Tony S. brought my attention to this yard sign about Obama that has become quite famous (found at BlackPoliticsontheWeb):
A Florida man put it up in his yard, and it has, not surprisingly, led to some complaints and a lot of online discussion.
Obviously this is fascinating for a discussion of how Obama’s race continues to be emphasized by some opponents, despite the chorus of media voices saying that we’re a “post-racial” nation now. This is a bit of a new twist, in that most examples of opponents referring to Obama’s race have tended to focus exclusively on his Black ancestry. Here he’s referred to as a “half-breed.” Whereas highlighting his Blackness brings up one set of stereotypes that might seem threatening to White voters, “half-breed” brings up a whole other issue that might make some voters uncomfortable–racial mixing. There’s also the association with Islam.
Aside from the specific reference to Obama, there’s an interesting linguistic element here. Why would calling someone a half-breed Musli[m] be automatically recognizable as a slur? It says something about how Muslims are currently viewed in our society that, for at least some Americans, all you have to do is refer to someone as a Muslim to imply that they are unworthy of office. Similarly, the word half-breed is stigmatizing in a way that, say, “multiracial” isn’t. Imagine a similar sign that said, say, “Obama: Multiracial Lutheran.” Doesn’t have quite the same effect, because being multiracial and Lutheran aren’t stigmatized the way half-breed and Muslim are. It might also be good for a discussion of how groups might adopt new terms (such as multiracial) to try to counter the negative associations of others, like half-breed.
However, the other thing I found interesting about this was how every account I could find of this sign online mentioned that he misspelled Muslim as “Muslin.” I’m a stickler for language and misspellings actually give me pain in any kind of formal writing, but I was struck by the fact that many of the comments about the sign focused not on the offensive racial element, but on the misspelling. It seems many people dismiss this guy as a nutjob not because he’s trying to draw on the old knee-jerk fear of racial mixing, but because he misspelled something on his handmade sign. That’s…well, weird.
NEW! In our comments, Zach also pointed us to this picture he took in Ohio:
ALSO NEW! Velanie W. sent in this clip from Al Jazeera English where people associated Obama with Islam and terrorism:
Zerographic — October 2, 2008
I don't find the focus on misspelling to surprising or odd at all. Jeering at someone for misspelling a word like Muslim, that sounds like it is spelled, is a shorthand way of mocking the creator of the sign. "If you are so stupid you cannot spell Muslim, then everything you think is probably stupid."
Fallacy? Maybe. But given the amount of conversation on the internet that devolves into grammar wars -- well, I'm just not surprised.
thoughtcounts Z — October 2, 2008
I think the misspelling underscores the nutjob qualities. He's clearly not well-informed about reality, if he still believes that Obama is Muslim. He's SO uninformed, in fact, that he probably does not know what a Muslim is, which makes it particularly odd for him to be criticizing someone for being so. Reminds me of the spectacular website IsBarackObamaMuslin.com.
pj — October 2, 2008
I used to keep a good supply of muslin on hand. I ran out but I've not replenished. Many's been the time that I've scolded myself for not having any and having to substitute christian instead.
k — October 3, 2008
I think that people who do not share the signmaker's views are more likely to attach his misspelling to a general ignorance, one that could possibly produce such views anyway. We can, however, rest assured that he is among some great company:
Kirsten — October 3, 2008
I wash my face with muslin facecloths! (And my cat's breath smells like catfood. Wait - I don't actually have a cat.)
There must be statistics out there on the makeup of religious beliefs in, say, the Senate. It would be pretty alarming if there weren't any genuine Muslims - or representatives of other non-Christian faiths or no faith at all - and yet the whole presidential campaign seems to have been carried out with the thought that you have to be a practising Christian to get elected (or that's how it's reported in the British press), so I wouldn't be surprised if it's true. I hope it's not.
(I know American society is much less secular than British society, but I would have thought it was more multicultural until I started thinking about this.)
OP Minded — October 3, 2008
It should be noted that McCain's campaign has never made an issue of Obama's race, however Obama has cited his own race a number of times by implying that McCain is running a racist campaign. It's sad that Obama just doesn't take McCain's lead on this and leave the topic alone. We have way big issues than the color of Obama's skin -... personally, it would be impossible for me to care less about the color of Obama's skin.
Village Idiot — October 3, 2008
I guess getting Hooked on Phonics doesn't work as well with a drawl.
Marianne — October 3, 2008
FYI for Kristen or anyone else interested...Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) became the first Muslim member of Congress in 2006. He is a member of the House, not the Senate, however. I could not find any information regarding non-Christian senators.
Dubi — October 3, 2008
(oh, yeah, I forgot, Jews in America are like the Other Christians)
לא שומעים! » הנוצרים האחרים — October 3, 2008
[...] וסרטונים מנקודת מבט סוציולוגית. אתמול עלה בו פוסט לגבי סטיגמות הנוגעות לברק אובאמה ולמתנגדיו. אבל לא על זה רציתי לדבר. במהלך הדיון על [...]
Deb G. — October 4, 2008
I first saw the sign on a group for editors. It was widely mocked by left, right, center, and agnostic. The heading on the posting was, "Spawn of Satin!" Spelling most deliberate...
Marianne — October 4, 2008
Sorry Dubi. I meant to say non-Christian other than Jewish. My fault. I definitely didn't mean any offense.
And my apologies to Kirsten for spelling her name wrong.
Sociological Images » “OBAMA BUCKS”: CARICATURES OF BARACK OBAMA — October 16, 2008
[...] other examples of accusations that Obama is Arab/Muslim (and that that is bad), see here, here, here, and here. For a non-racist caricature of Obama (showing it can, indeed, be done), see this [...]
(Neo)conservative aggression towards Obama (and the ‘Democrats’) | Toban Black — November 2, 2008
[...] at the Sociological Images blog - “Stigmatizing Obama” (October 2nd) (About a yard sign on which Obama was deemed a “half-breed [...]
Sociological Images » SPECIAL PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION ROUND-UP! — November 4, 2008
[...] celebrities, Osama Bin Laden, fascists and communists, a terrorist, a terrorist again, and a “half-breed Muslin.” See here for other racist anti-Obama propaganda. Gwen asked “So what if Obama is an [...]
Sociological Images » The Sonia Sotomayor National Review Cover — June 8, 2009
[...] The last election should have made this abundantly clear (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for examples). tags: intelligence, politics, race/ethnicity| [...]
All-Encompassing Mixed Race and Multi-Racial Body of Literature and Multi-Media « Memory, Learning, Culture, Networks, Spaces, Ecology, Expertises — October 5, 2009
[...] http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/10/02/stigmatizing-obama/ [...]