Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tarzan & Jane, Palin & McCain
Versus Progress & Obama

From Tarzan & Jane to Palin & McCain:
Fanning the flames of white superiority

The Tarzan & Jane running for office have several important things in common with the 1918 and 1940's Hollywood actors.

The earlier stars were rewarded well for their roles in America's earliest adventure movies, and they provided subliminal messages that whites were superior to blacks and Arabs, and they were entitled to do anything they wanted to regarding non-whites.

We see these same dynamics playing out in the attitudes of McCain and Palin, their campaign, and among many of their supporters.

That's not surprising; they grew up spoon-fed on this type of racial propaganda that crawls into the subconscious. It became the moral fabric worn by generations of white Americans. In the past few decades, however, many of them traded in these rags for centrist or progress wear.

The Far Right, however, continues to wear their racist beliefs like a comfortable, old shoe. They're catching heat for it and the world is watching what may be the GOP's end game.

Updating Jane's wardrobe won't help. Palin's $150K shopping spree won't cover her massive character defects or incompetence lying underneath those new Sax Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus clothes.

A few years before the Civil Rights Movement, I used to go to an all black theater in Southeast, Washington, DC. I was an innocent, very young black child in the early '60s, and along with most of the kids, cheered for Tarzan to single-handedly defeat the Africans. They were always portrayed as savages, or savage-like servants.

During one show, I was lucky enough to sit near an older kid, a boy of maybe 12. The kids were going wild. Over their cheering, I heard him repeatedly complain, "why y'all so happy?! Stop that! He's beating up people like us!"

Other kids yelled, "Shut up, you ruining the movie!", or with anger, "Who you calling an African?"

He gave up and they kept cheering. So did my little five year old azz. I thought about what he said a little later. Not a whole lot, because I was so young and was a big time Superman fan, but enough to remember his words.

Me, at age 4

If you didn't come up during that time, you have to understand that being compared to an African was fighting words. It's no wonder, considering how we were portrayed in the Tarzan & Jane flicks, compounded by the psychological baggage passed down to us from the legacy of slavery.

The times were very strange for black people. Most of us had a great pride over our survival, accomplishments in many areas, including business, sports, science, and music, and our fantastically cool style. If you don't know much about black inventors, google for it.

At the same time, we learned - often indirectly - that 'too much' African ancestry, i.e., darkness, broad facial features and nappy hair was undesirable. Back then you couldn't find a black baby doll, Santa Claus, or Christmas angel for your tree. We were rarely seen on TV or in magazines. That's quite a mindfuck when you think about it.

Nearly all the kids I knew boasted of having 'Indian' and white ancestry as though that would dilute their blackness. Although this was true for many of us, the boasting was a reflection of racial low self-esteem. To this day there continues to be discussions and conflict within the black community over light vs. dark complexions and hair types.

I'd love to dismiss it as nonsense, but the fact that most of us would be less likely to get hired if sporting braids on a job interview than wearing our hair relaxed, or for men, cut short, tells us how far White America has yet to go in accepting our natural appearance - and Black America too, which is obvious in too many music videos.

(Sigh.) At least it's not nearly as bad as it used to be.

As a teen, my friends and I had learned how to think. We were appalled at our earlier brainwashing, but overjoyed that the Civil Rights Movement and the revolution of attitudes within the black community liberated most of us from ignorance. We figured out that Tarzan and the white soldiers who backed him up and fired shots on spear-carrying Africans running away was not on our side.

Thus, most of us evolved and cast off our psychological baggage. As a group with little to lose and everything to gain, it was in our best interest to do so.

The effects of racism in laws, visual mediums and even toys affected us, but it kept whites in an insulated and racist bubble of ignorance. We were invisible to them except as negative or servant-like images.

Since the Civil Rights Movement, the whites who hadn't dumped their baggage are the very ones creating havoc in politics and this election. Black issues weren't their problem. They benefited and continue to benefit from white privilege, as addressed so well by Tim Wise in this YouTube video, and the foundation of that is a gut belief in white superiority.

I'll speculate that this is what made it impossible for John McCain to vote yes on there being a federal holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr., or even be able to look at Barack Obama in the first Presidential debate. One little known story is that he did it again on the day the Bailout Bill was voted on, barely glancing at him and clearly not wanting to shake the brown hand offered to him.

McCain behaves like he views Obama as some sort of African chief blocking his imperialistic goals. Tarzan wouldn't be shake hands with such a 'savage', so why should he?

