It stands by the road outside of Danny Hafley’s humble rural Kentucky home: a crafted dummy wearing a grinning President Obama mask and holding a wooden slice of watermelon. Hafley told the Kentucky NBC affiliate, LEX 18, he meant for his display to be taken as a joke.
When asked specifically about the watermelon, Hafley replied, “I thought he might get hungry standing out here.” He also said, “The way I look at it, it’s freedom of speech. I don’t know how other people will take it.”
Here’s the video:
Yes, Hafley is free to make his visual statement about how President Obama is black, and it’s racially stereotypical to portray a black person holding watermelon. But his display freely speaks of so much more than that. It screams, “I, Danny Hafley, am a racist” and “I, Danny Hafley, am ignorant enough not to know better” and “I, Danny Hafley, am not ashamed of my ignorance” and “Isn’t it clever and unique to portray a black person with a watermelon?”… Hafley’s free speech goes on and on.
Hafley is just one of many in the long line of conservatives who wear their racism on their sleeves and publicly claim it’s all innocent fun while secretly reveling in their manufactured sense of supremacy.
Back in October of 2008, the extreme right-wing “Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated” group, in its newsletter, included an offensive image of Barack Obama surrounded by racially stereotypical food items – including watermelon – on a depiction of a food stamp. In that case, group president Diane Fedele pled ignorance, saying, “It was just food to me. It didn’t mean anything else,” as reported by NPR. (While Diane’s palpable ignorance is irrefutable, we somehow doubt the choice of food items was just coincidental.)
Additionally, the Huffington Post reported back in 2009 on a postcard showing a watermelon patch in front of the White House and stating “No Easter egg hunt this year” cost a Los Alamitos, CA mayor his job. The mayor, Dean Grose, claimed he was unaware of the racial stereotype connecting watermelons to black people.
These aren’t the only examples. Sadly, if you type “Obama” and “watermelon” into the Google Images search engine, you’ll see many closet racists ignorantly, and sometimes proudly, advertising their racism.
Ever notice the responses you get when you call closet racists out on their racism? It’s either “I didn’t know I was being racist” or “Stop being so sensitive; it’s just a joke.”
Few things bring out this response in closet racists more than associating stereotypical food items with black people, primarily because food itself is so innocent, so how could one derive any offense from it?
The watermelon stereotypical roots first found firm footing a couple hundred years ago during the height of black slavery in America. Watermelon was not only a cheap food with which to feed slaves, but it also served as a sort of symbol of the supposed simplicity of black slaves to justify their enslavement (i.e. all they need is watermelon to be happy). To read more about this sordid history, check out the Abagond Blog, replete with historic images (albeit some so racially offensive, they’ll make you squirm).
In closing, I’d like to give Hafley a sarcastic “way to go.” I mean, it isn’t as if Democrats didn’t have enough to celebrate this past year. Now, while Republicans continue to wrack their brains on how to attract the black vote, the many Hafleys in the party will continue ensure that it will never, ever happen.