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Nadra Kareem Nittle

State Employee Circulates Picture of Obama Shining Palinís Shoes

By January 3, 2010

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In recent weeks I've heard lots of good reasons not to support President Barack Obama. Some dissenters take issue with the fact that his health care plan likely will go forward without a public option. Others object to the fact that Obama has yet to bring the military's policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to an end. And those against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan oppose Obama for sending 30,000 more troops to the battlefield.

I've been impressed that the people I've run into who take issue with Obama have been respectful and articulate when voicing their criticism of him. Then, I came across an Associated Press article about a Colorado state employee facing disciplinary action for emailing a picture Dec. 22 of former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin having her shoes shined by a weary, hunchbacked Obama in tattered clothing. The insinuation made by the photo is that Obama's place is on his knees serving whites, a role African Americans of yesteryear were forced to fill during Jim Crow and slavery. The argument here is that Obama's skin color is the only objectionable aspect of his presidency. A black man grossly oversteps his bounds by being the leader of the free world, the photo suggests. The black man's rightful place is working as a domestic for whites.

In fact, the person who first sent the email to the Colorado D.O.T. employee commented, "It appears he (Obama) has found his niche," the Associated Press reported.

Apparently, the state worker agreed with the message, as she proceeded to pass it on to four colleagues and other acquaintances using her state email account, according to the Associated Press. Good arguments can be made as to why being president of the United States isn't the best niche for Obama, but no one involved in the shoe shining email made any such arguments. They simply circulated a racist email. If they indeed have legitimate concerns about the Obama administration, they undermined themselves by spreading hate rather than discussing the issues and alerting others of their concerns, potentially dissuading those unaware of the issues from supporting Obama in the future.

But let's say the Colorado state employee just wasn't interested in debating the issues meaningfully. Perhaps she found the racist image amusing and wanted to share the email with others she figured would respond in kind. (In fact, one recipient of the email didn't find it funny and complained to the state about the worker.) Using work email to spread offensive messages is a classic example of inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Most workplaces, particularly government-run ones, have anti-discrimination agendas. A work email account is no place to spread bigotry, as it may misrepresent the values of the company you work for and expose colleagues to hate-filled messages they likely never wanted to see. So, if you have racist beliefs and are keen on sharing them, do so using your own resources and in your own home.

Lastly, it's worth noting that the disgraced employee is 73 years old. Is her age relevant? Certainly, individuals of all ages practice racism. But a woman in her seventies is old enough to remember when blacks were relegated to work as domestics. Does this make it that much harder to accept a black in the greatest leadership role this country offers? On a similar note, should we be more sympathetic to older folks who exhibit racism than their younger counterparts? After all, the 73-year-old worker grew up during a time when racism was not only widespread but enforced by law.

Your thoughts?


January 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm
(1) Harold says:

The email story was promoted by a local NBC affiliate in Denver called 9news. This station has a history of producing racist news stories. In other words they go out of their way to push, promote (sell) racism. Along with the fact that their station does not approve of Sarah Palin made this story one of their better efforts. If they can tie Sarah Palin and racism to smear her they will have accomplished their goal. So this really had nothing to do with racism. Needless to say not many people watch their station in Denver because of the type of stories they produce which is one of many reasons their ratings are as poor as they are. They have been reduced to creating smear campaigns lately in order to keep their ratings up.

January 3, 2010 at 6:04 pm
(2) Ted Szukalski says:

I am the photographer who took the original capture. The photograph in question is an unauthorized plagiarism. I resent anyone using my copyrighted photographs without my consent in the first place and even more so bringing an undeserved infamy to my name by altering them and using with ill intend. I am an Australian photographer and American politics are as far away from my mind as are our countries. Is this racism? I am not sure, but it is THEFT and DEFAMATION for sure.
Please see my post from some time ago on the subject:
original story and photograph

January 4, 2010 at 1:18 pm
(3) Lola LB says:

What you neglected to point out is that said Colorado employee is a Democrat. However one feels about Obama, that was a really dumb thing to do.

January 4, 2010 at 2:03 pm
(4) Osei says:

Needless to say I’m sure she’s white because obviously she still works there. Had she been black and the President was white, she would have been fired on the spot and possibly prosecuted. Once caught she should have been fired publicly for the defamation and more so for her “Stupidity”. Someone wrote that she was a Democrat; party affiliation does not discriminate against being “stoopid”.

January 4, 2010 at 6:30 pm
(5) Kaytee says:

The link to the article doesn’t work, and you didn’t indicate the race of the 73 year old worker…. However, I can see certain acquaintances of different races finding such a picture ironically humorous– some because they feel that is the “proper place” for a Black man (mostly White/non-Black seniors), others because they feel President Obama has “submitted” to serving White interests (mostly younger non-Whites). And others, just because they think that sort of polical commentary is funny, no matter what their personal social views are (Libertarian-Anarchist types, of various ages and ethnicities).

January 4, 2010 at 7:24 pm
(6) Stokelife says:

I’ve had that pic on my profile for over a year. Its not particularly racist.

It plays on the “change” slogan.

Anyways lets stop wasting energy on those who hate us and love the people who love us properly.
Everyone has a purpose, if they didnt hate us we would be as strong as we are now, and great minds, professionals, atheletes would not have had the same motivation. Bless

January 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm
(7) Nadra says:

The link to the article has been fixed.

January 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm
(8) Burt Fisher says:

Of course it makes a difference that she is 73 years old. You don’t get to be that old by making stupid mistakes. Maybe she knows something us 55-year-olds don’t.

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