June 14, 2008

Monkey Business

If you haven't heard, the latest election issue/Obama smear/mountain made out of a molehill being discussed in the blogosphere these days is The Obama Sock Monkey. Turns out that some guy in Utah thought he'd cash in on Obamania by selling a loveable, plush, toy version of the candidate — the only problem was, he decided that the best medium in which to capture the true cuddliness of Obama was the sock monkey, and now the whole internet is calling him racist. Indeed, even the NAACP said the toy was "pure racism at its extreme".

Hmmm... Tell me, NAACP: on the continuum where a stuffed monkey is "pure racism at its extreme", where does a lynching by the Klan rank? Let's try and cling on to a tiny shred of perspective, shall we?

Now, look, I'm a reasonable guy and I'm certainly no fan of racism, but are we seriously getting our knickers in a twist over this? Yeah, okay, so it's kind of an unfortunate choice in retrospect, but don't you think that if the guy selling the monkeys really wanted to make a racist statement about Obama, he would have chosen something a little less oblique? A sock monkey named after a black guy is about as offensive as a Fat Albert t-shirt.

Besides, it's not as if this is the first time it's ever occurred to someone to make a stuffed animal based on a real person. To wit, the Vermont Teddy Bear company is currently offering bear versions of all the presidential candidates. And the Obama bear is — gasp! — BLACK! Somebody get the NAACP back on the line! (The Muffy company has also been making celebrity bears for almost thirty years, including Amelia Bearheart, Albeart Einstein, and Bearb Ruth — pictures here.)

I don't know if you know this, America, but just because Obama is a black guy, it doesn't mean that every single reference to him is directly related to his being a black guy. Sometimes a toy monkey is just a toy monkey. It's going to be a looooong four years if he gets elected without the rest of the country getting over this knee-jerk, alarmist fear that somehow we are oppressing him with every breath. Yes, racism is bad; and yes, we should be vigilant — but not to the point of absurdity. And I would say that the point at which the NAACP is calling a sock monkey "pure racism at its extreme" (to broad consensus on the topic!) is about where absurdity begins.

Let's move on.


Anonymous said...

As an African-American, for years I used to fall for this insult. Until one day, I saw a special about monkeys. Did you know that the color of a monkey's skin is...(drum roll)...WHITE! Shave off the fur and see for yourself. They're little white people running around in fur coats.

Rufus said...

Yeah, I'm guessing Obama's level of concern with this is about 0 right now. You know, the blogosphere can be excitable.

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