I know you didn't think this Smooth Barack T-shirt flap had passed ol Ty by did you? A timely article pointer by Northside Shorty helped me pull it all together but together it is and it seems that once again ol Ty's ringing the class bell to educate y'all (just like I did when some folks thought it was appropriate to joke about nooses and lynching) on why putting a damn monkey on an Obama '08 T-shirt ain't funny either...
The short version is that equating an ape to a southsider is considered a derogatory stereotype that's liable to get you laid the %#@# out if you try it in mixed company. Now good ol Georgia boy Mike Norman, the unabashed purveyor of these T-shirts out of his Marietta, GA store professes there is no racist intent behind the shirts and thinks it's funny because Smooth and Curious George 'look so much alike'. Of course meathead Mike says it's because they both have 'big ears'. Ol Ty's not buyin that load - particularly from a Georgia good ol boy.
But let's get to the longer story of where this nonsense comes from. Most of this controversy can be traced back to Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. In his later book, 'Descent of Man', Darwin postulated the following jibber-jabber:
“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races. At the same time the anthropomorphous [i.e., most human-looking] apes … will no doubt be exterminated. The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”
If you managed to stay awake through that and divined his meaning, ol boy was essentially saying that there's an evolutionary pecking order that starts at Caucasian (northsider) runs through lower species such as Negro (southsider), Australian (aborigines) and gorilla before getting to the lowly apes like the baboon. There's an implicit link formed between black races and gorillas - apes - which continues to fuel the explicit thinking that southsiders are an inferior 'species'.
This book, 'Descent of Man', has been attributed by many to be the touchstone of those who espouse ethnic cleansing or want to find justification in portraying southsiders as an animalistic sub-species. This thinking made it over to the US by way of the European settlers and gave rise to popular southern colloquialisms such as 'Spear Chucker' and 'Jungle Bunny' and the retarded thinking that blacks and apes where equivalent.
This isn't the first time this tomfoolery has caused a ruckus. Some old heads may remember when AT&T was called on the carpet for publishing a cartoon in their internal employee magazine which depicted people of the world talking on their phones. Each continent featured a representative person, while Africa featured a gorilla talking on the phone. Yes, y'all - ignorance is not contained in a single Marietta, GA bar - it can even run rampant in the upper echelons of Corporate America. To be honest, during Smooth's campaign I'm shocked that we haven't see more of this type of stupidity. I have to believe that once Smooth secures the nomination, we'll begin to see more overt signs as the status quo becomes threatened.
Unsurprisingly, this ruckus has led to death threats. Not to meathead Mike, mind you. No - these death threat were directed toward pro-latino activists in Georgia who had the nerve to protest these damn t-shirts. That's how upside down this stuff is. I'll say this again to my westside homeys - we have more in common than not and this westside / southside friction is non-productive. Rolling the hoopty down the ave just yesterday, I caught a bumper sticker that said, 'Keep Working Hard! There's a whole lot of immigrants who need their taxes paid'. Y'all know it wasn't referring to Canadian immigrants.
Now I'm not kicking anyone out of the One World / One Race / One Love boat but there's still a lot of work to do and there's strength in numbers. There's nothing innocent about a northside homey stackin' paper from a T-shirt linking a southside homey to a monkey. Don't let the Smooth Barack 'Good Times Express' fool you into a false sense of security. Be happy, be proud, but be alert. Those warnings your grandparents offered about where to be and not to be, what to say and not say to be safe? They're still valid, y'all.
We've all heard that there's nothing more dangerous than a cornered animal. Well ol Ty holds that if this thing plays out and it looks like Smooth is headed to the Oval Office, there's gonna be a harder edge to a whole lot of unappreciative people who don't plan to or don't want to move forward. It'll be a new day, but I guarantee the old day won't go gentle into that good night. Keep your guard up.
In the meantime, for you folks who 'don't plan to or don't want to move forward', may ol Ty suggest a little light reading on the subject?