Monday, February 06, 2012

Yellow-Faced Minstrelsy

Since Barack Obama became president in 2009, some Republicans have gone seriously retro - like the woman at the Newt Gingrich rally who congratulated the candidate for putting a black journalist  "in his place," or the Georgia Congressman, Lynn Westmoreland, who in September 2008 described Obama as "uppity."  We haven't heard this language since the days of Studebakers and Jim Crow.

For a political ad aired during yesterday's Super Bowl, Republican presidential candidate Pete Hoekstra reached back to the 1930s "Charlie Chan" movies as he offered a peculiar brew of xenophobia and ethnocentrism.  Hoekstra is running against incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow, who is mocked in the commercial as "Debbie Spend-it-now."

The ad features an Asian woman in what looks like a rice paddy.  She apparently is Chinese, because in broken English she thanks "Spent-It-Now," for helping run up an American national debt that is to a large degree owned by the Beijing regime.  It's a moment of pure yellow-face minstrelsy.  The pidgin dialect she speaks in evokes a Chinese movie gangster from eight decades ago.  Smiling into the camera as Chinese muzak plinks in the background, the woman gushes:

“Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spenditnow. Debbie spend so much American money. You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow."

All that's missing is  buck teeth and coke bottle-bottomed glasses.  The depiction was so appalling that even Republicans immediately expressed outrage.  "Stabenow has got to go," posted GOP consultant Nick De Leeuw on his Facebook page.  "But shame on Pete Hoekstra for that appalling new advertisement.  Racism and xenophobia aren't anyway to get things done."  As the Angry Black Lady website notes, the link to the advertisement on the Hoekstra website is decorated with dragons and other stereotypical Chinese icons.

For more, see here:

At least the Pete Hoekstra ad didn't ask viewers to "vote Lepubrican." (Photo from the Detroit Free Press website.)

Michael Phillips has authored the following:

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, Texas, 1841-2001 (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2006)

(with Patrick L. Cox) The House Will Come to Order: How the Texas Speaker Became a Power in State and National Politics. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010)

“Why Is Big Tex Still a White Cowboy? Race, Gender, and the ‘Other Texans’” in Walter Buenger and Arnoldo de León, eds., Beyond Texas Through Time: Breaking Away From Past Interpretations (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2011)

“The Current is Stronger’: Images of Racial Oppression and Resistance in North Texas Black Art During the 1920s and 1930s ”  in Bruce A. Glasrud and Cary D. Wintz, eds., The Harlem Renaissance in the West: The New Negroes’ Western Experience (New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2011)

“Dallas, 1989-2011,” in Richardson Dilworth, ed. Cities in American Political History (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2011)

(With John Anthony Moretta, Keith J. Volonto, Austin Allen, Doug Cantrell and Norwood Andrews), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips. eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume I.   (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Keith J. Volanto), Keith J. Volonto and Michael Phillips, eds., The American Challenge: A New History of the United States, Volume II. (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2012).

(With John Anthony Moretta and Carl J. Luna), Imperial Presidents: The Rise of Executive Power from Roosevelt to Obama  (Wheaton, Il.: Abigail Press, 2013). 

“Texan by Color: The Racialization of the Lone Star State,” in David Cullen and Kyle Wilkison, eds., The Radical Origins of the Texas Right (College Station: University of Texas Press, 2013).

He is currently collaborating, with longtime journalist Betsy Friauf, on a history of African American culture, politics and black intellectuals in the Lone Star State called God Carved in Night: Black Intellectuals in Texas and the World They Made.

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