The Race Cards and their players

The hints and allegations have been flying for some time already in the Democratic nomination race, and there appears no indication of things toning down anytime soon. Most of the alleged offenses are at least perceivable to interested observers, even if they do not agree with the characterization.

But now the ugly shadow of racism has been detected in Hillary’s “3 a.m.” ad – and not by the paranoid morons who first spied “suspicious” letters on the kids’ pajamas. No, for this level of perception, you have to call in a Harvard professor, and The New York Times did just that. Harvard’s Orlando Patterson writes:

ON first watching Hillary Clinton’s recent “It’s 3 a.m.” advertisement, I was left with an uneasy feeling that something was not quite right — something that went beyond my disappointment that she had decided to go negative. Repeated watching of the ad on YouTube increased my unease. I realized that I had only too often in my study of America’s racial history seen images much like these, and the sentiments to which they allude.

* * * * *

I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.

Read the full column at the link above. The ad in question appears below:

The contortions needed to find racism in that ad are amazing. Patterson claims to be able to tell none of the children shown are black. Can you? I sure can’t. Then he brings in “black men lurking in the bushes around white society” as an image. He may be correct about the imagery in that movie from over 80 years ago, but he fails to relate it to this ad in any meaningful way.

Patterson seems just the fellow to find racism in any image or symbol, whether it is there or not. After all, he has “spent [his] life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery,” and the column identifies him as a professor of sociology. I wonder what his area of specialization might be?

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