Obama-Curious George Shirts Cause Uproar in Georgia


Mulligan’s in Marietta

Originally uploaded by andisheh

SFGate (and everywhere else) reports on the outrage around a T-shirt being sold by Mulligan’s Food and Spirits in Marietta, Georgia, showing Curious George with the legend “Obama in 08.” The outrage comes not just from people who think that the image expresses a racist attitude toward Obama (ya think?) but also from the owners of the Curious George character. The bar owner’s comment that Obama and Curious George “Look so much alike” is particularly creepy.


“Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is upset with Mike Norman, owner of a Marietta, Ga., bar, for selling the shirts which show Curious George peeling a banana with ‘Obama in ’08’ printed beneath the image.

“‘Houghton Mifflin Harcourt did not nor would we ever authorize or approve this use of the Curious George character, which we find offensive and utterly out of keeping with the values Curious George represents,’ said Richard Blake, the company’s spokesman. ‘We are monitoring the situation and weighing all of our options.’

“Norman, who began selling the shirts in late April, has said they are not meant to be racist. He said he thinks the Illinois senator and the character ‘look so much alike.’

“Bill Nigut, southeast regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said Norman is being disingenuous.

“‘He can pretend he doesn’t understand what the message of that T-shirt is, but he knows full well that’s an offensive and demeaning stereotype used to insult African-Americans,’ Nigut said. He called on citizens not to buy the T-shirts, but stopped short of calling for a boycott of Norman’s business or denying him to speak out.”

The gentleman (“andisheh” on Flickr) who posted this image obviously has a strong opinion on this point. Or maybe he’s just lobbing a cheap joke which really isn’t very funny.

The thing that disturbs me is my own fear that these incidents will increase in the upcoming presidential contest. I have always had a deep sense of the slumbering racism of my country, and I fear that like a Lovecraftian beast this ancient evil is awakening because an African-American is running for President.

Then again, perhaps, as Obama expressed in his magnificent speech on race (transcript here) in the wake of the (first) Jeffrey Wright freakout, we as a nation are better than this.

Are we?

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