July 12, 2010

The Consequences of Imagery

Gregory Scott Parks, District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and Danielle C. Heard, Stanford University School of Humanities & Sciences, have published 'Assassinate the Nigger Apes' [1]: Obama, Implicit Imagery, and the Dire Consequences of Racist Jokes . Here is the abstract.

In 1994, Congress passed legislation stating that Presidents elected to office after January 1, 1997, would no longer receive lifetime Secret Service protection. Such legislation was unremarkable until the first Black President - Barack Obama - was elected. From the outset of his campaign until today, and likely beyond, President Obama has received unprecedented death threats. These threats, we argue, are at least in part tied to critics and commentators’ use of symbols, pictures, and words to characterize the Obama as a primate, in various forms - including cartoonist Sean Delonas’ controversial New York Post cartoon. Against this backdrop and looking to history, cultural critique, federal case law, as well as cognitive and social psychology, we explore how the use of seemingly harmless imagery may still be racially-laden and evoke violence against its object.

[1] Morgan v. McDonough, 540 F.2d 527, 531 (1st Cir.1976) (holding in a school desegregation case, that White students harassed Black students by chanting "assassinate the nigger apes"); see also infra notes 99 to 103 and accompanying text.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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