I seriously doubt McCain had that conscious thought, but he didn't need to. Those subliminal seeds of racism had been planted long ago, and unlike many white Americans who consciously dug those weeds out of their childhood and early adult values, his continues to flourish.

The earliest Tarzan movies was a new medium to poison the American mind. They promoted several underlying themes which set racist values in cement:

1. Africans - black people - are savages and to be used as labor. You don't see what they get out of this, nor do they seem to mind. The dissenting ones are the enemy.

2. Black men will happily abduct a white woman at the first opportunity, and without question to rape her. They must be killed to protect her purity.

In this 1918 clip: An African 'savage' doesn't hesitate
to kidnap a white woman the second
lays eyes on her.
That she will brutally raped is a given, to stir up white fears.
Tarzan 'rescues' her and kills him with his bare hands.

3. Likewise, blacks are viewed as dangerous and a threat to white families and children, who must be protected by the military (or police).

In this later 1941 flick,
Boy Tarzan about to be cooked or sacrificed by savages for some unknown reason. This is white fears projected on blacks and played out in the movie. Tarzan's African pal tries to save him.

Symbolically, he's one of the 'few designated Negroes' who whites can depend on to have 'good sense' and try to persuade the other black folks who are too ignorant to know better. Even then, this character was portrayed as an ineffectual boy, and the white soldiers had to come to Tarzan's rescue. It's very subtle, but we see this played out in many ways today.

4. Arabs, who had roles of being evil in this movie, are also portrayed negatively and are to be defeated or killed. I hadn't remembered this as a child. I'm amazed this group was vilified long before the country of Palestine on my father's old desk top globe was replaced by Israel by the later models of globes.

In this 1918 clip: Tarzan is a defenseless boy.
An African
gets off a canoe to hunt him down on one side,
while evil Arabs shoot at him on the other.

In this 1918 clip: Tarzan's friend is captured by those evil Arab slave traders,
like white folks hadn't been doing this evil for hundreds of years.

5. It's perfectly fine for whites to go on imperialistic adventures, to invade the countries and land where non-whites live, and behave in aggressive ways toward the natives - while innocently viewing themselves as benevolent and in particular, courageous rather than barbaric.

In this 1918 clip: Adult Tarzan has a long scene of strangling an
African and dumps him a river. It wasn't clear what the
black guy did to earn this beyond looking scared as jack
and arming himself against Tarzan.

McCain and the gray-haired generation of politicians and voters grew up on the most overtly racist propaganda for entertainment. It makes it easier to understand why they're stuck on stupid.

They have much in common with members of the old Flat Earth Society. That group refused to believe scientific evidence that the earth is round. This group refuses to believe their ideas that other groups are subhuman compared to them needs to be laid to rest.

Early on, Hollywood contributed to mass brainwashing, making it impossible for many whites to have their minds freed from the racist attitudes of slavery. They tend to call themselves 'conservatives', not for their conservative beliefs about fiscal management, but because they want to conserve old racist traditions which acts as a form of white affirmative action.

Movies like the Tarzan adventures fit perfectly with the tales of Dixie days gone by and the joys of having slaves do your work, then lie and steal credit for building America into economic powerhouse she became.

In this campaign, Palin & McCain, like Tarzan and Jane, figuratively portray the roles of innocent white supremacists, determined to cast Barack Obama as the evil, head African, and by extension, the rest of Black America.

More of us became quite worried this month by the Nazi-flavor of the McCain-Palin rallies. Here's an excellent, brief video you may not have seen, summarizing the hate:

Hat tip to Electronic Village

The blogger, Black Girl In Maine, captured it perfectly in her enlightening post last week titled, Terrorist is the new N-word. McCain & Palin made no efforts to tone down their Hitleresque rallies until last week when liberal media outlets and world criticism became a problem, after the "Kill him!" and "Terrorist!" and other howls in the crowd were shown on TV.

The bigots have kicked it up a notch since then. This code word, terrorist, covers three bases: race, religious xenophobia, and terrorism. This week the name calling has expanded to Socialist.

What fucking nerve.

Bush blackmailed the Dems in Congress by threatening martial law if the Bailout Bill wasn't passed.

I didn't make up this shit; Rep. Brad Sherman testified to it this month in Congress. This would have canceled out the Presidential Election. Now nine major banks and Wall Street's AIG have been socialized at the cost of nearly one trillion dollars, yet McCain is calling Obama a Socialist for wanting the top five percent wealthiest Americans and businesses to pay more in taxes.

