Racist Shirts Popular at Tea Party Convention

If you went to the South Carolina Tea Party convention this past weekend, you might well have seen people wearing a t-shirt with President Obama dressed as a witch doctor, complete with a bone through his nose, with a caption reading “Your new doctor — Obamacare.” But you’d be crazy to think the guy who made them or those who bought them are racist:

Bob Cramer, a Myrtle Beach local, told Palmetto Public Record that his homemade airbrushed shirt is meant to be a comment about President Obama’s “takeover of medicine” through the Affordable Care Act. The shirt claims that Obama-the-medicine-man is “your new doctor, coming soon to a clinic near you!”

“Some people tell me it’s racist, but it’s not racist — it’s political,” Cramer said. “Matter of fact, that’s how I got invited here.”…

Of course, Cramer’s racially-tinged image is by no means original, having been circulating the Internet since the Obamacare fight in 2009. In October, a New Jersey store owner sparked outrage by posting the picture in his window. While the New Jersey man said his business suffered because of the display, Cramer says the reaction in South Carolina has been almost entirely positive.

“I’ve had people chase me down at gas stations asking me where they can buy one, and give me thumbs up on the highway,” he said. “Nobody’s tried to mess with my truck, even when I’ve been in black neighborhoods and other places.”

I hope I don’t have to bother explaining why the shirts are racist.

Comments

  1. says

    Interesting that he’s claiming that the fact that black people didn’t vandalize his truck– in other words, that they didn’t conform to a racist stereotype of black people– is proof that the message he’s marketing isn’t racist.

  2. Recreant says

    Sad to say, Ed, but you may be hoping in vain. One of my conservative coworkers recently sent me an email with the picture in quesstion. I had to spend half an hour explaining why it was racist

  3. says

    This man’s stance “No one has tried to vandalize my property or harm my physical person, therefor my speech can not possibly be racist.” is in fact the lowest bar for decent speech ever set.

  4. eric says

    This man’s stance “No one has tried to vandalize my property or harm my physical person, therefor my speech can not possibly be racist.” is in fact the lowest bar for decent speech ever set.

    He’s just giving us a view into his character. He would vandalize someone else’s property if he thought they were making a racist comment about whites, so clearly the fact that nobody has done it to him means its not racist.

  5. ebotebo says

    There is a gentleman down the street with two big ass pickups! Hanging from the back of both of them are “truck-nuts.” One pair silver, the other red. I have so wanted to journey to that end of the street early one morning with a hacksaw, but I can’t decide the reason why I don’t do it is because “I don’t have the balls,” or it’s just too much sugar for a dime???

  6. scienceavenger says

    Nobody’s tried to mess with my truck, even when I’ve been in black neighborhoods and other places

    So they show more respect for property rights than the Christians who routinely vandelize vehicles with atheist logos on them.

  7. Alverant says

    So if someone DID vandalize his truck, would he admit his t-shirts were racist or would he complain about being the victim of an attack to curtail his freedom of speech?

  8. says

    Where’s a populist douch nugget of a president like Andrew Jackson when you need him: “I will go to South Carolina and hang the first secessionist I see from the first tree I can reach.”

  9. says

    “Nobody’s tried to mess with my truck, even when I’ve been in black neighborhoods and other places.”

    That’s like when Bill O’Reilly dined at Sylvia’s in Harlem with Al Sharpton and expressed surprise that none of the patrons shouted things like “Where’s my motherfucking ice tea?”

  10. freemage says

    I genuinely believe that not everyone in the Tea Party movement is a racist. But I am also increasingly certain that said non-racist members couldn’t swing a dead cat at a TP rally without hitting at least one racist. And there’s a reason for this.

    Normally, you try to keep the more odious segments of your movement–those individuals who are allies in purpose, but not necessarily intent–under wraps, or even better hold them at a distance. So, for instance, you would try to keep overt signs of racism out of sight at rallies, even though it’s fairly obvious that everyone who is a racist is going to hate Obama because black President.

    But the TP is nothing more than a fringe movement. Even with their ranks inflated by racists and homophobes, the TP rarely controls more than 20% of the electorate–enough to dominate a multi-candidate primary, but not enough to win statewide and national elections. So they can’t afford to alienate the racist sods who show up with these posters and t-shirts, or else their already weak rallies will be depopulated to the point of irrelevance.

