Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
February 22, 2016

On that Rare Photo Meditating on the GOP Campaign and Race

Photo of African American youth at a Rubio rally raises the issue of race and the GOP.

Clicking through the NYT Photos of the Day last Thursday, this picture brought me to a complete halt. It’s not altogether unusual to see African-Americans at GOP campaign rallies. It is, though, in that rare photo that manages to call it out. And this one achieves that not just by the one black face, but by the one that is also inattentive. …Of course, the lack of attention plays larger when everyone else’s eyes are glued to the candidate.

Then, there’s another dynamic here. The photo surfaces at the same moment Marco Rubio is supposedly on the rise. And it’s relevant, too, as he’s positioned, by heritage and disposition, as the one Republican in the running with crossover appeal — especially compared to the more divisive, even dog whistle campaigns of Trump and Cruz. (What was the Bush sound bite, “I’m a uniter, not a divider”?) So to see a photo right now where the folks are riveted, and the youngs are as entranced by a Rubio as a Sanders only contributes to the Mario buzz.

At the same time, though, seeing the African-American kid upset the unanimity with the sidelong glance, what the photo also says is: “not so fast.”

(photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images. caption: Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican candidate for president, giving a speech in Greenville, S.C. The Republican primary is Saturday.)

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