more” cohorts. Bush is the quarterback here, he’s the one who holds the football. This photo shows that athletic skills and professionalism are less important than money and political power.
    Posted by: Marysz | Sep 20, 2005 at 08:43 AM
    Disclaimer: This photo is pretty poor quality, I am sorry if I have missed, or mis-identified anyone in the photo(s).
    In the front row are mainly: Brady (QB), Robert Kraft (owner), Scott Pioli (in charge of getting players) or perhaps Jonathan Kraft (a good executive) – they both look the same, Coach Belichick, the POTUS, and Teddy Brushchi, and three World Champion (Vince Lombardi) trophies.
    Also it looks like maybe Vrable, Light, and an extra VP or so.
    They are all “white” (defining race is not an exact science)
    I think the first row is set up based on image that has nothing to do with race, it tells a good story from someone’s point of view. In my view the story is missing a few chapters, for example Deion Branch the Superbowl MVP, who is African American. Here is the basic front row “story” :
    - An owner, chairman, and CEO (Kraft) that turned the franchise around and is winning (see this months cover of Forbes).
    - A QB (Brady) who always seems to say the right thing, is a 2-time Superbowl MVP, undefeated in the post season, and attended one of this Bush’s State of the Union address.
    - The owner has his arm around the VP of player personal (Pioli) as a mark of respect, that’s the guy who shops for the groceries. (Or it’s his son Jonathan, the Vice Chairman and President)
    - Coach is obvious, called a genius.
    - POTUS is obvious
    - Teddy Bruschi is the player who suffered a stroke after the Superbowl and is not playing this year, and perhaps never again. He is a great guy and the one seen playing with his kids on the field before the game.
    - I think Matt Light is there as well (not sure he is very into politics, but think he is pro-Bush – especially after 9/11 as all Americans were.
    - Oh and I think Vrable is there, and he is an Ohio state Buckeye… and Ohio is a swing state.
    The second and third row center seems to be a bunch of VP types. They are white; one could debate the reasons for having so many white executives and owners. The picture is grainy, and I am not great with all the people, but that might be Pepper Johnson the Defensive Line coach in that group.
    The folks in the wings in the 2 – 4th rows are largely white non-players.
    It is fairly obvious that the folks in the back make up the vast majority of the African Americans in the picture. Why we do not know.
    I do not like the photo selected on the White House photo site though, it clearly reduces the number of African Americans in this photo (I checked and of 3 pictures this is the only one that even has a single African American player) – it makes it appear they are barely there. Perhaps it’s because Bush appears to have a stupid gaping smile in the pic taken front-on – but I have to imagine they took 10 or 20 of them. I am thinking they set up the front row, and then everyone else was allowed to “fall in”. Then after the fact any trickery or preference with regard to race might be in the selection of this photo from the rest (it is clearly not the best – and in fact cuts the trophies out, and on the site there is another close-up photo of golf’s “Presidents Cup” trophy – so it’s not like they don’t want to show the bling)
    I think both the selected photo and the missing trophies are a pity. While both are likely oversights the shame of it is that the trophies are the hardware that represent many 1000’s of hours of toil by the team. Countless of those hours were put in by African American players and you can barely see them in the photo. I pray it has nothing to do with political calculus and trying to put a “white” face on winners & patriots.
    Other Notes
    The official roster during the season is 53 players, many people are missing from this photo. In addition about 20-30 people will not been on the team’s roster in consecutive years.
    Notable African American players not in this picture include (as far as I can make out in this picture): Cory Dillion (running back), Ty Law (no longer a Patriot), Rodney Harrison (veteran defensive player), and more. I can not tell if Deion Branch is there, I think he is – if so, and if he was not invited to the front row, that is a regrettable oversight – he was the MVP of the Superbowl.
    Notable “white” players not in this picture include: Adam Vinitari (Kicker, he “won” many playoff games and Superbowls with last minute field goals)
    Note: The Patriots have 3 of 15 coaches who are African American, and 1 of 9 executive (of those listed).
    Posted by: gleex | Sep 20, 2005 at 08:44 AM
    There must be people who read sports blogs who perhaps would be more able (as gleex) to give insight on these photos.
    I am concerned as a non-sports “white” person that my view on this offers of little real value. I wonder how much of the race issue we can really know and how much we are interpreting the race issue based on our assumptions after Katrina about how African Americans see these things. Do people (any people at this point) but maybe more particularly African Americans feel used by the Presidency to prop up the President?
    It would be great if some readers would contact people who are into sports (just one subgroup who probably do not read this or comment) and ask them to weigh in. For all we know, there are a lot of white people missing (as gleex notes) who may or may not have attended based on what they may or may not feel about the President at this point. Not to mention why and who are pictured/not pictured from a race point of view.
    Posted by: bg | Sep 20, 2005 at 10:54 AM
    It seems he’s trying very hard in the photo not to look like the Texas peerage. In “Debrett’s Texas Peerage” by Hugh Best, Coward-McCann. Inc., New York, there’s a funny photo where all the nouveau-rich oil people attended a gathering and sat on these newly painted benches in their white and seersuckers I imagine, “Sunday best” only when photographed from behind, they appeared to have been in the prison uniform of the time, stripes! Apparently there’s only one “Bush” in the whole book of 385 pages, a “Mrs. Marsh was the former Wendy Bush, granddaughter of cattle king William Bush. Her mother was the daughter of Joseph Glidden, the inventor of barbed wire.” – p. 212.
    Posted by: George Myers | Sep 20, 2005 at 11:00 AM
    Just when I think maybe you’re right to bring up the question about how we look at images in terms of race in America, I come across THIS.
    Could Bush be climbing any farther up this poor man’s butt? (He’s the guy who saved 20 people on his own, a real hero, Jerry Darden.)
    Posted by: dancinfool | Sep 20, 2005 at 11:57 AM
    I may be over-simplifying this, but could it be a matter of height? I know, as a taller (and wider) than average woman, I get put in the back of photos quite often.
    Posted by: Michele KCMO | Sep 20, 2005 at 01:22 PM
    The placement of African-Americans in the referenced photos? The pics speak for themselves.
    Whatever might be the reasons or explanations for the way in which these jovial, collegiate, macho, back-slapping group photographs were posed, the photos themselves reveal that the handful of African-American males who appear in the photos are, for the most part, pushed to the margins of the group of white males.
    Consequently, the African-Americans are, in a word, marginalized!
    Art imitating life in America in the age of Bush, perhaps?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Posted by: Sarah B. | Sep 20, 2005 at 07:33 PM
    Sarah:
    “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
    - Anonymous
    Posted by: A. Nonomus | Sep 20, 2005 at 07:52 PM
    Part of the problem is this: discussing “race”, rather than ethnicity or color. As far as I know, the USA is the only Western nation that keeps discussing and dividing people by race on a regular basis. In Europe, only racists and other unsavory types even consider black and white people (and inuit, arab, etc.) different races.
    There’s one race: the human one. I think until that thought really takes hold, it’s going to be hard to get things to work out in the US.

