Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sock puppets and racists

I've seen the infamous sock puppet, and it does look like a black monkey. What I had in mind when I read the original news item was one of those sock puppets that have a red nose and behind because that's the color of the sock toe and heel. This one is clearly intended to be black. Still, I have to ask myself if this is enough to make it a racist effort. Remember, in order for something to be racist it must not only refer to the person's race, but be negative, and the race has to be the driving factor. So, it's not enough to make a crayon drawing of Obama black, cause he is. If I make a black sock puppet, is that enough to make me racist? Remember that I'm also making a wrinkled McCain puppet.
The crux of the matter seems to be that the sock puppet is equated with monkeys, and people have in the past equated African-Americans with monkeys. McCain's puppet is also a monkey. Does the fact that there is a McCain monkey cancel out the Obama monkey? Or is the very suggestion that we might equate Obama with a monkey make it out of bounds? I admit that it's an interesting and potentially disturbing question. Have we gone too far in "sensitivity"? Or is it just good manners to refrain from anything that might be injurious, like not mentioning hippos around fat people?
I haven't changed my opinion, though, about who the real racists are. They are the self-proclaimed keepers of the gate who keep a watch on us lest we slip. Remember the joke about the guy who went to the doctor? The doctor showed him several geometric shapes and asked the guy what he was thinking of. To all the man replied "sex." Said the doctor, "You are obsessed with sex." But, came back the man, "You keep showing me dirty pictures."
Remember also the definition of a Puritan as a person who is angry because somewhere somebody is having a good time. (I wish I knew who said that) Whatserface at the Tribune sees racism in just about everything and piously intones, "They just don't get it." Right.


bekkieann said...

I like your thoughts on this. I don't think that just making the puppet black makes you a racist. But consider a couple of additional facts in this specific incident:

1. The sellers initially said they were not aware that referring to a black person as a monkey was (for hundreds of years) considered a racial slur, but once learning that, they withdrew the toy. (Hard to imagine they really were not aware, but I guess it's possible.) Withdrawing was admirable on their part. But then they rethought that decision, and are again offering the toy despite its implications.

2. The John McCain doll is really an afterthought that is intended to show they are trying to be fair all around. But don't forget the original website was www.thesockobama.com and its entire purpose was to sell one doll until all this uproar happened. Changing the web site name and adding the McCain doll only seems (to me) a disingenuous attempt to disguise their original intent.

I'm sorry, it's hard to give these people the benefit of the doubt.

And you make a good point about this toy being entirely unlike any original sock monkey. You can find them online in the original style we all loved when we were kids. They really were made from socks and were soft, cute and cuddly. I had one. I loved it.

On both your houses said...

Thanks bekkieann. I amy have misread the newspaper article, but I thought that the manufacturers were the ones who had second thoughts. The puppet makers (sockers?) seem to have been naive but not racist. Am I off the wall here?

bekkieann said...

Sorry I'm so slow in answering your question - just noticed your comment. You're right the manufacturer withdrew first and the sellers then said they would drop the toy. too. But they are offering the toy now. I honestly don't know how innocent their intentions were (or were not).