Since neither the modern day Tarzan & Jane have a legitimate thing to offer to America or the economy beyond keeping the White House white, we can look to the roots of racism nurturing this insanity where droves of white voters plan to vote against their best interests, from economic concerns, to health care, education, road and bridge repairs, to McCain's plan for a century of war.

This is a modern day example of Orwellian doublethink, to have two completely contradictory beliefs at once.

It's like saying you're a Christian, follow the Golden Rule, and believe we descended from Adam and Eve, and that God loves us all, but then spreading hate or doing acts of evil to harm individuals and groups outside of your own - like lying that Obama is a terrorist, or vilifying your minority neighbors or co-workers so bad things will happen to them.

In the news, negative to hostile views toward minorities and Muslims is based mostly on 'fixed news' propaganda, which spits out racist spin 24/7. Many whites have had very little personal exposure to cultural diversity and no personal relationships with black people, and I'm not insensitive to this. What they know about blacks comes largely from sports, bad news and rap videos.

The racists among them, however, don't make the connection that the fixed news they watch is distorted, or that gangsta rap and movies are no different than violent movies they love so much like the Godfather, Kill Bill, Natural Born Killers, and long ago, Bonnie & Clyde, John Wayne and similar shoot 'em up westerns, Tarzan movies, or some of their own violent rock and country western music.

Sex and violence sells, but when black folks jumped on that gravy train, we got stereotyped from being lazy, dumb, over-sexed niggers to being lazy, dumb, over-sexed, drug-abusing, violent niggers, with a terrorist running for President.

If that ain't effed up and unfair, what is?

With only these distorted images in their unworldly heads to guide their beliefs and choices, it's not surprising that some are genuinely frightened of an Obama presidency. They know about enough about history and current discrimination to understand that if they had been born black, they'd be angry about it. Instead of taking Obama at his word and by his actions that he will be a President for ALL Americans, they fear that it will be payback time.

They couldn't be more wrong. Barack may push for programs and tax cuts that will well serve the middle and working classes, but he's a centrist who swings to the right on some his domestic and foreign policies.

He puts enormous distance between himself anyone who is labeled too 'pro-black'. Doing otherwise would scare off the skittish white voters on the fence, but I suspect he's uncomfortable with 'black anger'. This should surprise no one; he was raised by a white mother and white grandparents, in Indonesia and Hawaii. This man is as comfortable with his whiteness as his blackness and all religions.

Last week Rep. John Lewis criticized McCain for "sowing seeds of hatred" in his rallies.

McCain, the usual pundits for the Right, MSNBC's Pat Buchanan and CNN's Lou Dobbs, and others feigned outrage and denied the McCain campaign has deteriorated into a hate fest. Yesterday Buchanan was still having a hissy fit and figuratively thumping his Tarzan chest over Lewis, making yet another attempt at polluting the minds of American whites. The wonderfully anti-racist Chris Matthews of MSNBC put him in check.

Personally, I think some of the more volatile McCain-Palin cultists have been stirred up so much from these seeds of hate now bear fruit, that a number of innocent blacks will be assaulted and killed in random acts of violence if/when Obama wins.

It's already happening. This video news clip of a young black woman, minding her own damn business riding her bike, was run down by white guy who ranted and admitted doing this intentionally from his hatred of blacks.

Many blacks have noticed there's more hostility directed toward them in their routine activities. Gun and ammo sales must be good even in these tough economic times. Whites scared of blacks "taking over", and blacks are scared they'll attack us in acts of random or mob violence.

There are still a lot of racist cops out there, and it will take only one act of unwarranted police brutality to trigger a race riot - which will land more blacks rather than whites in the profitable and privatized neo-slave plantations prisons, and McCain-Palin supporters will be sitting in front of their TV's watching Fox News and saying, "yeah, see, I tole you so, but nooo, they had to go n' vote for that nigger. Good thing I bought some extra ammo."

As usual, the merchants of campaign lies and gun sales will reap profits from fear. McCain & Palin will too if their Tarzan & Jane strategy works, combined with their efforts to find or invent Obama's kryptonite.

Humorless right wingers love to hate this photo below of Obama playfully posed in front of a giant Superman statue. Fuck 'em.

I can't help but wonder if Barack's childhood hero was the same as mine. Superman lived by truth, justice, and the American Way.

