Racism, or a Bad Joke?

Zack Rosen

What, exactly, is racism? I believe everyone, to a certain extent, has some racist qualities and will spread them at some point or another. Whether this means telling a “harmless” joke or actually practicing a hate crime, neither is kind nor moral.

With that said, however, I don’t believe that a banner spotted in the news last week was racist. The banner depicts Obama as Heath Ledger’s grotesque Joker character from The Dark Knight. The president is shown with smeared red lipstick, a white face and darkened eyes. The word “socialism” is spelled out below the caricature.

Now, pause one second. If you don’t know me, ask around and one name that will come to mind when mentioning my name is Barack Obama. I’m a huge supporter, and worked with his grassroots campaign to get him elected last November. Have there been racist comics and comments in the media during the past year or more regarding President Obama? Hell yes. But that doesn’t mean that every one of them is racist.

My personal opinion on this banner? Socialism is all about having the same thing for everyone (among other things). I believe that this poster is simply trying to mockingly define socialism in terms of Obama’s stance on healthcare. I believe that this has to do with the Joker because he, in The Dark Knight, was all about harm and fear for everybody.
I just don’t see any racist context in this message. Does that mean it’s not there? Certainly not; I just find it disconcerting when a word such as “racism” is overused, as it is many times in today’s world. Is there still racism in America? Absolutely. But, at the same time, a word shouldn’t be thrown around without truly knowing what it means.

Perhaps to you, this IS racism. I’d love to hear why…I may even agree with you after hearing your reasoning!

But if the only reason is to get out a message to make people think, regardless of the validity of the message, then you have lost my attention already.