  11. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    I have to object to the use of the abbreviation “TP” to refer to Teabaggers. Toilet paper is useful, and cleans up shit, whereas Tea Partiers…

  12. Matrim says

    One of my conservative coworkers recently sent me an email with the picture in quesstion. I had to spend half an hour explaining why it was racist

    It took you half an hour to say “that’s ridiculously racist and if you can’t see why then you’re probably a lost cause”? You can throw in some profanity and some personal insults to spice it up a bit. Mostly I find it’s better to shame racists than to reason with them, it’s less frustrating and no less productive.

  13. TGAP Dad says

    It’s “not racist” in the same way that the confederate flag is “not racist” or a symbol glorifying slavery. It’s the same logic that Southerners use to collectively convince themselves that the civil war “war between the states” was not about slavery but “state’s rights.”

  14. says

    “Nobody’s tried to mess with my truck, even when I’ve been in black neighborhoods and other places.”

    Yeah, and lots of slaves never lifted a finger to try to mess with their masters either. Guess that means slavery wasn’t that bad, right?

  15. JoeBuddha says

    ebotebo, have you considered dipping said truck nuts in a can of blue paint? Not that I’m advocating such a thing, mind you…

  16. says

    I doubt the tea party has control of even 20% of the electorate any more. It’s probably less than 10%. As a movement, it’s done to its last fumes. The concentration of racists in their ranks has probably gone up as their overall numbers have slipped.

    We’ve seen this dynamic over and over for the past four years: Moron does something blatantly racist, then plays dumb by pretending he doesn’t understand how anyone could think that was racist. Lee Attwater noted before his death that it was no longer socially acceptable to shout the N-word at people, so we have to play this dance time and again.

  17. says

    “Lee Attwater noted before his death that it was no longer socially acceptable to shout the N-word at people …”

    And you know they just hate that.
    Because “Muslim-atheist-Nazi-Socialist-Commie-anti-colonialist Kenyan” is really hard to remember. And by the time you CAN manage to say all that the average geriatric teabagger has nodded off to sleep.

  18. lofgren says

    It is racist but it’s also something else, something I don’t believe we have a word for in English.

    It’s like, this is an insulting misrepresentation of Obama by equating him with an insulting misrepresentation of African spiritual healers, and by insulting Obama by equating him with that misrepresentation, you also manage to insult Africans by finding it insulting to be compared to them, even though the caricature used in the insult bears little resemblance to actual Africans, which is insulting in and of itself.

    It’s like a triple lemniscate of racism. It is the racism that consumes itself.

  19. Michael Heath says

    d.c. wilson writes:

    I doubt the tea party has control of even 20% of the electorate any more. It’s probably less than 10%. As a movement, it’s done to its last fumes.

    First, Tea Baggers and their allies don’t have to be 50% or greater, only 50% or more voting in a given primary. Where they won a lot of primaries and some general elections in both of the last congressional election seasons. I’m now represented by a Tea Bagger at the state and federal level, the latter replaced a Democrat who long held the seat.

  20. says

    Michael Health:

    When you get down to individual congressional races, obviously, their influence will vary and yes, in some places they have enough influence to swing a primary, particularly in a district already gerrymandered to skew republican.

    But their influence on the national or even statewide level has always been overstated. Their one statewide win in 2010 was Rand Paul. Every other teabagger Senate candidate lost. They did even worse across the board in 2012. Polls show them about as popular as a bad rash these days.

    As movement, they were never more than a bunch of useful idiots to make a lot of noise and get the media’s attention. And now they’re on the down slope nationally. Gerrymandering will continue to give them an outsized influence in the House, but even that will dwindle in time.

  21. martinc says

    Hmm … no doubt I might be pilloried for this, but I would lack intellectual courage if I didn’t post this in response to Ed’s “I hope I don’t have to bother explaining why the shirts are racist.” So here goes …

    It seems to me that comparing any new healthcare system to witchdoctoring is legitimate political comment, and would not raise any questions under a white President. Imagine a similar T-shirt to the one in question, but with Bill Clinton’s image on it – again dressed as a witchdoctor – which might putatively have circulated when Hillary and Bill tried to introduce their healthcare reforms. Would that be racist? I would suggest not; it would simply be political. Comparing a healthcare system to witchdoctoring is simply suggesting that the proposed healthcare system is primitive.

    The issue becomes much murkier when the President who brought the healthcare reform in is himself of African extraction. The conclusion that might then be drawn is that his African-ness is directly associated with the primitive nature of the medicine involved in witchdoctoring, which would clearly be a racist imputation. But doesn’t that effectively preclude the political comment that could be quite legitimately made about Clinton from being made about Obama?

    Another example. Is this cartoon:

    http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonview.asp?catref=jcon3202

    … racist?

