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May 27, 2008

Stereotypes From The White Corporate Media: The Black Man Gets His Hands On The Presidency

Black Hands Prez Seal

Watch out for stereotyping when the traditional media discusses race.  …That’s how Evan Thomas begins Newsweek’s presumptuous “open letter” to Barack Obama –illustrated by this photo — advising how to handle race in the general election.

From the caption (“In Hand: The president’s official seal is set”), I assume the photo shows a White House assistant affixing the presidential seal to a podium.  Divorced from that context, however, the image starts to imply other things.

With those hands now representing the racial “equation” in the election, as well as Obama’s aspirations to the office, the photo — as framed by the mostly white corporate media — now seems to read as: the blacks getting their hands on the presidency.  Of course, the image isn’t without refinement, the hands more carefully involved in the act of “setting” or “placing.”  Therefore, the implication seems more tuned to imply: the black man fashioning the institution to his own ends.

Expanding on Mr. Thomas’s warning, there are other racial stereotypes to consider here, as well.  Given the substantial watch, the ring, and the shimmery, shimmery gold of the presidential seal, also look out for the association of the black man either adorning or enriching himself with the world’s most precious piece of jewelry.

Update: 10:30 pm PST – 5/30/08

Newsweek-Black-Hand Masonic-Ring

It was brought to my attention this afternoon that the on-line version of the “black hands” photo I blogged about differed from the version in print.  For comparison, I offer you a scan of the right-half of the print version.  The two new significant elements include the ring design and also the additional piece of jewelry on the right hand. 

Frankly, I don’t know much about Masons, but this element makes me even more confused as to whether the figure in the photo is a model or actually an employee of the White House.  The additional piece of jewelry, however, only drives home the racial stereotype of the seal as “bling.”

Cover Story: A Memo to Senator Obama (Newsweek)

(image: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images for Newsweek.  Jun 2, 2008 issue)

  • black dog barking

    Yikes!! Goatse!!
    I’m really not sure which is more troubling: a) Newsweek is unaware of the reference and this is an innocent coincidence or b) they fully intended to invoke this long standing and well-known (I’ve heard of it!) internet prank because, I don’t know, people are taking this election too seriously??

  • itwasntme

    I see a magician conjuring the seal as if by magic.

  • Zzyzx

    Gee, I wonder how long Evan Thomas has been black?
    Aside from the bling, note that these hands are considerably darker than Obama’s.
    I think the white republican press had better pay attention to their own inbred or inherent racism. It would take an exceptional newsperson (scholar? historian?) to comment significantly and rationally on this topic. Somehow, I don’t get the feeling that Thomas is such a one. But to put himself in the position of ADVISING a black man about race????
    Or is this image saying, well, it’s okay for black hands to be hanging the seal as long as he doesn’t get any big ideas. Know what I mean? Eh?
    And if I hear one more pundit say “going forward” I’m going to start bagging me some talking heads.

  • KansasKowboy

    I am not a racist and I am all for Obama being President. But I do have a warped mind and can think of racist images about this photo. For example no one has yet mentioned that the black hands could be removing or stealing the the seal from the podium and not placing it there. The mention of the seal as being jewelry conjures up the image of Flavor Flav wearing that seal on a necklace in place of his clock. And finally a black man needs to steal the Presidency with his hands but a white man can steal it with a pack of lawyers. Like I said I am all for Obama and want him to be my next President. I just put myself in the mind of the racist for this image. I remember a movie that came out in the late sixties or early seventies. A story about a black man that was President of the U.S.A.. I can’t remember the name of the movie. The name of the movie was the name of the character that became President. I remember it being pretty funny at the time. I wish I could remember the name of it.

  • chimproller

    Zzyzx – Republicans do not have a monopoly on racism, either inbred or inherent.
    What was Hillarys comment “…hard working Americans, white Americans….” – pretty sick stuff.

  • Futurebird

    These hands are much older than Obama. These are old man hands and they show and old man’s sense of fashion. So, in my mind, they fail to match up with the way I see Obama– even though he’s almost 50, he’s linked with a new generation of African Americans. This makes me think of the past, this image, it even looks like it’s from the 70s.
    I guess this is how the old people at Newsweek see this election.

  • Zzyzx

    chimproller: Not exactly what I said. I was referring to the press being owned almost exclusively by republicans. Witness even Redstone admitting that he was for Bush because it was better for business. Murdoch owns many papers/TV/cable stations/satellite, including WSJ. Witness the glowing coverage McCain gets in all media versus the coverage of Clinton or Obama. including in the NYT. Of course party affiliation is no key to racism, witness all of Hillary’s “white” working Americans, which is code for racism. In fact, I have a very liberal friend who said outright she didn’t want a black man in the white house. She lives on the edges of Appalachia. I’m still trying to change her mind.

  • Megan

    So autonomous! A black man will crown himself! He needs no old, white intermediary to set the crown on his head.

  • Books Alive

    Zzyzx, I certainly agree about the Republicans owning the media. I watched Mort Zuckerman one afternoon during the height of the “gas tax holiday” disputes. He upped the “savings” to $30 per week, not the summer, with a very sly grin as he said it. Supporting either McCain or Hillary by his legerdemain.
    What has he done most recently? Bought the General Motors building!
    By the way, Richard Wolffe’s name is on this column. I follow his reporting on Countdown and like his work.

  • SteinL

    Well, here’s a Jew getting his hands on a white, Polish woman — and you could substitute numerous similar images with black men getting their hands on things “that aren’t theirs.”
    It’s going to be an ugly, ugly election.

  • SteinL

    The link didn’t get “embedded” – here it is.
    I see no difference.

  • chimproller

    Books Alive – Zuckerman is a Neocon first, then a republican.
    I dislike him because he ruined US News and World Report.

  • Porlock Hussein Junior

    So, which was the Photoshop job: the print or the on-line version? It’s not clear to me.
    If the on-line is the original, I can understand messing with the ring. I’d probably do it myself. The Masonic symbol just puts an irrelevancy into the picture, to be chewed over by the sharp-eyed nitpickers. Like us. But then you have the adding of the bling, which seems pretty incomprehensible, but can anybody propose any explanation that isn’t really nasty? As in, racist.

  • cheap costume jewelry

    Anyone from varying backgrounds would see different things looking at this picture. I for one (I’m neither black nor white) don’t read much into it at all. I sometimes cannot see how race can be seen almost in everything in society, because the human race is so much bigger than that, and the hatred people feel for others for something that they cannot control (their race and the color of their skin) needs to stop. People will always find a reason to hate, but just remember that in the end no one owns this land of immigrants, no one. None of us belong more than the either so in the end, it’s an equal race.

  • manuel rodrigues

    I take it from your comments that it doesn’t bother you to know that your president, by displaying the masonic ring for everyone to see is clearly performing a “hidden in plain sight” guess what! It works since you should be investigating what masonry is about. Keep on discussing if Obama is the right man for the job, failing to see that he is telling you, in your face, that he workd for them and not for you the people. It’s basically like calling you stupid in a language he knows you don’t understand. You’ve done that rightm ? go to another country and pretend to ask the time whilst you calling people names ?! well, I’ve seen people doind it. It’s not right in that context, but having a president that says to those that understand: “yes I’m on this team” is worrying to say the least. WWIII is being planned, you think you are gfree and living your lives…. but your souls sometimes try to tell you otherwise, if only you followed your intuition and not sucumb to the blatant peer pressure in society these days you could be a bit more free

    • Chris Phillips

      Wow this a a great Comment Manuel

  • Overwhelmingryan

    Those aren’t even his hands.

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