    As far as I know (and I was studying genetics for a couple years), race doesn’t actually exist, geneticly. Genes for skin pigment exist, obviously, and geographic populations share traits…but as far as ‘black’ people being obviously so by looking at their DNA…not so much (unless you are looking at the skin pigment, or perhaps they have the sickle cell gene). Humans are geneticly one of more homogenous species on the planet.

  • rabbit

    ack, I only meant to quote the last part…sorry for screwing up comments like that…

  • Sarah B.

    A. Nonomus
    Actually, I’m not suggesting that the apparent and literal marginalization of African-Americans in the photographs is the result of malice or stupidity — what I am suggesting is that de facto marginalization, and segregation, on the basis of race — or “ethnicity” if you like — is still a mindset that is embedded deep within the American consciousness and which manifests in myriad and very material ways.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • Grumpy

    Black, white, who cares? The real question is: were any of the men wearing flip-flops???

  • http://www.lananfrank.net/lana/ amanuensis

    The handlers are so interested in making the President look good, they forget to not make him look bad.
    My guess is this started as a height issue — those big black players dwarf the President. As Marysz pointed out, the president is obviously on a platform. But even with a platform, those players are likely to dminish Bush, so were sent to the back.
    “Yay for making Bush look tall and proud!
    What? What do you mean it matters that we put blacks at the back of the bus? No one cares about that stuff anymore! It’s all better now!” ::sigh::
    This also goes back to that shirt. I too think it was buttoned correctly — but also and extremely poor fit. Someone bought that shirt precisely to fit the setting. The color was more imortant than the fit on bush. They worked at making him look good, while forgetting to not make him look bad.
    As for “birds of a feather” .. I’m not black, but I think I would be rather sensitive to being in the back if I were. In other words, if you gave these guys a choice of where to stand, I’d expect them to “group” at the edges if the front wasn’t availble. And lookie there, the front isn’t available to them, is it?

  • abc

    this website sucks, fix it up!!!!!

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