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Secret Symbols

Maybe it's a result of my somewhat sheltered upbringing in snow-white New Hampshire, but I keep stumbling across these "symbols of racism" that -- to me -- have no real racial connotation whatsoever.

The first was the noose. A few years ago, nooses became all the rage as symbols of racial oppression and reminders of lynchings past. However, when I see a noose, I'm reminded of the Old West and "frontier justice" against cattle rustlers, horse thieves, and other outlaws. I don't recall Clint Eastwood being described as at least "part black" in "Hang 'Em High," and the most vivid image is from an episode of the classic "Star Trek" -- "The Squire of Gothos" -- when the shadow of a hangman's noose falls across Captain Kirk in a real threat.

And more recently, the character "Hooded Justice" from "Watchmen," who wore a noose around his own neck.

Then there's the recent dust-up involving a PhotoShopping of Sarah Palin having her shoes shined by Barack Obama. Now even here in New Hampshire I recognized the racist implications behind that one -- the black man in a subservient role -- but again, it wasn't my first thought. No, to me the most famous shoe shine boy will always be Underdog.

I don't like pleading ignorance, but apparently there are a lot of minefields out there that I don't know about. Could you folks please tip me off to some other racially-charged symbols or metaphors before I get myself into trouble?


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Comments (36)

Anything that can be constr... (Below threshold)

Anything that can be construed as being against President Obama, his policies, his staff, the DNC-controlled House, the DNC-controlled Senate, DNC policies, or DNC staff is racist hate speak and may get you sent to one of the People's Re-Education Camps.

I know what you mean but si... (Below threshold)

I know what you mean but since you and I are white males we are incapable of understanding the true impact of what these symbols represent - at least that is what I am told by others who are more enlightened than I. I think you would be better off just pleading ignorance. You're already on the losing side of the argument in the eyes of the politically correct (ie, white male) so feigning ignorance will probably cause you the least hassle.

Confederate flags, lawn joc... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

Confederate flags, lawn jockeys, voter ID requirements.

Tiki dolls, Gingerbread coo... (Below threshold)

Tiki dolls, Gingerbread cookies, Aunt Jemima old style syrup bottles.

As strange as this may soun... (Below threshold)

As strange as this may sound I have been told that having red hair and that wearing thermal underwear is racist. The red hair I come by naturally. As for the thermal underwear, it is a good thing to wear in cold weather.

We are experiencing a hard ... (Below threshold)

We are experiencing a hard freeze today through Sunday in Houston. People are being warned about driving especially if they hit "ice of color". ww

It's racism if I say it's r... (Below threshold)

It's racism if I say it's racism and when I say it's racism you sit down and shut up. Got it?

Ribs, fried chicken, waterm... (Below threshold)

Ribs, fried chicken, watermelon.

Oh, great, davidt. I enjoy ... (Below threshold)

Oh, great, davidt. I enjoy all three.


"Tiki dolls, Gingerbread co... (Below threshold)
Dr Carlo Lombardi:

"Tiki dolls, Gingerbread cookies, Aunt Jemima old style syrup bottles.
4. Posted by 914 "
You're being niggardly in the number of examples you're providing.

"eeny-meeny-miney-moe" ... (Below threshold)


I remember something about this on a Southwest flight a few years ago

If you are a white male, an... (Below threshold)

If you are a white male, anything you say, do, watch, imagine etc can be construed as Racist. If not racist, than it's sexual harassment. If not sexual harassment, it is Homophobia. Get the point yet? You are supposed to sit down, shut up and support everybody else with your taxes. Just like me.

If you are a black or hispanic male, you might not be racist, but you will almost assuredely be consedered as a sexist oppressor of women. Probably a domestic abuser, almost certainly a womanizer and adulterer.

If you are an asian male, you will be judged to be condescending to everyone else, becuase you are smarter than them. You will be sterotyped as borderline impotent and clueless about women.

What part of Male=Bad do you not understand?

The 2008 campaign was full ... (Below threshold)

The 2008 campaign was full of examples of "secret code words" for "Republicans hate black people"...

community organizer
Bill Ayers

...to name a few.

