How could you ever think the GOP is racist?

This got posted to facebook recently.  It’s a picture of a plot to capture our African American President by baiting him with a watermelon.

It was posted by Jennifer Olsen, the Chairwoman of the Yellowstone County GOP in Montana.  But rest assured, it’s not that he’s black or that the GOP is home to the American racist – they just don’t like his policies.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Lance Finney


    The state in which I live (Missouri) is a laughingstock thanks to creationism and gun control.

    The area in which I grew up is a laughingstock because it’s now represented by Michelle Bachmann.

    And the county in which I was born brings forth this crap.


    • tubi

      Hm, I’m sensing a pattern…

  • Glodson

    I saw that yesterday. She removed her Facebook page and then accused the person who reported it of lying.


    • Reginald Selkirk

      She removed her Facebook page and then accused the person who reported it of lying.

      It is amusing that there are people who do not understand how Teh Internetz works.

      • Glodson

        The sad thing is that people who back her will buy this, out of the need to not examine themselves more closely.

        Or they are all just racist jackasses. It can be hard to tell.

        • Stogoe

          Either/or? Are you kidding?! It’s BOTH.

  • Bob Jase

    I suppose they’ll claim it isn’t racist because they didn’t have a trail of pieces of fried chicken leading to it. Seriously.

  • Bob Jase

    I suppose they’ll claim it isn’t racist because they didn’t have a trail of pieces of fried chicken leading to it. Seriously.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    You can also find that image at the “Tea Party Command Center” web site. (link deliberately omitted on grounds of “won’t someone think of the children,” but you can find it easily enough with Google image search)
    But we all know that the Tea Party is a serious group of individuals concerned with liberty and government excess, not a collection of racist nutbags.

  • invivoMark

    I still don’t get why the racist “black people like watermelon and fried chicken” thing makes any sense to anyone. I mean, I like fried chicken, and watermelon is great! Who could blame someone for liking those things? Is it bad to like watermelon? It seems like, for a racist stereotype, it’s rather impotent.

    Disclaimer: I was raised in an extremely white part of Idaho (there was one black kid in a high school of 2400). I hadn’t even heard of the watermelon/fried chicken thing until I was in college. At the time it confused me, and then made me hungry for fried chicken.

    Oh well. White people love watermelon too, and here’s photographic proof:

    • nentuaby

      There’s a long history behind the watermelon thing. Basic idea is, way back in the day watermelon was culturally positioned as a “simple pleasure” food. It grew out there in the field, you could pick it and eat it right there, lots of sweetness (sweet things were not plentiful in the days before refined sugar bent the supermarket shelves). Pure bliss, no work.

      Of course, it was also a cheap-ass food and field-worker’s food for similar reasons, so it was one of the few more-or-less luxuries enslaved people could come up with. So when the slave-holding culture was working hard to contain its cultural dissonance, they latched on the image of black slaves sitting under a tree eating watermelon. “See? We’re not mistreating them. They’re just simple people enjoying their simple pleasures! Why, they’d be downright scare and confused if we made them deal with all those complications of freedom!”

      And that’s more or less how it (and fried chicken) come down to us today. Simple, cheap + stereotype of people who won’t or can’t do work + historical reference to slaveholding culture = racist food references

    • John Horstman

      The watermelon trope is a mutation of a racist meme that goes back to slavery days. Here’s a brief description (trigger warning for really fucking racist depictions of Black people); there’s a link to the longer source at the Jim Crow Museum. I couldn’t find as much reliable info on the fired chicken thing, but a few unsourced assertions were that it has to do both with an association between Black people and Southern USA regional cuisine (like most ‘soul food’) due to the geographic distribution of slavery and the fact that chickens, being smaller and requiring less food than pigs or cows, were one of the few kinds of livestock that Black slaves were able to independently raise.

  • David Hart

    Yeah, as a UK citizen (where we haven’t had watermelon available on demand for that long I suppose) this does look a bit of a weird meme. Still, I guess when something is used as a racist stereotype, it becomes a racist stereotype, so the thing to do is to continue to enjoy watermelon but avoid using it as the basis for political commentary.

    • Glodson

      Maybe this will help explain the origin of the idea.

      I think this is an interesting example of the way in which supposedly random stereotypes have strategic beginnings. The association of Black people with a love of watermelon isn’t just a neutral stereotype, nor one that emerged because there is a “kernel of truth” (as people love to say about stereotypes). Instead, it was a deliberate tool with which to misportray African Americans and justify slavery.

      Most people don’t realize this. Much of the racism in the US, and I really don’t know how much we have managed to export, falls back to origins in slavery. Minstrel shows and images like these were used to justify keeping an entire group of people in chains.

      This history starts ugly and just gets worse as you dig.

      • John Horstman

        Hehe, Google-jinx!

        • John Horstman

          I mean, serious subject matter, but we found the same web page to describe the history of the watermelon meme.

        • Glodson

          It is a good source.

          To be honest, I didn’t realize how reprehensible the stereotype was until I did the research. I had assumed that it was more an artifact of a large population of black people in the South. Still a wrong stereotype, but seeing that it was a justification for slavery was a bit of a shock.

  • Katherine Lorraine, Tortue du Désert avec un Coupe-Boulon

    Wasn’t there a black comic who made a joke about the watermelon and fried chicken joke? Something along the lines of “this is racist… but I love watermelon and fried chicken so I feel conflicted.”

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Meanwhile, here’s an article about Glenn Beck.
    WWE Challenges Glenn Beck to Step Into Ring

    On his show Wednesday, Beck accused WWE of degrading tea partiers with a racist, unrealistic caricature.

    Really, he said that.

    • Loqi

      Well yeah, of course it’s an unrealistic portrayal of Tea Partiers. You can’t say the things real Tea Partiers say on television.