Racism rears its ugly head in campaign

October 16, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
McCain has made a point of denouncing any attacks on Obama's race, but that has not stopped some of his supporters from distributing propaganda that links Obama to racist stereotypes and to Osama bin Laden.

The images of Senator Barack Obama have stirred outrage among Democrats and Republicans. They came from two separate organizations, from both ends of California.

The first image of Barack Obama appeared in a recent newsletter distributed by a San Bernardino County Republican club. It shows the Democratic nominee on a phony $10 bill surrounded by Kentucky Fried Chicken, ribs, Kool-Aid and watermelon -- stereotypical African-American food.

Sheila Raines is among 200 club members who received the newsletter.

"I've never been a victim of racism. And to get it from my club, my party and my friend, is just beyond me," said Raines.

The second image comes from the Sacramento County Republican Party's website was also home to an image, many found offensive. It has since been removed, but it said, "The only difference between Obama and Osama is BS. It also urged people to waterboard Barack Obama.

"The campaigns don't officially condone any of this kind of thing. These are independent expenditures. You can't do much about them," said Bob Gardner, a GOP ad strategist.

However, U.C. Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy professor Jack Glaser, Ph.D., is an expert on stereotyping and discrimination, believes the words from the candidates themselves may be contributing to the blatant racism that's emerging. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for instance has accused Obama of palling around with terrorists.

"She has conveyed real concern about him being different and being dangerous. And those are the stereotypes that people have of African Americans," said Professor Glaser. "And it might be sending that subtle message to people who already have those racist tendencies, that maybe it's okay to let loose a little bit."

The California Republican Party has denounced both incidents. Its vice-chair says they are not indicative of any broader sentiment.

"I don't think the actions of one or two isolated people in a state of 34 million people is representative of either of our party or California as a whole," said Tom Del Beccaro, from the California Republican Party.

The woman responsible for putting the phony $10 bill image on the newsletter expressed surprise by all of the outrage. She said she had no racist intent, that it was quote "just food" to her.


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