So does Barack. He's young enough to be the baby brother I never had. I can picture him doing what I did at least one time as a young child, playing with a towel pinned around his neck and pretending to be Superman... never guessing that one day half of our country would look to him to fight for truth, justice, and the American Way.


  1. kit: Great post. And all so true. But I have to tell you: I really the Tarzan and Jane photo. I hope you'll let me steal and use it on my blog. BTW: The villager over at Electronic Village is asking his readers to name their favorite blog; and I mentioned you. Blessings.

  2. Thanks MacDaddy! That really makes my day. And sure, go ahead use the photo. Anyone can and I don't mind a bit.

  3. As usual great post!! I will be back tomorrow. Long day my brain needs to regenerate. :)

  4. Love this post.

    I live in Los Angeles and I can already sense the tension and hostility from certain whites and this is the LEFT COAST. I can only imagine what blacks in red states will face if/when Obama wins.

    I just pray that he does because folks will be looking for riots and unrest in the black community. But little do they know we keep a dose of reality on our bedside tables next to our cup of hope.

  5. Rena, thank you.

    Huemanity, you said, "Little do they know we keep a dose of reality on our bedside tables next to our cup of hope. I like that; beautiful words. I hope that if McCain loses, he addresses this gracefully on that day to minimize mob violence.

  6. The scariest thing that has occurred during the election is that seemingly "anti-racist" they are our co-workers, neighbors, or the guy at the gym are starting to show their racist tendencies and feeling comfortable in those actions and words. I expect to see the "normal" racist to come out for their 15 minutes of air time on Faux News or the local racist groups to spew ignorance since they are typically the ones wearing the bed sheets or have badly shaved heads. Mostly they are looked at as being warped and just sad individuals but to see people who look like my neighbors and co-workers shout Terrorist, Kill Him among other vile words is shocking.

    It's not difficult to scare already scared white people but I want to know what do they think is going to happen to the country under Obama's term. Because everything that could happen to destroy America( 9/11, mortgage/bank failure, recession/ depression)is being done already under white rule(I mean leadership).

    I hope that common sense does prevail in Nov.4th and these few scared and seemingly intelligent ignorant white people realize that 8 years is enough.

  7. As always, this was a great post KIT!

    I'm 34, and while I wasn't around during the 60's, your article reminded me of the racist Tom and Jerry cartoons that I used to watch as a kid.

    Images of the fat black mammy, the picaninny, and Sambo pervaded the cartoons. The message was simple. Black is ignorant, ugly, uncivilized, evil, unworthy, unlucky, dishonest, and all things unsavory. Black is the opposite of innate white goodness.

    Given this purposeful mischaracterization of an entire race of people at such a young age, it's no wonder that many people, especially some black people, would rather be anything but black.

    My husband, who is still a cartoon buff, recently mentioned to me that these racist images have been edited out of the cartoons we used to watch. Hopefully this will help to dispell the idea that black is anything but beautiful.

    Children do not need to be programmed with negative self-images...

    Off topic: KIT I left you a message in response to your comment on my blog.

  8. Though everything posted here is obviously quite articulate, as well as very disturbing, along with some of it being quite true, and as well as some of it being surprising and interesting, shocking, etc... I am not sure I agree that, as macdaddy says, it is, "... all so true."

    There is something missing in this post that fails to assure me that your world view isn't a dark one, so I hesitate to give you my fullest trust as I read. It's probably not about who you are, but instead about the forum or style of writing. (It seems you strongly disapprove of fear- and hate-mongering, yet the focus of your post seems to come somewhat close to that at times, from my perspective.)

    I don't think that we should ignore or soften racism; obviously, it is a tragedy of our human natures, and is despicable to say the least, but I also don't agree with brooding over and dwelling on discarded behaviors, or even current dark occurrences to the exclusion of hopeful ones. This is one of the things I like about Obama, and why I agreed with his rejection of his pastor's messages.

    "A dose of reality" as one poster suggests is needed here, is one thing. But, a steady diet of cynicism, sarcasm, and believing the worst about our fellow man and ranting about it, is certainly one's reality, IF one chooses it. (This is not to negate such heinous acts as the very sick individual who ran a young black woman over.)

    This comment is not really directed just at your blogging here--I find in general, that while the blog and MySpace, FaceBook, etc...culture offers powerful opportunity for discussions such as this one, it is simultaneously creating a culture of people who get caught in a Web of argument, because they are becoming addicted to the sound of their own opinions, and possibly driving those now "published" opinions even deeper into their minds and hearts as they blog away.

