What Superbowl Means for Super Tuesday

By Tracy Kronzak Feb 05, 2008

I have a deeply cynical belief that if Barack Obama wins in November, we’re going to see even more racist Superbowl commercials next year. What’s the connection? The mainstreaming of “colorblind,” meaning race-silent, public policy and the largely held assumption that discussing race in policy and discourse is “divisive” have now more than ever led to outright racism disguised as risqué humor. Electing President Obama would further enable this racism to simply be written off by whites in the United States by justifying it with their support for a Black president. Candidate Obama has made change the central message of his platform, and although his intention is to separate himself from Washington DC politics-as-usual, Obama’s Change has taken on metaphorical meaning for how Black leadership is evaluated in our society by whites, and how American society perceives itself to be distanced from the bad old days of Jim Crow, minstrel shows and mammy dolls. This year’s Superbowl featured commercials using Indian immigrants, Chinese accents, Mexicans, and African tribes as punch lines that are yet another evolution in a pop-culture steadily increasing in racist iconography. Let’s not forget ghetto fabulous parties and comedy industry racism a la Michael Richards. These representations are written off as “all good fun” because this is what living in a “colorblind” society truly means: no one is safe from having their race, ethnicity, language, culture or religion appropriated, mis-represented for humor, or otherwise distorted in the interest of having a good time or, in the case of the Superbowl, making a buck. We haven’t solved racism by becoming colorblind or supporting a Black presidential candidate, we’ve simply given permission for an already racist society to give up accountability for racist actions and activities. Let’s hope that if and when President Obama takes office, his presidency is used as an opportunity to open a broader examination of racism in the United States, rather than as the case in point to demonstrate the end of racism.