Racist Obama T-Shirts?

Mike Norman, a Georgia bar owner, is faced with accusations of being a racist. The accusation is based on Mike Norman selling t-shirts that display an image of the cartoon character Curious George and says, "OBAMA in '08".

A group civil rights leaders formed a protest and many people rallied outside the facility, Mulligans Food & Spirits, to persaude the owner to stop selling these t-shirts. They feel that Mike Norman is selling a racist depiction of Senator Barack Obama. Mike Norman claims he did not intend to be racist and demanded the protesters leave his parking lot.

Mike Norman in defense of his t-shirts says, "If that offends them, they're hunting for a reason to be offended." Norman also says he made the t-shirts because he saw a distinct resemblance between Obama and the Curious George monkey. Norman says, "I saw the cartoon on TV, and I looked, and this was the ears and the hairline, and the big smile, and Obama has all three."

Protesters were unamused by his explanation, Reverend Dwight Graves of the Cobb County SCLC, says, "A monkey eating a banana, that's a historical stereotype of how African Americans have been depicted on a number of occasions." CNN reported that there was "plenty of support" for the t-shirts and the bar has already sold out of the item.

The publisher of the Curious George character is considering legal action. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt issued a statement saying the company finds the t-shirt "offensive and utterly out of keeping with the values Curious George represents."

Norman says that he has already sold out on all the 50 t-shirts with Curious George on them. He also claims that he was planning to donate the money from the shirts to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. MDA officials responded by saying they do not want Norman's money. They said that their attorneys will be writing up a letter asking him to stop using the name of the MDA in connection with sales of the shirts.

Norman also adds "There is a contingent of folks, red, yellow, white and black, that walk around wanting a reason to be mad, to get their feelings hurt, If I did that, I'm sorry."

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I can see how this man's naivety has caused him surprise in people's reaction to this t-shirt design.
But it was and continues to be naivety and ignorance that prolong society's attachment to racial and ethnic stereotypes. As forward thinking citizens, we have to be aware of all possible inferences.
Thanks for the post! :)