    By the way, to "huemanity": LA has always been a city with race tensions issues. (There was a film called Grand Canyon done in 1991 with Danny Glover, Kevin Klein, Alfre Woodard, and Steve Martin about racism in LA that I think was very well done.)

    There is something else. I have been researching for my thesis, and have read so much about tribalism (which the Tim Wise video you posted touches on, but unfortunately doesn't explore). Tribalism is not something just white folks lean on, or give in to, and to focus on the racism of some whites, diminishes our understanding of the deeper causes of racism. I believe tribalism is prevalent throughout the world, and works in the communities of all people to varying degrees. It is something I think we all need to work on constantly to overcome, and assigning one group of people this tendency, and not looking at this human problem in the fullest context is, in my opinion, may result, ironically, in more tribalism. Thanks for listening to my feedback (or you may say, my inarticulate criticism!)

    Good luck in keeping up the fight against racism, but also in keeping the faith!

  9. Well Kit,

    You give white folk more credit than I do. One too many times in my young Black life, the "nice" white person's inner racist came out when they felt threatened by my black ass.

    The AP polls worry me.

    I'm hopeful (thought I'm not a Barack "fan") but I'm not counting my Obama chickens before they're hatched.

    Lord knows we don't need Tarzan and Jane.


  10. JJ, lol, been there too many times to count. Although Barack is doing great in the polls today, you're right, it ain't over.

    Keller, thanks for sharing your world view. Since you're doing a dissertation on tribalism and pondering the complexities of racial relations, I highly recommend Black Like Me.

    It was written in 1959 by a white man who spent six weeks passing for black in the deep South. It's still relevant and the book will help you understand that the 'dark view' you perceived in this article and other places comes from a lifetime of having my light of humanity blocked by routine racism.

    Cheri, I remember when they began trimming negative stereotypes from cartoons.

    Rena, you said, "everything that could happen to destroy America is being done already under white rule/leadership."

    I don't doubt Barack will be under a microscope and blamed endlessly if he can't instantly repair Bush's and Wall Street's tangle of deceit and recklessness. I joked before and I'll say it again: he needs David Blaine to be his VP.

    Chauncey, thanks!

  11. Another great post, Kit, thank you! It's like Andy Warhol said (if I remember right): "It's the movies that are really running things in this country. They always have, ever since they were invented." I hope our love of cinematic violence doesn't combine and combust with the election results, whichever way they go. Or wait, maybe I hope that will happen, if they go the wrong way, especially if that's another stolen way.

    keller, if you ever come back, what exactly was it about Obama's pastor's messages that you found worthy of rejection? If his words, which ones? If his tone, then might you consider just where that tone is coming from, what else it means by way of adding to the words?

    Since you're writing on such matters, I have books to recommend too--I think they'd fill in gaps for you: The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, by George Lipsitz; Learning to Be White, by Thandeka; White Like Me, by Tim Wise; and The Heart of Whiteness, by Robert Jensen. That's just for starters. I compiled a similar, longer list here.

  12. Thanks Macon, the list you gave is fantastic, and if my stats are correct, Keller came here from your site, lol.

    For those of you who don't know, Macon is the anti-racist Tim Wise of the blogosphere. I can't recommend his blog enough.

  13. Oh noes! Don't say that. . . I think I'm more like the anti-racist LOL Cat of the blogosphere. . . but thanks for the nod, Kit. I'll try to come up with an adequate description in return of your own splendiferousness.

  14. Good Post... I really hope with an Obama presidency that maybe it will dispel myths and stereotypes about black folks but that's a tall order for one man.

    P.S. I feel so sorry for the girl that got hit by the car.

  15. Macon, fine. I'll whisper it next time. ;)

    Kat, Yes, the girl hit by a hater in a car was awful. Also, you said, "thats a tall order for one man. Indeed. another reason David Blaine should be VP.

  16. Thank for this in-depth post, Kit, this is fantastic stuff. Thanks as well for mentioning your blog on BAG News Notes, where I've enjoyed your input in the past. I'll be stopping by here again too. Winning this election is going to be just the beginning of some frightening times -- the lid's coming off of some things that haven't seen the daylight of mainstream public discourse in a long time.


Hi, this is Kit.

I haven't posted since summer 2010, and comment moderation has been on for a very long time.

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