Watch out for stereotyping when the traditional media discusses race. …That’s how Evan Thomas begins Newsweek’s presumptuous “open letter” to Barack Obama –illustrated by this photo — advising how to handle race in the general election.
From the caption (“In Hand: The president’s official seal is set”), I assume the photo shows a White House assistant affixing the presidential seal to a podium. Divorced from that context, however, the image starts to imply other things.
With those hands now representing the racial “equation” in the election, as well as Obama’s aspirations to the office, the photo — as framed by the mostly white corporate media — now seems to read as: the blacks getting their hands on the presidency. Of course, the image isn’t without refinement, the hands more carefully involved in the act of “setting” or “placing.” Therefore, the implication seems more tuned to imply: the black man fashioning the institution to his own ends.
Expanding on Mr. Thomas’s warning, there are other racial stereotypes to consider here, as well. Given the substantial watch, the ring, and the shimmery, shimmery gold of the presidential seal, also look out for the association of the black man either adorning or enriching himself with the world’s most precious piece of jewelry.
Update: 10:30 pm PST – 5/30/08
It was brought to my attention this afternoon that the on-line version of the “black hands” photo I blogged about differed from the version in print. For comparison, I offer you a scan of the right-half of the print version. The two new significant elements include the ring design and also the additional piece of jewelry on the right hand.
Frankly, I don’t know much about Masons, but this element makes me even more confused as to whether the figure in the photo is a model or actually an employee of the White House. The additional piece of jewelry, however, only drives home the racial stereotype of the seal as “bling.”
Cover Story: A Memo to Senator Obama (Newsweek)
(image: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images for Newsweek. Jun 2, 2008 issue)