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: