'Assassinate the Nigger Apes' [1]: Obama, Implicit Imagery, and the Dire Consequences of Racist Jokes

39 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2009  

Gregory Scott Parks

Wake Forest University School of Law

Danielle C. Heard

Stanford University - School of Humanities & Sciences

Date Written: August 11, 2009

Abstract

In 1994, Congress passed legislation stating that Presidents elected to office after January 1, 1997, would no longer receive lifetime Secret Service protection. Such legislation was unremarkable until the first Black President - Barack Obama - was elected. From the outset of his campaign until today, and likely beyond, President Obama has received unprecedented death threats. These threats, we argue, are at least in part tied to critics and commentators’ use of symbols, pictures, and words to characterize the Obama as a primate, in various forms - including cartoonist Sean Delonas’ controversial New York Post cartoon. Against this backdrop and looking to history, cultural critique, federal case law, as well as cognitive and social psychology, we explore how the use of seemingly harmless imagery may still be racially-laden and evoke violence against its object.

[1] Morgan v. McDonough, 540 F.2d 527, 531 (1st Cir.1976) (holding in a school desegregation case, that White students harassed Black students by chanting "assassinate the nigger apes"); see also infra notes 99 to 103 and accompanying text.

Suggested Citation

Parks, Gregory Scott and Heard, Danielle C., 'Assassinate the Nigger Apes' [1]: Obama, Implicit Imagery, and the Dire Consequences of Racist Jokes (August 11, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1447572 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1447572

Gregory Scott Parks (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

Danielle C. Heard

Stanford University - School of Humanities & Sciences

518 Memorial Way Building 1
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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