    I would suggest not. I think it dates from pre-Obama, so unless merely suggesting that witch doctoring is inherently inferior to Western medicine is racist due to the African origin of witchdoctoring, it can’t be racist. Now … would it be racist if the caption was “The new Obamacare clinic is supposedly around the corner”?

    Three quick side points while I strap my flak helmet on:

    1) I personally disagree with the political comment even if it is legitimately non-racist. I’m from Australia, and I think our healthcare system shits all over America’s, and I applaud Obama’s tiny first steps to drag USA out of the third world on this issue.
    2) If I personally were about to publish something that MIGHT be construed as racist or might not, I wouldn’t publish it. Nor would I buy a t-shirt that might or might not be racist.
    3) Is the guy selling it racist? Well, he’s attending a Tea Party gig, which is probably more evidence to support that proposition than his T-shirt is.

    OK, let the stoning commence.

  22. says

    martinc:

    Are you aware that there are people who think that Bill Cliinton is not 100% whiteboy? And there were millions of inbred, racist assholes who equated his presidency with the destruction of white MurKKKa. So, yeah, I think that there was plenty of racism directed at Bill Clinton. As for the cartoon; what else would a witch doctor be but a non-white. If the “doctor” was white, he would be a warlock, or possibly a shaman or a snakeoil salesman. Witch doctor conjures up, in the minds of everyone I’ve ever talked to about it, a black man–usually a very scary black man.

    I’ve spent virtually my entire life surrounded by racism in varying degrees of intensity, I’m pretty sure that it’s as rampant and virulent in groups like the Dirtbaggers as it ever was in the Recontstionist South, after the War of Southern Treachery.

  23. Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    martinc –

    BOTH are racist. Not because they accurately portray witchdoctoring as something that exists in Africa both now and in the past. Because they use **other** races medical failings as a tactic to fearmonger whites when, **holy frickin’ F*, Batman** there’s a heck of a lot of WHITE medical failing that is as bad or worse. White folk murdered midwives who knew how to deliver babies so that the Catholic church’s specially sanctioned doctors could oversee obstetrics with prayer. White folk bled people who were already sick and weak. Heck, white folk came up with F*n Tuskeegee!!!!

    When you use racialized images to represent the worst in humanity because, duh, white folk could never display the worst in humanity and we’ve got some fearmongering to do here, then you are relying on racism to make your political point. Whether the ultimate political point true or not or at the expense of an individual or not (“Obamacare will result in a 3% uptick in undetected prostate cancer among white men over 70″ or “Obamacare is an example of the same fast-and-loose attitude towards the constitution our president has displayed when instituting his assassination list policy”) has no bearing on whether the method of expression is racist.

    But doesn’t that effectively preclude the political comment that could be quite legitimately made about Clinton from being made about Obama?

    FINALLY, no, the fact that a method of communication is racist as all get out doesn’t prohibit the expression of a given message – even a given message *using* the racist method of communication – in a land where saying racist things is not illegal.

  24. martinc says

    Thanks for the considered response, Crip Dyke. I must say I didn’t think anyone would go for the idea that the witchdoctor idea was racist even if not related to Obama. I guess there are actually THREE interpretable levels here: “witchdoctor = Obama” (clearly racist); “witchdoctoring = black medicine therefore inferior” (also racist); and “witchdoctoring = primitive” (not inherently racist). An example of the latter would be equating Obamacare to using leeches to draw blood, for instance. That would not be “relying on racism to make your political point” yet it seems to me that it makes the same political point as equating Obamacare to witchdoctoring: “this is a spooky form of medicine from the ignorant primitive past.”

    I’ve thought of another term that is used similarly: “voodoo economics”. It’s used to downgrade someone’s economic theory, by implying it is primitive. Is that term racist? Surely voodoo is just as associated with black people as witchdoctoring?

    Your last paragraph I think misunderstands my intent in the line you quoted from me, which was based on the incorrect assumption that you would consider the Clinton/witchdoctor comparison to be non-racist legitimate comment.

    Democommie: the degree of whiteness of Clinton is irrelevant. Use any white President you like who introduced any kind of healthcare reform at all, and ask the question “would comparing that president to a witchdoctor be racist, or would it be legitimate political comment because it merely suggests the reform to be of a primitive nature?” If the latter, then it would seem strange to say that it could be used that way about any President except the black one.

    Re the racists around you, I certainly pity you, and I accept that I don’t have that experience. I live in a wealthy suburb in a prosperous city in a multicultural nation. My girlfriend is Asian, I know people from all sorts of racial backgrounds, and I don’t think I know a single person who is 100% overtly racist, which either means they aren’t racist, or they correctly perceive the social circles we move in to be likely to ostracize holders of such views.

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