From the Atlantic Wire: “Race Takes Over the Race”


Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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29 Responses

  1. I see a massive silver lining to all of this: forcing these issues out in the open at least ensures that the Republicans will have to look in the mirror and realize they are on the wrong side of history. In order to continue as a party, in order to survive, the Republicans will have to dramatically redefine themselves in broader, more egalitarian strokes.Report

  2. Avatar DRS says:

    It’s really incredible to an outsider how Americans find it impossible to have an honest discussion about racial issues. I look at those Republican ads and just have to shake my head in disbelief. Darkening Obama’s skin in an ad about welfare reform? Just bizarre.

    Why is this such a difficult subject? Why does the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world act so insecure and immature about the pigmentation of a minority of its citizens?Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

        Indeed Tom. It becomes sadly predictable.Report

      • Avatar Dan Miller says:

        I think “Hillary Clinton did it too” is unlikely to lead to thoughtful discussion.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          “Both sides do it” is a nice way of not having to address the fact that anyone does it.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Well, “it’s done” is also different from “it’s done for all the wrong reasons”.

            Every ad copy photo and every magazine shot currently published in America goes through heavy photo processing. Almost none of them look like they looked when the picture was originally shot… which is doubly amusing because most of the time when the original photo is shot it’s shot under conditions that don’t exist anywhere except on a sound stage or photo shoot stage or whatever.

            I can see a junior level photo processor making changes in contrast to make a picture look sharper, and the end result have a black man look more black, but the intention has nothing to do with race, whatsoever.

            I can also see it having everything to do with race.

            The only thing I’m pretty sure of is that I’m pretty sure always assuming that it has nothing to do with race is as unrealistic as always assuming it has everything to do with race.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Even if it results from a process to which every photo is subjected, the simple fact remains that at this point, photo editors should know better. And probably do no better.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                It’s time to move beyond “color blind”. “Color blind” was a necessary step to move us away from “color conscious in a negative way”. Now we should move forward to “color conscious in a positive way”. Like it or not, the darkening or lightening of a black person’s skin has a whole host of connotations that are absent when the same thing is done to a white person*. Regardless of intent, the impact is different. As such, consciousness of this fact should lead us to adjust our actions.

                * There are arguments to be made that doing it to white folks and others is wrong, but they are founded on a different set of circumstances and should be judged separately.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Certainly the editor-in-chief should not be such a dumbass, granted.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            The argument was that this was a specifically Republican form of awful behavior. “Both sides do it” is a valid rebuttal of that argument.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              But that wasn’t the argument. He didn’t say it was specifically Republican, only that the current incarnation of it is being done by Republicans. His criticism was of Americans on the whole.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        If something is wrong then its wrong. If a D did it and it was wrong then it is still wrong if an R did it. Pointing out both sides do it is a tacit admission something was wrong but with a super sized helping of “we’re going to do it anyway and our partisans don’t really care”Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          Believe what you will. I don’t think Hillary’s a racist is my point.Report

          • Avatar Ethan Gach says:

            No, she’s not. Neither is Romney.

            That tactics in both cases are, however, and so are the audiences they are aimed at “persuading,”/rallying.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              I think we can leave the candidates out of it altogether. If we’re being charitable, we might assume that they’ve seen and even evaluated these ads, but they didn’t make them, they didn’t have anything to do with the details. This is a business, and the business is focusing on sales. And they know what helps or hurts sales, because they’ve been doing this for a long time and they’re very good at it.

              Look, skin tone is an issue that most of us probably aren’t aware of, when it comes to how we perceive black people. But it does affect how we view black people, and you know who is well aware of that? Advertisers. Including those who work in politics.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I look at the link that Tom provided with the pictures of the President, and I have to be honest, they all look like the President to me.

                Now, it does look like one of them was darkened, sure. And it could have been darkened for artistic reasons or for racist reasons or for some other reason entirely. And the guys and gals who made the ad may or may not have pitched those reasons to some people in the campaign, or not. And the candidate may have know about them, or not.

                But if I was Hillary and someone showed me that ad of Obama, I probably would see a picture of Obama and approve it or not based upon the message that I saw in the ad without realizing the picture had been altered. Unless someone said, “And we made it darker to evoke scary black people!”, or there were meetings about it or whatever, I could totally see not even realizing that the picture was anything other than a picture of Obama.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Yeah, only if I’m being charitable do I assume that Clinton or Romney did anything more than glance at these ads.

                However, I guarantee you the people making them know what they’re doing.

                And like I said, you won’t be aware, in the vast majority of cases, of the way that skin tone affects your evaluations. But they are.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                This is mass democracy in action. One man, one vote. No matter how stupid or racist or homphobic that one man is, his one vote is just as good as yours.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Is anyone arguing otherwise?Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

                It’s something that I think people like to forget. Mass democracy is America’s civic religion, and it’s given much more reverence than is warranted by its actual merits.Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller says:

            I don’t think that slotting specific individuals into “racist” vs. “not a racist” is the best way to think about this issue. It leads directly to racists as moustache-twirling villains that prevents real discussion and gets people defensive and/or accusatory.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        Comments such as this move us farther from a productive conversation about race. To all the folks here interested in having a productive conversation about race, please disregard this and other such comments as they are not indicative of the broader sentiment here about having these conversations.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      I doubt there’s anyplace in the world have an honest discussion about racial issues – and I would bet America actually has the most discussion.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        I had an argument with a friend about this once.

        His position was to the effect of, “Americans are so dumb. Black? African-American? People of color? In Europe, they don’t have this crap. America has real problems with race.”

        My position was to the effect of, “Other countries don’t have these issues because the majority culture just calls minority cultures whatever they want and don’t give a crap. Those places have much deeper problems with race.”Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        For example, you don’t have major sports figures in American pro leagues getting fined for racially abusive language.Report