Last year, Newsweek editor Stuart Taylor wrote in The National Journal that an Obama presidency "should tell black children everywhere that they, too, can succeed, and they do not need handouts or reparations" and help end "the myth of continuing African-American victimhood."
Obama has been doing his part in encouraging this fantasy. As Ann Coulter noted after his "race transcending" speech in Philadelphia, "Obama hinted that we might have one way out: If we elect him president, then maybe, just maybe, we can stop talking about race."
If Obama's response to the Geraldine Ferraro (he accused her of practicing "slice-and-dice" identity politics)and Jeremiah Wright (he blamed his white grandmother, not the Reverend) controversies hasn't dispensed this silly notion, the latest episode of imaginary racism should make it crystal clear that chanting "race doesn't matter" at a campaign rally does not give you a get out of jail card from the PC Police. (To his credit, Taylor has come to his senses.)
As both an Obama delegate and a Hispanic open borders advocate, Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski has impeccable multicultural credentials. Her crime was to tell some African American children who were climbing a tree near her house in Carpentersville, Illinois to "quit playing in the tree like monkeys."
Any rational observer would understand that she compared them to monkeys climbing in trees because, well, monkeys climb in trees. Unfortunately, we do not live in a rational society and the parents of the kids called the police who charged Ramirez with disorderly conduct with a $75 dollar fine.
Initially the Obama campaign asked her to resign because the comments were "divisive and unacceptable." Despite initial reports indicating that she stepped down, Ramirez refused to quit, and the Obama campaign is now willing to let her stay to avoid a backlash. Despite this reversal, the fact that she was charged with a crime and that Obama initially pressured her to resign is telling.
In some respects this is similar to the case of David Howard in 1999. Like Ramirez, Howard was a member of an officially designated victim group (homosexual) and supported a black liberal (DC Mayor Anthony Williams.) In budget talks, Howard used the word "niggardly" and a semi-illiterate black colleague was offended. Despite his normally protected status, Howard resigned. Both Williams and Obama ended up reversing their actions once the incidents became an embarrassment.
There is an important contrast between the two incidents. Although Howard's antagonist showed astonishing ignorance by assuming "niggardly" was related to "nigger" that slur is quite different than "monkey."
Although blacks will use "nigger" or "nigga" freely, it has always been seen as a racially demeaning word. In contrast, "monkey"—even when applied to humans—is rarely seen as racist.
A simple look at a dictionary will see monkey defined as "a person likened to such an animal, as a mischievous, agile child or a mimic," "an addiction to narcotics," "to mimic," "to play or trifle idly;" Phrases like "monkey bars," "monkey business," "monkey around" are part of our vernacular.
In a few cases, like "porch monkey," it can be racist, but the word is also used against other ethnic groups. Jonah Goldberg and other neoconservatives often call the French, "cheese eating surrender monkeys"—a phrase taken from The Simpsons. Thomas Nast's 19th century cartoons would often show ape-like Irishmen next to sympathetic looking blacks. Many leftists compare Bush's physical appearance to chimpanzees with websites like bushorchimp.com and smirkingchimp.com aimed at the president.
In my last column, I examined how the Thought Police have moved from swastikas to nooses in the list of officially outlawable "hate symbols". The same thing is happening with words. It would be futile to even begin to catalog all the people whose careers have been destroyed for uttering "nigger" or even words that sound like "nigger" no matter the context. It has gone beyond media/academic/business thought police to the city of New York officially banning the use of the word.
That completely innocuous words like "monkey" are getting the same treatment is another step forward towards what Sam Francis called anarcho-tyranny, the state where the police won't do anything about armed robbery, but will be happy to police verbal expressions of "hate."
The Ramirez case is not an isolated incident. In the 2005 Martin Luther King Day celebration in Columbus Ohio, a black woman complained that police officers were eating bananas:
"Well, it seems that in the context of the march, she took the officer's banana eating to imply an analogous racial slur relating black people to apes.
"Such a comparison would not be uncommon in the parlance of racist propaganda, particularly in the old days. But these days that kind of talk is pretty rare—and pretty obvious, too, when someone really means it.
"So as racial slurs go, simply eating a banana now has to be considered rather subtle, for this particular area."
Then Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff apologized to the woman.
This is not to say that Ramirez is a paragon of free expression. When the Minuteman came to her town she complained, "I think it's a travesty that they are here, they have NO business here.". It would be easy to engage in schadenfreude over her plight, but as I've said with Hillary Clinton: If this is what the Obama camp is doing to a left wing Hispanic activist, imagine what they have in store for us.
If you're preparing for an Obama presidency, make sure to find a new source of potassium. Bananas won't be safe to eat.
Marcus Epstein [send him mail] is the founder of the Robert A Taft Club and the executive director of the The American Cause and Team America PAC. A selection of his articles can be seen here. The views he expresses are his own.