And, of course, ads featuring Britney Spears.

Many of the -ism's today ar... (Below threshold)

Many of the -ism's today are invisible to us white males or so we are told. I am constantly told that "you can't see it" because I've either conditioned not to or I choose not to because of the advantage I accrue from oppressing minorities or women.
Only those "enlightened" in Womens Studies classes or Diversity classes can see it of course. And of course women just "naturally" see chauvanism and minorities can automatically divine the racial intent of complete strangers.
Being told what I think and why I think it simply because of my skin color and gender by people (some of whom know better because they actually interact with me) is simply mind boggling. The best part is often these same people tell me its not my fault that I'm a racist or chauvanist but don't know it and that I CAN'T know it because I not a female or a minority.
Once they see an -ism in you there is absolutely nothing you can do to prove that your intent was not so because you are "incapable" of the self reflection needed to recognize your own -ism.
Or so I am told by my betters ...

Good entry Jay. <br ... (Below threshold)

Good entry Jay.

Secret symbols indeed.

But it doesn't end there.

If symbols aren't available, don't forget that "enlightened" liberal types are convinced that conservatives talk in "code" to mask their racism.

And if that isn't sufficient, we have hate crime legislation where one's thoughts are held against them.

Symbols, speech, thoughts. Why there's racism everywhere. Except where it really exists, in the minds and actions of liberals.

"Tiki dolls, Ginge... (Below threshold)
"Tiki dolls, Gingerbread cookies, Aunt Jemima old style syrup bottles. 4. Posted by 914 " You're being niggardly in the number of examples you're providing. 10. Posted by Dr Carlo Lombardi

Dr. Lombardi, you have just proved that you are "racist" by using something that "sounds like the N-word" even though you used it correctly and it has no connection with "race".

Welfare, food stamps, welfa... (Below threshold)

Welfare, food stamps, welfare queens. ww

I was born & raised in MS. ... (Below threshold)
MS Lady:

I was born & raised in MS. I've lived here since 1969. I never saw a noose used as a symbol of racism. I heard of it for the first time about a year ago. :-/

Jay Tea:I'll give ... (Below threshold)
James H:

Jay Tea:

I'll give you an honest, non-troll answer that's not dripping with notions of white-male victimhood. I don't know. And I have no way of knowing the various symbols, comments, words, etc., etc., that can set a person off.

The answer is that it's cultural and regional. Symbols that strike a New Hampshire conservative as rather inoccuous can have an entirely different connotation to somebody who lives in southern Mississippi and whose grandparents told him about neighbors being lynched, or about water cannons turned on civil-rights protesters in the 1960s.

In a less obvious light, behavior we Americans consider normal might be considered incredibly bad manners in France or in India. In at least a few countries, a hearty belch after the meal is considered a compliment to your host. In America, it's considered friggin' rude.

IMO, the best rules with this sort of thing are:

1) Be polite and respectful. If you know the locals consider some symbol or act bad manners, don't do it.
2) Be insightful. If something potentially offends you, figure out of the other person has ill intent before you go off half-cocked.

Cotton fields, Ghettos, B--... (Below threshold)

Cotton fields, Ghettos, B---k eyed peas.

Sarah Palin, Conservatives,... (Below threshold)

Sarah Palin, Conservatives, Tea Party

also FOXNews, Rush... (Below threshold)

also FOXNews, Rush

The old 70s peace symbol th... (Below threshold)

The old 70s peace symbol the chicken footprint is in reality a satanic symbol its called the CROSS OF NERO and its the christian cross turned upside down with the cross arms bent down the hand sign meaning HANG-LOOSE is realy the HORNS OF EL-DIABLO(THE DEVIL)and the eye on top of the pyramid on the back of the $1:00 bill like the CBS and MONSTER.COM logo are the EYES OF SATAN

Comparisons or references t... (Below threshold)
Anon Y. Mous:

Comparisons or references to any kind of simian, Klingons, Chewbacca, or Patrick Ewing.

JayAnything said h... (Below threshold)


Anything said here is racist. Just ask steve green.

black holes. black Friday.... (Below threshold)

black holes. black Friday. Black sheep. Blackberry. Blackhawk. Blacula.
Ok, one of those was racist...

James, some very interestin... (Below threshold)

James, some very interesting points. But I find myself wondering -- am I ever entitled to the "presumption of innocence?" Where is the sensitivity to my heritage and culture? Why must I set aside my own upbringing and familiarize myself with how others have acted poorly, so I don't inadvertently echo it?

It's the lack of a subjective standard that bothers me. It seems that in so many cases, it's entirely up to someone proclaiming themselves a "victim" before I know whether or not I've done something wrong.


Apparently, even calling so... (Below threshold)

Apparently, even calling someone a sissy is now considered racist.

Jay Tea:It's reall... (Below threshold)
James H:

Jay Tea:

It's really a matter of intent. Also, it often becomes obvious over time who's being overly sensitive and who's just being a dick.

"It's the lack of a subject... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

"It's the lack of a subjective standard that bothers me. It seems that in so many cases, it's entirely up to someone proclaiming themselves a "victim" before I know whether or not I've done something wrong."

Jay, have you ever been to the Protein Wisdom site? Over the years, Jeff Goldstein has had a lot of posts that explore 'intent' and how certain self-proclaimed victims get to set the rules, and why and how we should fight this crap.

"Tiki dolls, Gingerbread... (Below threshold)

"Tiki dolls, Gingerbread cookies, Aunt Jemima old style syrup bottles.
4. Posted by 914 "
You're being niggardly in the number of examples you're providing."

Thanks Doc! In the future I will try to post less Niggardly!

Oops! I forgot one...Hostes... (Below threshold)

Oops! I forgot one...Hostess Ho Ho's..

In case anyone is intereste... (Below threshold)
Kathy Kinsley:

In case anyone is interested, here's the original shoe shine photo (pre-photoshop).

If my link gets blocked, just google shoe shine homeless on google images.

Another issue is that today... (Below threshold)

Another issue is that today others are offend for someone else.

I used to collect comic books and i was selling some old Wonder Women comics in the city. Th comics were on my desk in bag with mylar and acid free boards. Someone came to my desk to borrow a book and nocked the the bag with comics over. The comic's fell out and he felt that the WW covers were deeming to females and had no place in the work place and was going to report be for creating a hostile work environment.

So I picked it up and went to 10 females around me and they all laughed at his assessment and said that his yelling at me created more of hostile work environment than comics which were not visible till he dumped them out.

I agree that many people ar... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I agree that many people are way too sensitive when no harm is intended. And many use accusations of racism to their own advantage in order to play the victim. Indeed, "You're a racist because I say you're a racist" is indefensible.

But it is also true that "I'm not racist because I say I'm not racist" is bogus as well. And that, for many conservatives, the complaint of "political correctness" is simply a plea that their insensitive behavior be excused by polite society. They want to give vent to their deepest prejudices, and then play the victim when called on it. "What's the matter? Can't (insert minority here) take a joke? Sheesh!"

Anybody remember "Polack jokes"? Ha freaking ha, weren't they hilarious? I say it's a good thing, not a bad one, that a Polack joke told nowadays would be considered unfunny and offensive by most Americans. Hell, most probably wouldn't know that there was once a stereotype that Polish people, as a "race", were stupid!

Jay Tea, it's my guess that you are under 40. Indeed, because of the advances of the 60s and 70s, a guy your age might well be unaware of the connotations of certain symbols. But take it from an old Southern white guy: a noose is not a symbol of the Old West to anyone who grew up in, or has studied, the Jim Crow South.

Some of the examples listed in the comments above, listed no doubt by people who want you to think they're ridiculous, are in fact obvious symbols of racism to many if not most people. Lawn jockeys? Confederate flags? "Welfare queens?"

Bruce: ""Welfare queens?""<... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

Bruce: ""Welfare queens?""

So you consider that an obvious symbol of racism?

What race are welfare queens?

Sounds like you are racist, too.






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